Preparing Thanksgiving dinner is challenge enough without small kids running around! A little advance preparation can keep children busy while you are cooking and help them understand what all the fuss is about. Allowing your children contribute to the celebration gives them a greater connection to the family and friends you will be having over, boosts their self-esteem and creates lasting memories. When young children understand why we celebrate Thanksgiving, it gives meaning to the holiday.
Cook With Your Little Chefs
If you have room in your kitchen, let your children help cook. Cooking is a great way to spend quality time with your children and teach them new skills. Young children can stir, mash, tear bread and crack eggs. Even three year olds can use a plastic knife to cut vegetables; many will sit for a long time doing this. There are tons of fun Thanksgiving treats to make, kids will enjoy helping with these as well.
Children love to decorate the house for Thanksgiving. There are tons of easy crafts kids you can make with them – the classic handprint turkey and paper bag turkey are popular preschool projects. Keep the best crafts from year to year; kids love to look at their work from years ago and see how much they’ve grown. I love to take my kids out on a nature walk and let them collect pine cones, leaves, sticks, acorns, pods, whatever tickles their fancy at the moment. At home I let them choose from an assortment of baskets and bowls, put in some raffia and pour their finds on top for personal and beautiful fall centerpieces. This activity also gets the kids (and possibly your spouse) out of the house for a while! Leaf garlands, of real or store bought fabric leaves are a beautiful way to decorate doorways.
Read Books Together
Books are a great way to help young children understand the story and meaning of Thanksgiving. For the youngest children, the board book What is Thanksgiving? by Michelle Medlock Adams encourages us to give thanks for what we have. The Pilgrims First Thanksgiving, by Ann McGovern is a simple, beautiful book introducing the Pilgrims and their first Thanksgiving in America. Thanks for Thanksgiving, by Julie Markes reminds us of the small things we should enjoy every day.
Cultivate an attitude of gratitude! Invite a few new people to your Thanksgiving dinner this year. Maybe there is a new family on your block or at your kids’ school. Think of someone you would like to know better and make a phone call. Your children will note your hospitality. Let your children see you thank the sales clerk and the waitress. Talk with your kids about the things they are thankful for, things they are really glad they have and would not want to be without. Remind children of the intangible items they have like family members and pets, and experiences they have had like camping, or a trip to the beach. During Thanksgiving dinner, go around the table and say one thing you are thankful for. Make a game out of it by having each person repeat what the others said before adding theirs.
It is important not only to be grateful for what we have and to help those who are less fortunate, completing the circle of thankfulness. Young children can pack bags of groceries to bring to the food bank. This year, more people are relying on food banks than ever before and the need is great. Serve food at a local shelter or bake for an elderly neighbor. Churches, schools and synagogues are great places to ask about service opportunities.
Most of all, enjoy the day. Keep Thanksgiving light-hearted, make it a priority not to get too stressed. Nobody will notice if something has not been done or the rolls are grocery store takeout. Have guests bring side dishes so that you have less cooking to do. Believe me, nobody minds; in fact they are glad to have something to contribute. Create a festive mood with decorations, games and even costumes. Give your children the gift of warm Thanksgiving memories.
original article by Susan Stein can by found here