The holiday season usually brings everyone together, whether your celebration is out at a nice restaurant or consists of gathering at Grandma's house with home-made fare. For those who bake their own feast, hours are spent preparing for the event in the kitchen the night before and the day of. Make these hours together count by keeping all family members involved, young to old. Here are some tips for keeping your child engaged in the festivities, some interest in the current family traditions, and creative space to make new ones.
- Keep your future chef involved in the kitchen by finding child-appropriate ways that he or she can help. Perhaps your son or daughter can help toss a salad, wash fruits and vegetables, bring you ingredients you need from the pantry, or divide out rolls into baskets. Even the smallest hands can help prepare the feast and having your child help to prepare some of the dishes may encourage them to try new things if they are usually a picky eater.
- Help your young foodie with some math skills by having them measure out ingredients needed for recipes. They can read along in the steps and look at the ingredients list to know how much of something is needed and when it should go in.
- Your school age child can also help you make your grocery list the week before.
- If your child does not like certain dishes or desserts, help him or her find a kid-friendly recipe and make it together.
- A child can assist with keeping the timer for when dishes should be done baking or when the turkey needs basting.
Parent Safety Note: While your helper chef can assist in many ways, be sure to keep him or her away from the stove and oven. Someone should always remain in the kitchen with food cooking, especially with young children. Also, be sure to have adults carry hot foods and liquids, such as steaming vegetables, hot gravy, or hot coffee, to the table.
- Your child can make menus with emergent writing and invented spelling or you can scribe for them by their pictures.
- If your older child loves to play "waiter" or "waitress," they can be sure to have all of the water glasses poured before announcing "Dinner is served."
- Artistic children can pair with a Restauranteur type to decorate and illustrated the menus. This is a great way for two or more children to work cooperatively together to make enough copies for everyone.
- Give an older artistic child construction paper or a large size paper and black markers or black crayons to create their own coloring pages for their younger siblings or cousins to enjoy while waiting to be served. He or she can also play Art Teacher by making sure that everyone has the supplies that they need and assisting and encouraging the little Picassos.
- Give your school age artist a guest list and allow him or her to reproduce the names/letters onto place cards. A younger sibling can help by sticking Thanksgiving stickers onto the place cards for decoration. If your artist is not old enough to reproduce the letters by himself or herself, you can write them neatly and read them aloud to them, showing the names.
- Give your budding writer a decorative blank book and pencil. Have him or her write the year on the front page and go to their relatives and ask them what they are thankful for this year and write it down neatly. Then, they can report the list at the dinner table or after dinner and everyone can talk about what a wonderful year it has been.
The Event Coordinator
- Give your school age child a budget for buying decorations and help him or her find ways to stay on budget while finding festive items for your home and table.
- Give your school age child a guest list and allow him or her to reproduce the names/letters onto place cards. A younger sibling can help by sticking Thanksgiving stickers onto the place cards for decoration.
- Napkins can be rolled around utensils and tied with a ribbon or pre-made napkin ring and placed on each plate before sitting down for the meal. Or, look up fun, fancy ways of folding napkins and let them make it a fancy affair.
Check out this video from PBS Parents: DIY Napkin Rings
- If your child has the acting bug and is not interested in the ideas above, perhaps he or she can enlist a few brothers, sisters, or cousins for a short skit before the dinner is served.