So you are doing Pesach the traditional way - at home with the generations. You’ve cleaned the house, taken out your Pesach utensils, cooked the traditional dishes, and prepared for the guests, both family and friends. The table is set with fancy accoutrements, and new holiday clothing is ready.
There is a clear script for the Seder nights. You follow the Haggadah and tell the story of our national history. You keep the kids involved with shtick, prizes, the afikomen, and the Pesach paraphernalia they have prepared at school.
But what to do the rest of the time? The days are long and the weather may be rainy. People are sharing rooms. Babies and toddlers may be off schedule and cranky. There needs to be naptime for the adults and the little ones. The house needs constant picking up. How do you keep so many people of different ages and interests happy under one roof?
Here are some tricks and tips from my experience.
I feel that it is more important to invest in new toys and enough fresh reading material than to spend time on preparing elaborate dishes. I want everyone to experience quality time rather than quality intake. Therefore, I buy a new game/toy that recently came out for each age group before the holiday and do not give it out until everyone has slept the first day. It makes for a good reward and will keep the first day manageable. A fresh supply of card games is a cheap option and it is compact, too.
Another option that requires storage all year round is ordering a few costumes online or in a Jewish store after Purim, such as Amazing Savings. These will give the kids hours of fun as they plan a play. I keep my costumes inaccessible to the kids and they are taken out as a special treat; they are not kept in the toy closet.
Before I had proper costumes (that come with accessories), I had a supply of top hats, boas, and cheerleader pompoms that the kids used to perform shows for the adults. Somehow, these props sparked a tradition of holiday afternoon performances. Preparing for the performance and practice takes time and thus you are guaranteed some peace and quiet for the adults.
One year I ordered a lot of used Duplo on eBay. Another year I bought a puppet theater and hand puppets. These occupied kids of all ages for hours.
If you have patience and don’t want to head for the bed after each meal, you can teach the kids the old-fashioned holiday nut games of your youth. Of course, these are to be played outside.
Kids do need to be “aired” in my opinion, so I insist that the parents take turns taking the kids out in the late afternoon each day. Counting the varieties of flowers that have come out and looking for out-of-state license plates on vehicles parked in driveways can keep their interest as they take a walk is an alternative to the playground.
Buying all the Jewish magazines with their supplements will furnish enough reading material for all and is very worthwhile, even if you don’t subscribe to them all year round. Buying new exciting Jewish novels for the teenagers was something I did in the past but find unnecessary now with the proliferation of magazines. I don’t want to be stuck with the books after the holiday at this point, either.
Storing all the seasonal paraphernalia, child-made kittels, Haggadahs, Pesach notebooks, etc. is a challenge I haven’t successfully met yet. There is so much extra clutter and tension connected with finding those items that the kids worked on at school. However, they don’t have a designated space. I am thinking of buying each family an Ikea-type storage box with a lid in a different color that can be kept in the dining room to store all their Seder stuff and Haggadahs. When it’s time to leave, they can take the box home as a memory box for the future and leave grandma’s rooms neater.
As we move from year to year, let’s be strategic about keeping Pesach memorable and joyous for all the generations. Careful planning will reinforce family bonds and maintain clutter control and sanity.
A veteran nonprofit leader, Faigie Horowitz, MS is a columnist, motivational speaker, and active community rebbetzin in Lawrence.