In all of my adult life, I cannot remember a Thanksgiving without children. Having five of them now, ages one to sixteen, I’ve learned a few tricks to keeping the peace during Thanksgiving preparations. What started as a mommy being clever enough to keep the kids busy has turned into fun Thanksgiving family traditions.
The Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season is probably the busiest time of the year for most families. Things to do, places to go, people to see. . . It is all too easy to let this time busy our schedules and minds to the point of trading in our family cheer for that ugly, frustrated stank-eye attitude.
Over the years I’ve found that involving the kids, rather than sending them to anther room, creates a much better atmosphere in our home. The kids feel included and appreciated- and mommy doesn’t lose her cool.
There are many ways that children can be helpful during the holiday season. And most of them can be applied year round.
Thanksgiving Family Traditions – 5 Ways Children Can Help During Holidays
1. Hold a family planning meeting
Planning for a holiday can be the most time consuming part of the whole shebang. There are appetizers, a main course, sides, breads, desserts. . . the list can be daunting. But when everyone gets involved and can give their ideas, it doesn’t seem so hard. Each year as we plan for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the kids and I sit down to discuss what we should serve.
There are the usual items like mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, but there are also some variations each year. One year my thirteen year old really wanted to have chicken wrapped in bacon instead of turkey. None of us were opposed to the idea so we went with it! Letting kids have a say and then helping to cook on the big day really boosts their confidence. Plus it doubles as sweet mother-daughter time.
2. Kids are excellent decorators
Whether it’s creating a fun centerpiece for the table or making place cards/placemats, kids love to get involved in the decorating. However, be sure you don’t wait until the last minute for those fun crafts. By the time you pick a craft, buy supplies and gather the kids. . . well, there’s nothing like rushed crafts to bring out ugly mommy.
Do you have fall decorations that you use each year, or maybe some Thanksgiving-specific décor? Let the older kids put them out on display. You can send the younger kids outside to collect some leaves for decoration. They’ll take such delight in telling your guests how they decorated.
3. Food Preparation is sure to keep their hands busy
Children of all ages can help with the food prep. Little ones as young as three have helped rinse vegetables in a colander. Once they’re a little bit older, they can help with all of the mashing and rolling.
Tweens and teens can chop and stir just as well as we can. Once you get the biscuits/rolls rolled out, let the kids use the cutter and place the uncooked breads on the cookie sheet. Desserts and casseroles are always fun to assemble together.
4. Setting the table
Setting out some plates, glasses and cutlery are perfect jobs for young children. Older children can learn how to fold napkins, and maybe even master some fancy folds! One bonus of having the kids set a proper table is them learning how to do it!
With some help, kids can set up the appetizer table. Let them arrange a fruit or veggie tray, or maybe crackers and cheese. One of my older children takes great joy in creating different creative designs with the appetizers each year. The older kids are also capable of cutting and serving most desserts. Won’t they be proud to serve a dessert they helped mom or dad create?
5. Don’t forget about clean up
Kids of all ages can help collect the napkins. Children can also take on the chore of putting away condiments, gathering unused silverware, and even carrying plates and glasses to the sink. I have many fun memories of the whole family getting involved with clean up. Some washed, some dried, and others put things away. Afterwards, the younger kids go play together and the adults have coffee and play cards.
There are so many opportunities to bond with our children and make memories through the holidays. Unfortunately, there are also just as many chances to shut them out and try to go it all alone. Let’s be intentional mamas! Lets create wonderful memories that will last a lifetime and eventually (dare I say it?) be passed down to our grandbabies.
A big thank you to Jeniffer of Thou Shall Not Whine for writing this article.