Playful Passover

Fun times at the seder

A range of magnetic games, cards and printable Bingo, for kids large and small, can help make the most of a long night

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

The Ten Plagues from 'A Happy Passover Haggadah' (photo credit: courtesy Monicka Clio Rafaeli))
The Ten Plagues from 'A Happy Passover Haggadah' (photo credit: courtesy Monicka Clio Rafaeli))

Ah, the seder. That amalgam of family and foods, place settings and rituals. It’s a complicated event, and it isn’t easy to make everyone happy. He wants to follow that Haggadah, she wants parsley instead of potato, and they would prefer to sing every song rather than skip around.

Kids at the seder (photo credit: Chen Leopold/Flash 90)
Kids at the seder (photo credit: Chen Leopold/Flash 90)

It’s a long night for everyone, particularly for kids. Sure, they’re excited at the start, but once past the peak of Ma Nishtana and the Ten Plagues, it’s helpful to have some relevant games that can be played at one’s seat or off on the side.

In fact, it was last year’s family seder that prompted Michal Steier and her sister and partner, Yael Tal, to create the magnetic mind game “Makin’ Seder!”

“We were at seder at my mother, who’s a yekke, and we’re a family with all types [of personalities],” said Steier. “She had made place cards, and my kids are the ‘bad kids,’ and they wanted to switch places, stirring everything up. My mother went nuts trying to figure it all out, and I said, ‘This would be a great game.'”

Makin' Seder at the table (Courtesy)
Makin' Seder at the table (Courtesy)

With 16 different characters, including Grandpa Ephraim who’s deaf in one ear, Aunt Shula who likes to be in the center, Claude the new immigrant and Jessica the Birthright girl, players have to place the characters logically at the table.

“Everyone’s family is like this, and they tell us about it at our store,” said Steier. “And then everyone sits together in the end.”

Steier and her sister own Nisha, a popular Jerusalem gift store with two locations, one on Bethlehem Road in Baka, the other on Emek Refaim in the German Colony, and have always stocked small Israeli-made games and puzzles that appeal to the younger set.

Nisha's Four Sons game (Courtesy)
Nisha's Four Sons game (Courtesy)

Their other game, “Ehad Haham,” is a cleverly-designed puzzle based on the Four Sons that challenges players to place the cards in a square, making sure each boy is wearing his own shoes. Next year, said Steier, they’ll create “Ahat Hahama,” the female version.

For the younger set, graphic designer Monicka Rafaeli has created a free printable Bingo set, easily cut for pre- and during-seder play. It’s part of her “A Happy Passover Haggadah,” a richly colored and designed Haggadah that she self-published last year, using a translation by Rabbi Marc Angel.

“My daughter’s kindergarten teacher asked me to prepare something,” said Rafaeli, “and Bingo seemed like the right choice.”

Pages from "A Happy Passover Haggadah" (Courtesy Monicka Clio Rafaeli)
Pages from "A Happy Passover Haggadah" (Courtesy Monicka Rafaeli)

Rafaeli, who lives in Tel Aviv but grew up in Greece and lived for some time in New York, has always found the Passover themes appealing given her own history of moving around and finding her place. It was a Viewfinder movie about Moses, however, watched when she was nine, that spurred her eventual vision for the Haggadah. After eventually finding a copy of that movie on eBay, she got to work on her version several years ago.

She now sells the Haggadah at Tel Aviv shops and museum stores — and it can also be ordered from Amazon — while the printable Bingo set is easily downloaded.

Yael Tal from Nisha also recommended the Hebrew card game “Pesach, Matza u’Maror” from Agadeta Games, full of questions and answers about the Haggadah and Exodus from Egypt for before or during the seder. I’ve always found that certain props — such as rubber frogs, plastic critters and other creatures mimicking the Ten Plagues — are fun to toss on the table at just the right moment.

Matzah napkin holders (photo credit: Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
Matzah napkin holders (photo credit: Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

For those participants who are more interested in the details of cleaning prior to Passover or the of setting the seder table, two new, clever props provide an aesthetic incentive: colorful stickers (in Hebrew) that let kitchen users know which cabinets are off limits, not in use, filled with hametz, or available for use; and matzah-image plastic napkin rings made from recycled material (both are available at Nisha and other gift stores).

It’s these small rewards that make the larger tasks slightly more enjoyable.

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