Hosting a Thanksgiving Day feast is no small undertaking, and the more help you can get from the whole family, the better. Below are some simple ways to get your kids–no matter how old they are–involved with helping out on Thanksgiving Day.
1. Meal Planning and Ingredient Shopping
Set some time aside to “huddle” with the family so that you can hash out the menu together. This is a great time to explain to them different details about how the dishes will be cooked, what ingredients will be used, and possibly to solicit ideas regarding how to put a new spin on some of the classic Turkey Day staples. In addition, you can brainstorm together regarding other details of the event including activities and decorations. Once the menu planning is done, take the kiddos with you to the store and allow them to help you pick out the turkey and other ingredients. This is a great time to teach them how to pick out produce, and depending upon how old they are, you can give them some quick lessons on reading nutrition labels or how to compare prices.
2. Meal Prep
There are dozens of age-appropriate assignments you can give your kids to help out with preparing and cooking your Thanksgiving feast. With a stool and a place at the sink, most toddlers can do a bang-up job of washing vegetables, or rinsing other items in a colander. You can also get the little ones involved in mashing potatoes, tearing lettuce for salads, snapping the green beans, etc. The kids who are a little older can help out with more demanding tasks such as putting dishes in the oven (or taking them out), rolling out dough, measuring out ingredients, or other culinary assignments that require a little more finesse and/or elbow grease. You can also consider having the kids help you bake some of the desserts on the night(s) before Thanksgiving. Baking a couple of treats ahead of time will free up more time for the main dishes on the big day, plus it will provide an opportunity for those flavors to really settle in before everyone digs in.
3. Preparing the Home and Setting the Table
You can get the whole family involved in creating an inviting environment for your Thanksgiving guests. For younger kids, their job can be to clean up all clutter and random toys laying around the house, so that guests won’t have to worry about tripping over My Little Pony dolls or clusters of Legos. You can dole out more sophisticated cleaning tasks to the older kids, such as vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, and tidying up the main areas where the guests will be hanging out. With a little guidance, kids can also help set the table by putting out napkins, silverware, etc. You can even create a craft project for them by asking them to make homemade Thanksgiving-themed place mats using crayons, markers, stickers, etc., on brown craft paper. They can draw or create images of turkeys, pumpkins, autumn leaves, and so forth, and add a personal touch to the decor that will get your guests into the Thanksgiving spirit.
4. Clean Up
Of course, after you’ve prepared a veritable feast for your family plus several guests, you’re going to have quite a mess on your hands. Get the kids involved in picking up dishes and stacking them in the sink, scraping food scraps off plates into the trash can (only if they’re old enough to not make a mess doing it), putting leftovers into containers, loading up the dishwasher, etc. This is a great way to teach your kids the classic principle of how “many hands make light work.”
However you can get your kids to help on Thanksgiving Day, be sure to compliment them on a job well done when it’s all over. When you give your little ones a sense of responsibility and show them how they contributed to a successful Thanksgiving meal, they will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment, and they’ll be that much more eager to help out again when Thanksgiving rolls around next year.