Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and that means planning for a day filled with family, food, and fun. Depending on how many people attend, things can get a bit crazy. Instead of shuffling your children off to the play room or trying to get them to sit quietly and play or color while you work, get them involved. Let them be a part of planning, decorating, cooking, serving, cleaning, and more. This can provide them with a sense of responsibility and also reinforce valuable lessons and skills. No matter a child’s age, they can lend a hand in their own way, whether creating decorations and passing out napkins or actually cooking on their own.
Come together as a family this year and reflect on the true meaning of Thanksgiving and all that you are thankful for by working as a team to prepare for the holiday.
Is your child a picky eater? Or do they just like to know what to expect? Sit everyone down together and plan out what you’re going to eat. While you may insist on certain staples (such as the turkey), be willing to compromise on other components. If your kiddo doesn’t like the creamy texture of mashed potatoes, make baked potatoes or sautéed red potatoes instead. Have them pick out the vegetables that will go into the salad, or the types of dressing that will be offered.
Does your child struggle with handwriting or spelling? Let them practice by writing out the shopping list so you know what to buy. Need to work on reading? Have them read the recipe ingredients to you as you’re checking to see what you already have or what you need.
Actually making Thanksgiving dinner comes with a plethora of opportunity to get everyone involved. Younger children can help by washing fruits and vegetables – anything in colander really, tearing lettuce for salad, pouring in ingredients, stirring batter, or putting cooled biscuits in a dish. Older children can practice scooping, pouring, and measuring as they read recipes and mix everything together. There are plenty of fine motor skills, math skills, and reading skills that can be incorporated into meal prep.
In addition, children can help shop for ingredients and actually see what is goes into each dish. If they’re hesitant about certain ingredients, let them do a taste test to explore different foods and flavors. It can also be more enticing to eat something that they helped to make themselves. Kids can be proud of their participation and how things turned out.
Another set of responsibilities can be setting the table. Teach children the proper placement of dishes, silverware, napkins, glasses, and more. It’s also a good task for younger children and gives them a sense of responsibility when putting out napkins or silverware. With a little help they can also pour water or other beverages.
Let their creativity shine as they make Thanksgiving decorations to place on the table, front door, or elsewhere around the house. This can be a great time to introduce different sensory activities such as painting or gluing feathers. It also practices fine motor skills like cutting, coloring, gluing, stringing beads, and other tasks. If you’re inviting other family members over, your kids can write and decorate place cards to show where each person will sit.
Another great writing activity is creating cards that list what your kids are thankful for this year. Talk about the meaning of Thanksgiving and let them brainstorm ideas that they want to share around the table. Make sure everyone comes up with things they are thankful for and then talk about why. Keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily have to be something deep, especially for younger children. It could be something as simple as their family, their pet, a best friend, or being able to dance, play a sport, draw, or do something else they enjoy.
You can also get your kids involved by helping others. Volunteer to serve meals at a shelter or soup kitchen. Spend time getting to know people in the community and showing your kids how they can make a difference in little ways. It can also help them realize more things that they have to be grateful for. You could also give back by raising money to donate at the store to buy a meal for a family in need, or donating canned goods or other things to support families in your community.
Perhaps your kids could make cards to pass out to nursing home residents or send to the troops overseas. You bake cookies or make crafts to take to a neighbor. Ask your kids to think of ways to give back as well to make it more meaningful and interesting for them. There are plenty of opportunities to make a difference and things that people of all ages and abilities can do. Figure out what works best for your family.
Most of all, enjoy the time you get to spend with your family this Thanksgiving and all of the reasons that you have to be thankful. Appreciate the spills and messes because your kids are learning and becoming more independent. Reinforce positive behaviors and celebrate the little things. Start your own customs so your kids will have traditions to pass along to their children someday and to look forward to each year.
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