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Thanksgiving Ideas for Kids: Strategies for Keeping Kids Busy While You Cook

Updated on September 15, 2012

Thanksgiving Ideas For Kids: Things to do While Mom Cooks

You may not raise your Thanksgiving dinner from the earliest point possible, but you may find that it's just as hard to keep kids busy while you cook your feast, as it is to get a broadbreasted turkey raised to the point of being suitable for a Thanksgiving dinner. Regardless of your dinner preferences, you may often find that the younger the child, the more difficult it is to keep that youngster occupied during the highest intensity cooking moments.

Following are some tips, from a mom who nightly makes dinner for a household of ten, and who has learned to include the kids when possible, and distract them when necessary.

Thanksgiving Planning: Get Your Ideas for Kids Ready in Advance

If you try to wing it (pun intended) with your kids' involvement in the Thanksgiving preparations, you will probably find yourself frazzled and frustrated. Take a little of your Thanksgiving menu planning time to put together your ideas for kids to stay busy, as well. This can be as simple as listing a few distraction activities, and gathering relevant materials into a tub or bin, set aside for the big day.

Distracting activities can include an assortment of small games and toys, coloring pages, crayons, stickers, and books/magazines. As one activity wears out its novelty, send the youngster to find a different one. Have an adult, or older child (tween or teen) in charge, so that little ones don't rifle through the entire contents in a whirlwind, and if possible, have that overseer monitor periodically to make sure youngsters aren't into mischief.

You don't need to spend a bunch of money to assemble these distractions, but can often find needed supplies in your own home.

Thanksgiving Ideas for Kids: Plan Your Kids Into The Menu...

That doesn't mean make them a main dish, but rather, including the kids in the making of main dishes. Plan your menu, and note those dishes and foods that kids can help with.

I plan dessert making, especially, around all ages in the house. Everyone is now old enough to help count, measure, and stir. Even a two year old can stir a little bit, and by including that two year old in the process, you build confidence and interest. I make all desserts one to two days in advance, and plan specific dishes that are kid friendly. Jello fruit salads are easy, and an opened can of drained fruit can be dumped out by a two or three year old. Four to six year olds can do a little more in terms of stirring, and seven to ten year olds can do some good measuring. By ten years of age, my daughters have especially been ready to participate in most aspects of kitchen work for Thanksgiving, and my sons are capable at that age of making the entire jello fruit salad on their own, with just a little direction from Mom.

Thanksgiving meal prep includes ages 10 and up, with under 10 working on setting the table, putting relishes on a tray, and getting snack trays and condiments ready. Very young children will sit and watch, while sampling olives and pickles. If they get fussy or distracted, that's the time to move into the activity mode.

Thanksgiving Craft Activity Ideas for Kids

Thanksgiving Ideas For Kids: Media Distractions

If the kids are beyond being able to help with foods, and activities aren't doing the trick, you can resort to movies, music, or even video games. Christmas themed programming can be very helpful, as kids start to recognize the closeness of the holiday. The beloved Charlie Brown specials are a great way to provide short programming, especially if it's very close to Thanksgiving meal time. If it's a little while to go, an hour or more, animated Christmas programming, or activity based video games, can be helpful. It's important to have an older child, or adult, supervising these activities to keep emotions and attitudes in check.

Thanksgiving Ideas for Kids: Video Entertainment

Thanksgiving Ideas for Kids: Comments

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    • JoyfulReviewer profile image


      7 years ago

      Congratulations on your lens being featured on the Fall Harvest Fest monsterboard.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      7 years ago from New Zealand

      Congratulations on your Thanks-giving lens, being featured on the Fall Harvest Fest monsterboard. Quite a art at times keeping children busy while cooking.Have a great day.


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