Thanksgiving is famous for the meal, but also time spent with family and friends. This year, get your children involved with preparing the dinner or helping decorate the table and make the experience more meaningful for them and less stressful for you. It’s a win-win situation!
Ask your younger children to help set the dinner table. They can fold napkins, set out plates or silverware (be careful with knives though), and decorate name cards. Decorating doesn’t feel like a chore to a child, so if you have older children, put them in charge of making the table look pretty by using colorful leaves, twigs, berries, or possibly tea light candles to help set the mood and create an ambiance for the meal.
Speaking of ambiance, put your older children and younger teenagers in charge of music for pre-dinner, dinner, after dinner, etc. Let them help you in the weeks before Thanksgiving to create a theme for the dinner, color schemes, recipes to try, and other things that will make the whole day special.
To really get your children involved in helping with dinner and prep work, encourage their feelings and ideas in the planning of foods. Sit down with everyone in your family before Thanksgiving and plan your menu. Find out what foods your kids want to eat that day or what new foods they’re at least willing to try. Use this time to explain to them how important balance is in a meal like this, with protein, vegetables, and treats.
Learning how to be a gracious host is a skill kids need to learn. Show them how to answer the door and welcome people into your home, teach them to warmly great guests, take their coats, and have them announce with the meal is ready. If they are shy or have some social anxiety, give them an informal script to follow.
Helping in the Kitchen
If your kids are old enough to help out in the kitchen, by all means, let them help. They can cook or prepare side dishes like slicing the cranberry sauce or arranging vegetables, pickles, and olives onto a platter, or have them try their hand at baking a dessert. Pumpkin pie can be fairly easy if you use a pre-made crust.
Thanksgiving dinner is not limited to food alone. Have your children tell the story of Thanksgiving in their own words or have them read the story from a book. A little dinner theater goes perfectly with any meal!
No one likes to clean up, especially after a big meal, and children shouldn’t be forced into hard labor, but everyone should help clean up, even if it’s just by putting glasses or dishes into the dishwasher, or helping put leftovers into the fridge. When everyone helps out, cleaning up goes quicker.
Thanksgiving is a time when families get together to share a meal and take time to be thankful for everyone in their lives. As parents, we know all too well that sharing that meal comes with a great deal of preparation, not to mention an even greater amount of stress. Add children running around the house to the mix and you have a recipe for chaos. Taking that extra time to include your children in preparing and cleaning up the Thanksgiving meal will not only make the day that much less stressful but will create memories both you and your children will treasure forever.
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