children playing

Whether you’ve been planning Thanksgiving for months or haven’t started yet, whether you’re hosting or traveling to see family, we know this is a busy time of year and everyone could use a little bit taken off their plate. This week, we’ve gathered some ideas to involve children in the preparations and the celebrations this year – plus ways to honor Native people in your family traditions.

If you’re headed out of town this year, be sure to look back on our posts about traveling with young children and keeping your family healthy during cold and flu season.

Involve Children in the Planning and Preparations 
Before the big day, talk to your children – ask them if there’s something special they’d like to see on the table. Let them pick a side or dessert then involve them in the cooking process – children can easily mix ingredients, scrub potatoes, dry lettuce in a salad spinner, or pull leaves off herbs. Older children can chop vegetables or put together a festive turkey crudité platter.  If you’d rather keep them out of the kitchen, ask children to make place cards or a fun centerpiece, like one of these Thanksgiving table decorations. You can also give children simple social tasks for the day, like greeting guests when they arrive or taking coats.

Create a Fun Children’s Table
If you’ll have several children at the celebration, consider making a fun kid’s table where they can enjoy themselves. Decorate it with festive plates, napkins, and holiday crackers (we love Meri Meri’s selection) or have your children craft table decorations ahead of time. One simple way to keep children entertained is to use kraft paper or long sheets of plain white paper to line the tables; leave an assortment of markers, colored pencils, or crayons on the table and let their imaginations run wild! You could also set the craft paper up for simple games, like tic tac toe. Leave some holiday stickers out too – we  love this autumn pack and these glitter turkey stickers. Put bottles of Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider out for children or serve festive fresh juice children’s mocktails. Whatever you choose to do, don’t forget to include little cards for children old enough to write what they are thankful for on or simply ask everyone to think about their responses. At some point during dinner, have everyone – adults and children alike – share their answers.

Make an After Dinner Plan
Every family’s routine is different. Will your family clean up together after the big meal? Will you play games (click here for a list of fun Thanksgiving activities if you forgot the board games)? Watch a movie? Manage expectations to avoid meltdowns after an exciting day – explain to children ahead of time they will be expected to help clear the table then your family will play games for one hour before bed. As always, for a better night’s sleep, try to keep children’s nighttime routine as similar to normal as possible, even if the timing is a little later or you’re out of town visiting family.

Kid-Friendly Thanksgiving Recipes

  • Thanksgiving Snack Board for Kids: Try this healthy and fun snack board to keep children happy in the hours leading up to the main meal.
  • No Bake Pumpkin Pie: This recipe, while decidedly not gourmet, will please little ones – and is easy enough for children to complete almost entirely without adult help.
  • Roast Turkey Breast: An easy way to cook turkey for picky children who prefer white meat.
  • Crinkle Carrot Fries: For a more casual affair, try this delicious and healthy side dish for children and adults.
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Acorns: Older children can help roll these adorable acorns into shape – and guests of all ages will love to eat them!
  • Mason Jar Whipped Cream: Give little ones something fun and useful to do between dinner and pie!

Children & The History of Thanksgiving

The conversations around Thanksgiving have changed a lot since many of us were children. It’s important to have difficult conversations with children about the history of the holiday, as well as emphasize the aspects we all love about it, such as time together as a family and expressing gratitude. If you’d like to go further than just sharing the history with your children, we’ve put together some ideas to help you and your family celebrate Thanksgiving respectfully while honoring Native American culture.

PBS: Talking to Kids About Thanksgiving: Center Truth, Connection and Being Grateful

Whose Land Am I On? Use this tool to find out the history of the land you live on and give thanks.

Huffington Post: Native Recipes From Indigenous Chefs

Parent Map: Kids’ Books That Share True Stories of Native Peoples

Cultural Survival: 9 Ways to Honor Native Peoples on Thanksgiving

The Good Trade: 9 Native-Owned Brands & Artisans To Support