Endless Scroll? Helping Kids Make the Most of the Megillah Experience

When you hear the phrase “Endless Scroll,” you probably think of a never-ending social media news feed. (It actually never ends, by the way. Don’t try scrolling to the bottom.)

But for many kids sitting in shul on Purim, they may think of Megillat Esther as one, too. And one that they have to sit through twice within a twenty-four-hour period.

It’s a riveting story–with compelling characters, twists and turns, and miraculous moments. Really, it is. But for a child or teen (and I’m sure many adults, too), it can feel like a long chunk of time sitting and listening. Even with the boo-ing breaks every now and then. Even if they’re among witches, cookies, politicians and other interesting costumed characters who show up in shul.

If my years working with kids of all ages have taught me anything, it’s that the most tedious and monotonous topics can be brought to life with a little foresight, some imagination and creative game play. All the more so a multi-layered, fascinating, and faith-affirming story like Megillat Esther.

Once children are old enough to attend Megillah reading in shul, they’re likely not yet ready to sit still for that long, particularly while listening to the story in a language that is not natural to them just yet. Add to the mix their shorter attention span, and it’s a setup for antsiness.

Here are five simple ideas to help you keep kids engaged during Megillah reading:

1. Search and Find: Give your child a list of things to find in the Megillah. They can follow along, searching, as they’re listening, and report back to you afterwards. You can adjust the difficulty, number of items, and language of the items based on the child’s age and skill level. For an extra tricky challenge, throw in some other items which are not found in the Megillah, and have your child tell you which things are in the story and which are not. (I have an illustrated list of twenty-five items to find in my free Purim packet, which also includes a full set of illustrated MEGILLActivities, as well as other fun Purim fun sheets.)

2. The Boo-ometer: Challenge kids to keep a tally how many times Haman is mentioned in the Megillah. They can count his name in the text, or they can listen to how many boos there are. During the second reading, they can double check their answer!

3. Feeling It: The Purim story has a wide range of highs and lows. Invite children to keep track of their emotions as they listen to the story and imagine they’re hearing it for the very first time. You can print out one of those “How are you feeling?” posters and have them circle all the emotions they experience.

4. Drawn Into the Story: Encourage your kids to use an illustrated Megillah, preferably one they love and use every year, or one they’ve never seen before. I still use an illustrated Megillah every year, partly because I love looking at the pictures, and partly because using the same one year after year carries a special bit of Purim nostalgia.

5. Thumbs Up for Finger Fun: For some kids, having a fidget toy or a notebook and pen with them can make all the difference. In other words, give them something to keep their hands busy, and paying attention to the story will be that much easier and more enjoyable for them.

As children learn more about the story of Esther and as their ability to sit quietly for long periods of time develops, you can give more sophisticated activities and prompts. For example, how many parts of the story can they find that show a hidden hand of G-d? What clues, if any, can they find about what it was like to be a child in Shushan? How many shorashim in the story do they recognize?

If my years working with kids of all ages have taught me anything, it’s that the most tedious and monotonous topics can be brought to life with a little foresight, some imagination and creative game play.

Even as an adult who looks forward to hearing the Megillah each year, I try to give myself mini challenges and games: to look out for turning points in the story, to find unique Hebrew words that don’t show up often, and to find pesukim that feel extra relevant given what’s going on in the modern world. Listening to a related shiur or reading up on relevant sources beforehand helps, too.

Each of us will hopefully listen to the Megillah more than 200 times in our lives, please G-d. It’s an exciting story that can help us hold onto hope and rely on G-d, no matter what’s happening in the world. The key is in finding creative ways to make it exciting for kids, from an early age, so they too can develop a love and appreciation for the story of Esther.

I hope these help and I would love to hear from you other ideas that you’ve found effective in helping kids make the most of the Megillah listening experience. Maybe this year, when the ba’al korei reaches the end of the Megillah and calls out the final word, our children will find themselves wishing that The Book of Esther was actually an endless scroll.

Sari Kopitnikoff is an experiential educator, digital artist, and content creator who is passionate about creating books, games, activities, and shows that bring Judaism to life. For over a decade, she taught elementary through high school, and she now creates and gives Jewish “edutaining” workshops and mystery experiences all over for kids, teens, adults, and families—on tapping into the beauty, joy, and creativity of Judaism. You can find her books, games, and lots of educational activities on her website, and on social media, @thatjewishmoment.

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