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Passover

How to Teach Kids to Say the Four Questions (Ma Nishtana)

Matzo or matzah.

The recitation of the the Four Questions (Ma Nishtana) is, arguably, the most adorable part of the Passover seder.

Early in seder, the youngest attendee at the Passover table (who is capable of intelligibly singing and memorizing words, of course) is charged with asking the other guests, “What makes this night different from every other night?”

The words to the song are in Hebrew, which you can find here, and learning them can prove challenging for our little ones. However, there are ways to tackle it that can make it more fun, and manageable! Here are just some tips for how to teach your kids the four questions.

Start off relaxed

Don’t dive into learning the song right away! Play it once for them, or sing it yourself, or watch this fun introductory video:

Take it slow

You can teach a question or two per week, leading up to Passover. That way, they don’t feel overwhelmed.

Divide and conquer

Is the whole song too much for one kid?  Or maybe there a lot of kids at your seder who will feel jealous if only one gets to be in the limelight? No problem! Simply divide the questions among the kids. It’s a great method for large families with lots of kids. One questions per kid is probably the easiest, but if your seder is a bit more of a quaint affair, you can do two and two.

Sing along 

Make it into a team effort! Sing the Four Questions along with your kid. Or sing for them, then have them repeat the lyrics.

Focus on the repetition

 There’s a lot of repetition in the song, and once they get the lyrics that repeat themselves they can more easily. The phrases “Ma nishtana ha’layla haze mikol haleylot,” “Shebekol haleylot anu...” and “halayla hazeh, halayla hazeh,” repeat themselves four times! So once you learn that part, the rest is a piece of (hametz-free) cake.

Make it fun 

This isn’t just a boring Hebrew song — it’s a fun way to engage with family! Watch a lot of YouTube videos, incorporate fun accents, try to sing it in slow-mo, or really fast. Anything that makes it more enjoyable. Watch these fun covers of the song:

Find a relaxed setting 

What’s a time when your kid is relaxed? After a bath? After a good meal? While playing a game? That’s the best time to go over the song with them (though not too intensely, lest you make that time not relaxing).

Rinse and repeat

Listen to the song over and over and over, as much as your kid can handle, of course. Your kid will learn by osmosis!

Use it as an opportunity to teach Hebrew

It might be easier for some kid to remember the words if they know what they mean. Start with words they may already know like “matzah’ and move on to easy words like “layla” (night) and “ma” (what).

Don’t take it too seriously

Does a certain word sound funny to them? Make it a fun joke! Are they getting things wrong? Do they keep forgetting a part? Don’t worry, they have a full dinning table of friendly and loving stage whisperers to help them remember, who can always all join in singing along.

The Passover seder is an adventure, not a chore — and Kveller’s new, family-friendly haggadah captures all the excitement, plus explains everything you need to know. Best of all? It’s free! Get it here.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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