Easy Ways Kids Can Help Make Thanksgiving Dinner

Lighten your load this Thanksgiving and keep little hands busy with these fun ideas

Preparing Thanksgiving dinner can be tricky — especially when juggling a house full of family. Here are some practical and fun tips to get the kids involved in preparing Thanksgiving dinner. They'll stay busy and you'll get some extra help in the kitchen!

Turkey
Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to cooking a large bird. Have kids take charge of the timer. Show them how to set the timer for the desired amount of time between basting sessions. When the timer sounds (every 20 minutes, for example), the kids can remind the adults that it’s time to baste the bird.

Stuffing
Classic stuffing recipes are perfect for enlisting kids’ help! Have children help tear up fresh herbs and cube bread. Ask each child to select his/her desired herbs. Prepare small individual baking dishes and identify each dish with names in marker on masking tape. Kids can customize the stuffing to their desired taste with favorite herbs. Try Staub’s Mini Cocottes in holiday colors.

Potatoes
It’s fun to mash at any age! Place a small amount of cooked potatoes in a separate small bowl and let the child be in charge of mashing and seasoning a special batch. Or pack miniature pots with mashed sweet potato, top with marshmallows and bake for a few minutes until a sweet, golden crust forms — yum!

Greens
Make a game of who can snap the most green beans in timed sessions. Tearing lettuce by hand can also be a fun activity for younger kids.

Cranberry Sauce
A child can help measure ingredients into the food processor for this classic recipe. With supervision, it’s also fun for kids to help turn the machine on and off. Practice counting while pressing the button down to blend. This activity can be repeated until the desired texture is achieved.

Pumpkin Pie
Dough is always fun to play with! Have kids help roll out the piecrust. Try nonstick rolling pins when cooking with kids — they lessen frustration since dough doesn’t stick to the pin. Then, keep them busy while the pie is cooking by whipping cream by hand with a whisk. This whimsical Head Chefs whisk adds a dimension of play to cooking.

Keep in mind that nearly every recipe contains some ingredient and step that a child can help with. For example, vegetables can be cut into strips that a child can then dice with a plastic knife. Some children are thrilled to simply use a can opener. Parents can always ask for someone to help read the recipe out loud. Try to think creatively about different ways little hands can be helpful — and stay productively busy.

Cooking is an empowering activity for kids. Giving children a stake in the preparation evokes in them a feeling of pride in having helped create the meal. (And, by the way, children are more likely to eat foods that they helped to cook!)

How to Steal a Few Moments When Finalizing the Feast

  • Have children help set the Thanksgiving mood with fun, holiday-themed decorations. Bring out the box of arts and craft supplies to make a turkey centerpiece. Have kids decorate individual menus, name cards or placemats. Check out the fancy and fun Masterpiece Placemats (shown above) that come with a set of markers! Their ornate framed “art” will look great with the rest of the formal holiday tableware.

  • Children feel extra special with their own kid-sized table setting and servingware. Show children a sample table setting and have them follow suit and complete the setting process.

  • Print out a quick how-to instructional sheet from the Internet with a fun pattern to fold napkins. Kids can have fun learning how to fold a napkin into themed figures like turkeys or pumpkins.

  • Children who enjoy word games can use words like “turkey” or “pumpkin pie” and jumble up the letters to see how many new words can be formed. Keep a points tally, and when time comes for dessert, serve the winner the first piece of pie!

WATCH: Cricket Azima's Italian Panzanella Bread Salad


Cricket Azima is the author of
Everybody Eats Lunch and founder of The Creative Kitchen.

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