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Plan a Special Thanksgiving for Kids

Get kids excited about Thanksgiving by involving them in the party planning

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Thanksgiving for kids, children, activities, cooking, Thanksgiving, meals, preparation, kids

A fun Thanksgiving for kids starts with them helping with dinner.

Megan Cooley

When you think of celebrating Thanksgiving with kids, what image comes to mind? If your first thought is a group of bored cousins sitting at the kiddie table -- that ubiquitous appendage to the real Thanksgiving feast -- think again.

With proper planning, kids can have a ball on Thanksgiving.

For a Special Thanksgiving for Kids, Involve Them in the Preparations

Kids love to cook, and almost any recipe has steps children as young as 18 months old can handle. Let them sprinkle marshmallows on top of the candied yams. Show them how to mash potatoes. With some supervision, older kids could be put in charge of checking the turkey’s temperature every 30 minutes or so, and teenagers can prepare a side dish from start to finish.

Children also can be asked to set the table and decorate it, too. Have them make place cards ahead of time and gather items from the backyard for a nature-inspired tablescape.

The moments before dinner is served can be stressful for Thanksgiving hosts. It’s a tricky task to get everything on the table on time and at the right temperature. Plan some activities to occupy the children during that time, such as games led by an older cousin or a Thanksgiving-themed DVD, such as A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (compare prices) or another family-friendly Thanksgiving flick.

The kids also could use that time to prepare one final item for the table: scraps of paper and pens placed on each family member’s plate so everyone can write down the things for which they’re thankful. Once everyone shares their sentiments during dinner, have the children collect the slips of paper and store them in a special place year after year.

Make Meal-Time Kid Friendly

Tweens and teens certainly can be expected to sit through the entire Thanksgiving meal, but keep in mind that young kids -— on a purely developmental level -— simply cannot sit in one place for more than 10 minutes or so. Crayons and some Thanksgiving coloring pages might keep them longer, but set a realistic expectation before dinner starts of how long you would like them to dine with the family. Then, excuse them if they’ve made it past that point and are starting to squirm. They’ll be glad to be set free, and you won’t spend the rest of dinner gritting your teeth.

Everyone can be expected to help clean, even if a young child’s task is only carrying dirty napkins to the laundry room or wiping the table with a damp rag.

Create Family Traditions

Think of other traditions you can incorporate into Thanksgiving to make it fun, such as an annual game of tag football among neighbors or a morning “turkey trot” with the family. And help children learn the meaning of Thanksgiving by reading books about it during the days leading up to the holiday.

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