Thanksgiving with Kids – A Survival Guide


Thanksgiving dinner within my family has become a tradition that calls for my entire extended family to get together and have a great dinner followed by dessert, drinks and games.  It is also an all day event.  Someone within my family usually volunteers to host the dinner and we all contribute a dish or two to make a complete Thanksgiving feast.  This usually means that on Thanksgiving Day the host family will have anywhere from 20-25 adults, 8-13 kids between the ages of one and thirteen and a few teenagers.  The teenagers usually take care of themselves but how do you manage the 8-13 kids for the entire day while keeping your house in order? 


In case you have not had an opportunity to read my bio allow me to sum it up for you.  I am a mother of three.  If you add my three children in with my husband and I, together we are a household of five.  I am sure that someone reading this right now is thinking to themselves so…..  Here is the deal.  Thanksgiving is our next major holiday and if you spend Thanksgiving outside of your nuclear family and with your extend family, depending on your family size you can have some affair. 


Children usually don’t think of themselves as children but as little adults.  I am constantly reminding my children that I am the mother and that they are the kids. To keep them from doing what they want to do; without yelling and disciplining takes a little imagination, role playing, preplanning and patience.  The following list are some things that I do to keep my children engaged.  I have found that only the children who are able to feed themselves and are around three or older enjoyed this.  Parents of children below the age of three usually eat and run. 


§  Before Thanksgiving Day go online and search for printable thanksgiving activities for various ages.  Print and save.  Rent an excellent children’s movie.  I recommend UP.  The younger kids and older kids will like it.


§  Tell the kids that today they are going to be playing restaurant and that they are customers.


§  Prepare a special table just for the kids (preferably a folding table/tables).


§  Cover each table with old Christmas wrapping paper white side up. Place crayons and markers on the table.  Seat them and let the kids draw until their plates are made. Tto get the markers and crayons from them without fighting and get them to eat just tell them that you have to change the paper. Remove the old paper and replace with new making sure to keep the markers and crayons well hidden, then put their plates in front of them being sure to tell them that their dinner is served.


§  After dinner offer the children dessert. Try to make the desserts child friendly, things that they can put together themselves.  Example – Graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows for S’mores (you may have to show them first how to make a S’more). Cookies and ice cream for ice cream sandwiches.  Sliced fruit and whip cream for dip. Strawberries, whip cream and sponge shells for a miniature strawberry shortcake. The kids will love the idea of making their own dessert.


§  Once they are finished with dessert give them all damp napkins to clean their spots. Collect napkins and dry the table. Thank them for coming to your restaurant and have the children do the printables. When the kids are finished have them write their names on it and/or have the older ones help the younger ones.  (You will give them their artwork to take home when they are leaving.)


§  Put on that movie you rented and make sure the area where     they will watch the movies has a few small blankets and pillows as some of the children will fall asleep.  Be prepared with little movie snacks too.


The movies should be the last activity by this time you will find that some of your guests will have started packing up if not already packed and ready to go. I know that this may seem like a lot for you to have to do along with hosting the dinner but have your kids help you or recruit another family member. You will not regret it in the end.


Please comment and share with other readers the things that you do to ensure that your youngest guest are occupied during Thanksgiving dinner.


By K James