These days, we are all working hard to keep our spirits high amidst the “new normal.” My husband and I are frantically trying to manage full-time jobs with new and unforeseen challenges, homeschooling for our children and, of course, making sure we have plenty of toilet paper and food in our home.
Like most families, we are all also dealing with small disappointments that come with social distancing. My daughter Noa, meant to graduate this year from her beloved elementary school, likely won’t be able to return to school for her final semester of 6th grade. My son, Josh, turns 9 on April 19, and has asked to postpone his birthday so he can celebrate with friends.
To combat these challenges, and give everyone something to look forward to daily, we have instituted a surprise activity every day at 4:00 P.M., when Noa and Josh’s schoolwork is finished. While I’ve bought everything on Amazon that I think my kids might enjoy (art projects, board games, Lego sets, etc.), I also wanted to give them something special and unique to look forward to every day. Yesterday we played “The Grand Prize Game” (remember the Bozo show??) using kitchen bowls and easy, small prizes (an extra hour of screen time, a piece of gum, a dollar bill, etc.). Another day, we FaceTimed with another family and played Bingo together using an old Alphabet Bingo game we both owned. We’ve done multiple scavenger hunts (these are a family favorite and there are tons of great ideas online), slime-making, tie-dye and more.
The goal of these activities is to be fun, silly, and irreverent with one another. While I love my children, and they typically get along well enough, I have noticed that the level of irritation in my household has gone up. Like, way up. I wanted more light and laughter in my house. I wanted the kids to have an hour where they could just be kids, and forget about the world around them.
With Passover around the corner, I’m already thinking about Passover themed surprise activities we can do as a family. In truth, the Passover holiday lends itself perfectly to these kinds of activities, as so much of the holiday revolves around engaging children in an experiential way (think reciting the Four Questions, finding the afikomen, telling the Passover story).
I also think that the core messages of Passover are particularly powerful during the coronavirus pandemic. During Passover, we tell the story of the Jewish people’s journey from slavery to freedom, and we are asked to “remember that you were slaves in Egypt.” What does freedom mean during a time when we are stuck in our homes? How do we understand and appreciate freedom differently now? How do we now view the Ten Plagues from the Exodus story given this modern-day plague we are experiencing?
Finally, Passover is a holiday meant to be celebrated with friends and family, around the seder table. We are all already feeling sad that we can’t celebrate the holiday with our loved ones, and I simply want to infuse as much added joy into the holiday as possible. I’m hoping these activities will be a great way for us to not only have fun as a family but to also experience Passover in new and exciting ways.
Here’s a list of suggestions to help make every day of Passover memorable (in a good way!) this year.
Bonus Pre-Passover Activity: Scavenger hunt
Set the tone with a bedikat hametz scavenger hunt. The night before Passover, there is a tradition that children are supposed to do a final search around the house to make sure that there is no more hametz (any food that’s made of grain and water that have been allowed to ferment and “rise”) in the home. The tradition teaches us to hide ten small pieces of hametz around the house, and I recommend wrapping the hametz in a paper towel or paper so it is easily identifiable. I found this great video on how to set this up for your family on BimBam. Of course, during this year when a full pantry seems more precious than ever, you can simply have a symbolic hunt for hametz (we plan to put all of our pasta and snacks on one shelf with a piece of tape blocking it).
1. Night One: Hide-and-seek
It’s time for the Passover seder! Whether you do your own or join in on a virtual Seder, finding the afikomen is perfect. If you want, put a little twist on the hunt and make it a scavenger hunt to find the afikomen.
2. Night Two: Candy questions
Asking questions is a central aspect of the Passover experience (think Four Questions and Four Children). For those of you having a second seder, this activity works well for those gathered around the table. And if you’re not having a second seder, good news: This still works! All you need to do is have a big bowl of candy in the center of the table — we like to use jelly beans (so many flavors!). Every time a child (or an adult, they like candy too!) asks a question about something from the Passover story or from the seder experience, they “earn” a piece of candy. This activity is delicious and emphasizes another core value of Passover: the ability to ask questions is an important expression of our freedom.
3. Night Three. Play the ten plagues version of Minute to Win It!
Based on the game show, contestants try to complete a task in just one minute. With only 60 seconds on the clock, can anyone complete these Passover tasks?
- Frogs: Play spoon frog! Players must use a teaspoon to catapult another teaspoon into a glass. Check out the YouTube video for help.
- Hail: You will need ping pong balls and spoons for this one (feel free to substitute marshmallows, golf balls or cotton balls if you don’t have ping pong balls handy). Give each player a spoon and ball of “hail” (ping pong ball). Each person must walk holding the spoon with the “hail” on the end to a designated point and back within the minute.
- Blood: Contestants carry water in small dixie cups to pitchers with red food coloring at the bottom. Can they fill the pitcher in 60 seconds?
- Darkness: Blindfolded bowling! Contestants bowl blindfolded as many times as needed until they knock all the pins down or the minute is up. (Don’t happen to have a bowling set at home? Use plastic cups, toilet paper rolls, water bottles, etc.)
4. Night Four: MasterChef Junior: Haroset
Put out bowls of many potential haroset ingredients (lots of recipe ideas here) Have contestants mix and match and make their own haroset. Who will be the MasterChef? You can appoint a family member to be the judge, or do a blind taste-test and have everyone record their opinions!
5. Night Five: Matzah topping taste test… with a twist!
Have a table set up with matzah topped with a variety of toppings (cream cheese, butter, jelly, chocolate spread, sun butter, etc.). Blindfold your kids and have them try to guess what topping is on the matzah. In the end, everyone can vote for their favorite topping!
6. Night Six: Passover game night
Who doesn’t love family game night? You can make some of your favorite games all about Passover. Print out pictures of Passover symbols and play a silly game of Heads Up. You could also try a Passover version of Would You Rather, or this family-friendly Passover Escape Room.
7. Night Seven: Cross the Red Sea obstacle course!
Create a backyard obstacle course using anything you can find in the house — pillows, chairs, exercise equipment, etc. Challenge your kids to get through the obstacle course to cross the Red Sea and escape Egypt! (If you don’t have a backyard, that’s OK — you can easily do this indoors, too.)
8. Night Eight: Recline and dine
On Passover, we recline during the meal to remind us that we are free (in ancient times, a person who reclined at a meal was a free person, while slaves and servants stood). Using pillow and blankets, create your very own Passover fort! And then eat pizza in it!
This Passover will undoubtedly be difficult for many of us, as we won’t be able to celebrate with extended family and friends (though, of course, you can always Zoom your loved ones). I hope these activities will bring a little extra light and love (and Passover learning!) into your homes. Happy Passover!
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