photo of a parent and child smiling at the Seder table

8 Sensory Strategies for a Successful Seder

By Maxine Heron, Gateways Occupational Therapist (Former)

Making the first nights of Passover a joyful experience for all participants

The Passover Seder is a feast for the senses. From its array of rituals and questions to the many people who come together around the table, many adults and children alike can experience the first nights of Passover as a sensory delight or an overload. Here is a (Seder) plate full of tips and tools to keep the fun going through the night.

photo of father and son breaking the middle matzah

Use a lot of visuals to help children and adults unfamiliar with attending a Seder understand what to expect. Preview events by providing kids with stickers and Haggadah coloring books that include simple pictures that list the order of the Seder. Consider using a Haggadah like The Gateways Haggadah, which breaks directions down into individual steps, accompanied by photographs.  

Make a list of expected behaviors. Just as you would teach a child how to behave in a restaurant before going out to dinner, you can list what is expected of them at a Seder, using words or pictures. Keep the list accessible throughout the Seder and let them know it is okay to request a break, if needed.

Build lots of movement breaks into the Seder. Help children stay focused by offering them opportunities to get up to participate in tasks such as hiding the Afikomen from the adults or by using costumes or props to act out the Passover story. (Children can build pyramids out of blocks or place red ropes on the floor to jump over the Red Sea.)

Give children tactile fidgets for the 10 plagues. Bring the Haggadah alive by handing out squeeze frogs, cotton balls (for hail) or band-aids (for boils). For young children, consider creating a “squish bag” by putting hair gel into a strong Ziploc bag with plastic bugs, frogs and the like. When kids push down on the bag, the objects will move, and children will be endlessly delighted.

Create Passover Mad Libs for older children, using a simple pre-written story, with words left out for them to fill in. Or play Passover Jeopardy, using stickies.

Provide a comfortable seat. The Passover custom encourages hosts to offer comfy chairs and lots of pillows and cushions. But many children love sitting in a sea of pillows.

Keep palates occupied. Lay out plenty of simple snacks on the table to help children avoid becoming too hungry while they wait for the meal. Carrot, celery and fennel sticks are great choices, and crunchy, salty and chewy snacks help to sustain focus and alertness.

Make space. Designate a quiet room to use if a child needs a break from the formal Seder, and lay out some Passover books to look through, while taking some solitude.