Food

Getting the Kids Involved with Thanksgiving

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I asked my kids to name their three favorite holidays the other day. Halloween, Easter, Birthday and Christmas were the hands down favorites. Thanksgiving? Kind of the ugly stepsister of the major holiday family. One day, one meal (or more) and you have to dress up. Oh, and no presents, which is why I happen to love Thanksgiving. Celebrating with family and friends, making the traditional Thanksgiving feast, and taking some time to be grateful for all of the good things we have.

Here are some ways to get your kids involved with the Thanksgiving holiday and hopefully get Thanksgiving into the top three holiday list where it belongs!

Table decorations: My kids love to make place cards when we are hosting a holiday meal – no matter how many people are coming – 3 or 25 – place cards make the table festive. I usually just use construction paper, cut out a bunch of uniform rectangles, fold them in half and let the kids go to town with stickers, glitter, etc. They have also traced their hands to make turkey place cards, cut them out and decorated them, written the names in the middle, and laid a turkey place card flat at each place setting.

My kids always seem to bring home lots of crafts from school at this time of year – turkey sculptures made from toilet paper rolls and construction paper, pumpkins made from paper lunch bags, etc. These projects make great centerpieces – pick one or group a few together. You can also send the kids outside to collect pine cones and place them in a glass or silver bowl with cranberries for an easy and pretty centerpiece.

I like to set the table a few days in advance of a holiday meal so I can cross one thing off my list. One year, unbeknownst to me, my kids drew pictures for everyone, wrapped them in gift wrap and put them at each person’s place. Nothing fancy, just crayon pictures, but very thoughtful and they loved seeing their aunts, uncles, and grandparents open them.

Meal preparation: Thanksgiving food is typically simple food and a great opportunity for kids to pitch in. Even if you are not hosting, offer to bring a pie or side dish and get the kids to help. Apple pie, mashed potatoes and stuffing all provide opportunities for kids to help chop (if old enough and always with adult supervision of course!), measure, stir, roll, crimp, etc. This is also a great way to start a tradition – your daughter’s creation – “Mary’s Apple Pie” – can turn into a Thanksgiving classic that she gets to help with every year.

Thanksgiving books: This a great time to hit the library with your kids and take out Thanksgiving books to learn about the pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving.

Sharing thanks: My husband’s family started a tradition a few years ago where everyone would quickly stand up at Thanksgiving dinner and share something they were thankful for or a Thanksgiving memory. This is a great way for the kids to learn about being grateful and giving thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving – enjoy!

Don’t forget to check out the Ultimate Thanksgiving Guide at rachaelray.com!

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Rachael Ray