Thanksgiving is a unique and fun occasion that brings family and friends together. However, for the most part, it requires a lot of planning to pull off successfully. Here are some of the ways you can involve your kids in the preparations leading up to Turkey Day.
1. Involve them in planning the Thanksgiving menu
One of the most beautiful things about Thanksgiving is how unique it is for every family that celebrates it. While most people choose to host dinners that revolve around a turkey meal, there are all sorts of side dishes that serve to elevate the dinner to a special level.
Remember to plan your unique Thanksgiving menu well in advance, and involve your little ones while you’re at it. It may seem like an overwhelming task to impose on your kids, but thinking of Thanksgiving as a large project that can be broken down into smaller doable chunks (with meal planning as one of the chunks) makes it much more achievable.
You may have recipes that you repeat year to year as a tradition, but be open to reasonable suggestions or updates that may come from your little ones. A few weeks before Turkey Day, sit down with your children and decide what the menu will look like by going through family recipes, cookbooks, or cooking blogs. Once you collectively decide what the final plan for the Thanksgiving meal will be, you can take it a step further in the following ways:
- Schedule grocery shopping trips
- Agree on which stores you’ll visit
- Discuss who’s invited to dinner
- Think about all the serving pieces that you’ll need on hand
- Look for card tables or folding chairs if you need extra seating at the dining table
You’ll probably need to go on more than one grocery shopping trip for Thanksgiving supplies - this is a great opportunity to involve your little ones by bringing them along. Taking your kids on grocery runs with you can help show them what goes into the rigorous meal preparations for Thanksgiving. It can also help them learn how to compare prices, make choices in the provided selections, and build their confidence in cooking.
3. Encourage them to decorate and set the table
Thanksgiving isn’t just about wearing cute matching outfits - make it an even more fun occasion by letting them decorate. For most kids, decorating doesn’t feel like a chore, so they’ll be happy to take part. Decorations don’t have to be elaborate - they can be as simple as colorful leaves or twigs from the yard, construction paper placemats in eye-catching Fall colors, or tea light candles. Here are some other ideas that they can work with:
- Repurposing a wreath
For an effortless centerpiece that won’t interfere with guests’ sightlines across the table, go for an autumn-themed wreath. Have your little ones decorate it by placing items like candles, cake stands, or serving pieces in the hole in the center.
- Pumpkin painting
Mini pumpkins are undeniably adorable on their own, but having your kids paint them for your Thanksgiving table will make for fun and quirky decorations.
- Floral decorations
You can never go wrong with flowers. Have your kids pick out and even arrange a floral centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table.
In addition to decorating the Thanksgiving table, your little ones can also help out with table setting as well. Depending on age, table setting tasks can range from folding napkins and setting out the silverware to bringing in extra seats for guests and choosing a tablecloth and table runner.
4. Get them to help with the food preparation
There are several ways kids of all ages can help out in the kitchen. Thanksgiving is a great occasion for getting your little ones involved in meal prep and cooking as there are an array of simple child-friendly traditional recipes. Here are some age-based food preparations tips for kids to keep in mind for Thanksgiving:
Ages 5 and under
- Crack eggs
- Tear up the bread for stuffing with their clean hands
- De-stemming kale. The trick to this task involves holding the kale stem firm with one hand and running the other hand to strip the leaves clean off.
- Wash and snap the green beans
- Use the salad spinner to help wash and remove excess water from salad greens
- Roll pie dough
- Help set the table
- Scrub potatoes
- Peel potatoes using a kid-sized peeler
- Mash cooked potatoes (make sure that the potatoes are not too hot)
- Add toppings to salad. After de-stemming and chopping kale, have your little ones chop their choice of toppings (pears are particularly popular), have them chop the toppings with a butter knife
- Send kids in this age group out to look for berries, pinecones, and small twigs for decor
- Chop vegetables like celery and onion in the food processor
- Whip the cream in the stand or hand mixer. This a great opportunity to teach your little ones the concept of restraint, as overwhipping cream can ruin the recipe
- Bake cookies and help to decorate them
- Assist in decorating and setting the table
- Peel the chestnuts
- Make homemade cranberry sauce
- Make biscuits
- Help make the mac and cheese
Being a gracious host (even if it’s just to extended family and/or friends) is an important skill for kids to learn. If necessary. Provide them with an informal script that they can follow. Here are some starter tips to consider:
- Show your little ones how to answer the front door and welcome guests into the home
- Demonstrate how and where to take and store guests’ coats
- Show your kids how to announce the meal and lead the guests to the table
Cleanup after Thanksgiving is hardly anyone's favorite part of the fay, but it’s an essential task that must be done. Cleaning up doesn’t mean hard labor - having the kids complete tasks like loading up the dishwasher, drying clean dishes, and putting towels, placemats, and napkins into the dirty laundry hamper can go a long way. Older kids can even help package up any leftovers.
From the menu to table settings to Thanksgiving-themed decorations - there’s typically a lot that goes into planning for Thanksgiving. With so much to do, it’s always helpful when the whole family (including the kids) can pitch in.