Thanksgiving is a time for family togetherness, and that should extend to preparations for the family meal. There are many ways to incorporate kids of all ages in your Thanksgiving meal traditions ranging from setting the table, to helping you cook most of the classic dishes you will serve. On this festive holiday of showing gratitude and spending time together, involve the entire family because your kids can help make Thanksgiving dinner!
Here are some helpful tips on how your kids can help make Thanksgiving dinner:
Tip #1: Start Early
Start your dinner preparations several days before the big day. Items like pies, breads and even some casseroles and side dishes can be prepared early. Set aside one project for your kids to help with each day leading up to Thanksgiving. Overloading on cooking everything in one day is too much for kids. But one 10-20 minute session a day is just the right stimulation they can swallow.
Tip #2: Make it Fun
Cooking can be as fun as you make it. Try not to worry too much about spills and messes and focus more on the process. Let your kids wear a special apron and/or hat for the occasion and put on some festive music while you’re working in the kitchen. When sanitation and food safety allows, let your kids taste batter or small parts of their creations along the way, and definitely let them be taste testers when your dishes are complete.
Tip #3: Prep the Kitchen
If you have a recipe that calls for multiple ingredients, have them all laid out with the appropriate measuring cups, bowls, pans and utensils. You may lose your kids’ attention if they have to wait for 10 minutes for you to get everything together.
Tip #4: Make it Educational
Cooking can be a terrific math lesson. Explain fractions as you measure various ingredients and add them to your recipes. Also, if you are using the oven or microwave, allow your tot to press the correct numbers to get your heat source started. All of these lessons are fun, practical learning experiences for your children.
Tip #5: Allow Your Kids Make Choices
Every Thanksgiving meal could use a twist. Let your little ones pick a “secret ingredient” to add to certain recipes. It could be apples in the stuffing, cinnamon in the sweet potatoes, or cranberries in the green bean casserole. When it comes time to eat Thanksgiving dinner, your little ones will take pride in tasting their personal contribution to each recipe.
Tip #6: Let Kids Add the Finishing Touch
Preparing some dishes may not be kid-friendly, but you can usually find an aspect of the item that is. For example, if you top your casseroles with fried onions and your pies with spiced nuts, let your kids participate in that part. It may be a simple task but it’s super exciting to children.
Tip #7: Set the Table Together
Setting the table is not only necessary, it’s a good lesson too. Work with your kids to set the table and explain where each item goes. Hopefully you’ve made some fabulous Thanksgiving crafts to use as table décor so placing their creations on the table will be even more exciting when they do it themselves.
Tip #8: Snack on Thanksgiving-Style Foods
Throughout the week as you are building anticipation for Thanksgiving, snack on festive foods. These include dried fruits, deli turkey, pumpkin flavored foods, seeds and nuts. All of these flavors of the season will help you and your family get into the Thanksgiving spirit.
Tip #9: Create Fun Shapes with Thanksgiving Themes
Playing with your food has never been more fun than when making silly turkeys, pilgrim hats and cornucopia you can eat. There are many ways to turn traditional food items into cool shapes. To make an edible turkey figure, start with a pumpkin bread or cornbread muffin base and add apples slices or carrot sticks to the back for feathers and a grape to the front as a head. For a pilgrim hat, place one large marshmallow over a round cookie and cover with chocolate. Cornucopia can be made by shaping homemade bread dough and then hollowing it out to make room for fruits and vegetables.