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Tips for Involving Kids in Thanksgiving Prep

Tips for Involving Kids in Thanksgiving Prep

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in 2013.

We are hosting Thanksgiving this year. We will have 18 family members total, and only three are young children. That means a lot of food, a lot of drink, and more dishes, table space and chairs than I think I own. But I asked for it. And I’m excited about it. We’ve hosted before, but because our kids were super young, and because of health and other reasons, we’ve always ordered the vast majority of our Thanksgiving menu in the past. This year, we’re going bold, brave, economical and potluck! But I’m still planning to cook a good number of dishes. I make a squash dish with apples and raisins that everyone always asks for. I LOVE whole berry cranberry sauce and it’s the easiest thing to make, so I’ll do that. I MUST do a dessert or two. And I just realized the other day that I guess when you host, you’re pretty much responsible for appetizers. And – oh yes, the turkey, of course.

So, here’s my real challenge. While my kids, at almost three and almost seven, are not in need of constant hand-holding, I still need to keep them occupied while I chop, measure, bake and slice. The turkey can be as dry as the Sahara, and it won’t stress me out half as much as my kids begging for my attention every two minutes while I try to cook. Yes, I know they can “help me cook,”  and we’ll do some of that, but that strategy works much better when we’re trying to make a cake for Dad’s birthday or some other project where the effort is as valued as the end result. This is not that time.

Tips for Involving Kids in Thanksgiving Prep

I’ve come up with a couple of strategies for involving the kids and for keeping them busy:

  • Make the cranberry sauce with the kids the weekend before Thanksgiving. That’s ok, right? It will keep, right?
  • Have the kids make place cards together. If I give them index cards, markers, crayons and stickers, I hope think my daughter can write the names, inventive spelling and all, while my son decorates with stickers. The key here is no expectation for any Pinterest-worthy outcome. (Commuter Mom also has some good Thanksgiving craft ideas for kids she shared a few years back.)
  • Have my daughter make these cute acorn cookies ALL BY HERSELF. I would like to think my son could do some as well, but I have a feeling he’d eat everything.
  • Try to find the easiest Thanksgiving-worthy appetizers I can. For sure I’m going to do this cream cheese and hot pepper jelly thing that sounds unhealthy, but is truly more delicious than you can imagine, and takes less than a minute to prepare. I’m open to any and all other simple but sophisticated app ideas if you have them!
  • And when all of this explodes after 10 minutes, I’m sure I’ll pull out the iPad or turn on the TV and be grateful there are two or three shows my kids can agree on. And in addition to being thankful for family, friends and our health, I will also secretly thank Chuggington and Henry Hugglemonster for their gender-neutral, age-spanning entertainment.

Family cooking dinner in the kitchen

If you have any other tips, tricks or advice for getting ready for Turkey Day with your kids under foot, please share here!


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