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Jewish Holidays 101: What is Passover?

Activities and Play

3/10/2022 | Emily Jaeger

Passover, or pesach in Hebrew, is a Jewish holiday that tells the story of the Israelites’ freedom from slavery and marks the beginning of spring. Support Jewish families and introduce diverse cultures in the classroom with some fun and easy ways to celebrate Passover 

Passover is a week-long celebration that occurs every year around April. Many Jews celebrate Passover with a festive meal called the seder on the first two nights, eating unleavened bread called matzah, and abstaining for the week from a list of forbidden grains. If you serve snacks or lunch at your facility, please be aware that some of your learners and staff may adhere to these dietary restrictions during Passover.

What is the Story of Passover?

The Passover story takes place in ancient Egypt. According to the Book of Exodus, an evil Pharaoh rises to power and decides that all Jewish people living in Egypt must be slaves. Afraid that the Jews will rebel, Pharaoh also decrees that Jewish baby boys must be thrown into the Nile at birth. One mother, Yocheved, secretly saves her son Moses from this fate by putting him in a basket and floating him down the Nile River. He is found by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised in the palace. 

When Moses grows up he objects to Pharoah’s treatment of the Jews and also realizes that he is Jewish too. Moses becomes God’s emissary to Pharaoh to demand the Jewish people’s freedom. When Pharoah refuses, God strikes Egypt with 10 plagues. The worst plague, the death of Egyptians’ firstborn sons, finally convinces Pharaoh to let the people go (at least temporarily). Once the Jews leave, Pharaoh has a change of heart and sends his army after them. With the Jews backed up against the Red Sea, God performs another miracle to split the sea and allow Moses to lead the Israelites to freedom. 

Multi-Sensory Passover Activities for Kids

Sing Passover songs. There are lots of great Passover songs in English for young kids to bring the story to life. Some classics are “The Building Song,” “Where is Baby Moses,” “Frogs Everywhere,” and “Oh Listen King Pharaoh.”

I’m Talkin’ Bout Freedom

While freedom from oppression might be a little too complex for early childcare, freedom to choose (and learning how to make good choices) is right on target for your precocious youngins. Allow learners to make simple choices: between two free play activities, colors for an art project, or the next book to read. You can also play decision-making games such as ant or elephant. Ask learners which they would rather be and why. Definitely record those responses!

Plague Art

Who said that plagues had to be plagues? 3’s+ will enjoy making frog puppets or wild animal masks. Allow learners to choose their own animal and decorate plastic party masks with assorted art supplies or try out these lion masks. For the youngest learners, consider setting up a Passover sensory table with some plague toys: zoo animals, frogs, ping pong balls (for hail), and plastic bugs. 

Design Challenge

Who can build the tallest tower or pyramid? Have learners use blocks, magna tiles, legos, etc. to make the tallest tower or the tallest pyramid (if you think they can handle it!). Learners can work alone or in groups, depending on age and ability to cope with frustration. 

Plant some parsley

There are about a million different spring activities for preschoolers and toddlers. I’m highlighting parsley because it is featured by many Jews during the seder as an edible symbol of spring. Parsley is easy to plant and grow on a classroom windowsill or even transfer to a school garden. 

Jewish Holidays 101

Please check out the rest of our Jewish Holidays 101 series to learn about the Jewish Holidays and fun ways to integrate them into early childcare.

Emily Jaeger is a professional writer with a background in education (she's taught every age group from preschool to retirement). Her writing has been featured on Parents Magazine, Kveller, Motherfigure and more. You can connect with Emily via her website emilyjaeger.com or on instagram @soulinparaphrase.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

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