For a national holiday that encourages to take stock of our blessings, Thanksgiving can be fairly stressful…especially for parents. All the preparations and cooking and a more formal mealtime are not exactly kid-friendly. But gratitude isn’t just for adults, and neither should Thanksgiving be an adult-only activity. That’s why I like to get the kids involved as much as possible.
Here are a few of the ways we suggest doing it, from helping prepare the table to giving a hand in the kitchen. Then, as a bonus, we’ve listed a few of the rewards we might offer the kids after they’ve helped.
7 Easy Ways for Kids to Help at Thanksgiving 1 of 12
Have your kids design/create a special place card or decorate a placemat for each guest. If they're up for doing more than just designing, let them write something they're thankful for about the guest on each placemat or card. Then, for fun, mix the places up at the table so your guests or family members aren't sitting by the same people as usual.
Has your family graduated to a kids' table and a grown-up table? If so, let your kids decorate and set the kids' table. Get some small pumpkins or fall/nature items and let them go at it—including with napkin folding, arrangement of condiments, etc.
Part decoration, part entertainment, and part teaching gratitude to your kids...gather up some small cards (these blank flashcards work well) or pieces of fall-themed paper and ask your kids to write out the things they're thankful for. Then scatter these on your Thanksgiving table.
This definitely depends on age, but if you have any little helpers in training, find some small tasks they can do and let them at it. Most kids are capable of mashing potatoes, tearing lettuce, washing fruits and veggies, stirring batter, rolling out pie crusts, placing rolls in a basket, sprinkling marshmallows, etc.
If your kids can read, give them the all-important job of Recipe Reader. They can call out ingredients as needed, or help you gather those ingredients. Older kids can be in charge of measuring. You might even let one decide on an item of their own—an easy side dish or dessert—that they can help make.
Fruit salad is expected. Fruit kabobs are a less conventional way to add fruit to your Thanksgiving table. These are perfect for kids. With parental supervision, older kids can slice fruit and younger kids can skewer them.
Kids of all ages can pick up napkins and throw them away. Older kids can be tasked with putting away condiments, clearing unused silverware, and maybe even carrying plates and glasses. As for incentive, the faster the table gets cleared, the quicker we get to dessert.
As long as they've been polite during the meal, it's OK to let your kids leave the table when they're done...rather than sitting and listening to boring adult conversations. If you're not at your own house, bring a stocked bag of crayons, books, small toys, etc.
If there's any day when it ought to be OK to indulge on electronics or screen time, Thanksgiving is it. (Let us all be grateful for Apple products.) Come with your iPad pre-loaded or a few DVDs ready to go.
If you've ever been within 100 feet of my house, you know it's a virtual hothouse of screechy guitar music. Or drumming. Or piano or singing. My kids always want to perform for us, and letting them do so is a reward they'll love. I'm thinking Thanksgiving might be a good time for this. Let them put on a quick magic show, skit, or song. As long as they know "quick" is the key.