How to Host a Kid-Friendly Thanksgiving

Preparing and hosting a Thanksgiving feast is no small task–after all, you not only have to make sure that your food is on point, but you’re going to want your entertaining skills to be savvy enough to accommodate everyone from the toddlers to the seniors. If you’re expecting several kids at your Thanksgiving get-together, here are some simple tips you can use to make it a kid-friendly, meltdown-free affair.

1. Be sure to serve kid-friendly foods!
Chances are, most kids don’t have any problem warming up to traditional Thanksgiving fare such as turkey, mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese, but there are other items that might not get too much attention from the little ones (ahem, cranberry sauce). In cases like these, feel free to improvise a little to make the foods more fun and kid-friendly. For example, mommy blogger Laura Fuentes offers this simple yet delicious recipe for strawberry cranberry sauce, which provides a kid-approved, slightly less tart take on this classic Thanksgiving staple. Also consider adding corn on the cob (always fun to eat), or sandwiches cut into the shape of turkeys or pilgrim hats.

2. Set up a Thanksgiving crafts station.
Create space for a special Thanksgiving crafts station, and then furnish plenty of colored pencils, crayons, washable markers, construction paper, safety scissors, etc. for the kids to get those creative gears turning. You can have them create their own Thanksgiving-themed place mats, or decorate a small squash or pumpkin. Also consider having them to work on a “Thankful Tree” to remind them of all the things they can be thankful for this holiday season.

3. Give the kids their own table.
This is a classic but epic staple of the ideal Thanksgiving get-together, because let’s face it: Kids are going to have a much better time hanging out with each other versus being interspersed between the grown-ups. You can use kid-friendly cups, plates and flatware, and you could also include those neat Thanksgiving place mats that the kids worked so hard on at the crafts station. Having a kids table will help the parents as well, since all of you will be better able to keep track of who needs what when they’re all sitting together. Finally, providing a kids table will help you sequester the inevitable mess that occurs when little ones converge on a Thanksgiving feast.

4. Do some “preemptive damage control.”
A little kid-proofing around the house will go a long way towards preventing this Thanksgiving holiday from turning into a bad memory for one of your invited guests. Make sure that any unused electrical outlets have been rendered safe by plugging them with plastic outlet covers, and secure any valuable knick-knacks or breakables around the house that can be damaged or knocked over. Also be sure to put away any medicines, cleaning products or other potentially hazardous materials, and if you have a fire crackling in the fireplace, make sure to shield it with a screen!

5. Get the little ones involved.
Thanksgiving is a family (and friends) affair, so find simple ways to get the kiddos involved in all aspects of the festivities. This could be something as simple as letting them help set the table or assist with cleanup, or it can include a fun activity such as a flag football game in the backyard. The important thing is to make Thanksgiving a time for family and friends to eat together, play together and enjoy each other’s company; if you’ve done this, you can consider your Thanksgiving dinner a runaway success.