Thanksgiving is about togetherness—and you can get into the spirit of that well before the big day by involving your kids in the planning process. Whether you are hosting a feast at your home, traveling to spend the holiday with others or keeping the event low-key with just your immediate family, the already special day can feel even more meaningful with contributions from the littlest family members.
In our home, the planning began early this year. After celebrating the day with just our immediate family in 2020, we’re all excited to invite a small group over this year. Or, to be more specific, my kids are excited while I’m also slightly intimidated by the prospect of hosting. However, with my kids as hype-people for the big day, I’m reminded to be thankful for the opportunity to gather with those we love.
Here’s how I got my kids involved in our Thanksgiving preparations:
When it comes to the best Thanksgiving dishes, just about everyone has an opinion—including my kids. To keep everyone happy and feeling like they had a say, I decided to take votes on what sides and desserts we would make. (The turkey main course was non-negotiable.)
We started by talking through some of the classic picks, such as stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, apple pie, pumpkin pie and so on. The list gets long in a hurry! To round out the list, we took some wild card suggestions from everyone. Then we decided to narrow it down to four sides and two desserts before taking votes.
Although chocolate cake isn’t necessarily a traditional choice, that’s what made the cut with my kids—and I don’t think anyone else will complain.
Even with our slightly pared-down menu, cooking on Thanksgiving day inevitably feels like a frenzy. Recognizing that ahead of time, we’re planning to make anything possible in advance—and that’s when I’ll be welcoming helpers in the kitchen.
Knowing myself and my kids, this is the best strategy for making it an enjoyable experience. After all, if something goes wrong a couple of days in advance it’s much less of an emergency than when dinner is due on the table in just hours.
One realm where I’ll happily embrace imperfections? Our table decor for the big meal. As far as I’m concerned, the more happily handmade the decorations, the better. Once again, we made this a group decision by looking through some different craft options online. My kids each picked a craft that seemed fun (and age-appropriate) to them. Instead of having all the little hands involved in every craft, I think this gives them each a sense of pride in contributing something all on their own to our event. I can already picture them showing off what they created to our guests as they arrive...
Between the feasting and football, there always seems to be some extra time to socialize. In an effort to make sure my kids don’t feel left out after all of their hard work and planning, we’re also coming up with a party game that will be fun for everyone.
Depending on how crafty we’re feeling after checking our more pressing items off the to-do list, we might create a “tape the feathers on the turkey” game. But, if that doesn’t make the cut, a family-friendly game of charades was a huge hit a few years back.
After six years of parenting, I know that there can be a lot of pressure on parents to make the holidays magical. The funny part is that the things we remember most about holidays from years past are the moments of laughter, togetherness and fun—not how perfectly the meal turned out or how the decorations all looked.
With my kids immersed in the planning process this year, they are buying into the plans and excited to see everything come together. And I hope it all goes off without a hitch! But, just to be safe, we’re also talking about how it’s completely fine even if little things “go wrong” as long as the most important thing goes right: enjoying our time together.
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