Tips for a Stress-Free Kid-Friendly American Thanksgiving

by Pink&Blue Contributor
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By: Jaya Classen

A few months after moving our family to San Diego for my husband’s medical fellowship in mid-August, the American Thanksgiving buzz started and I couldn’t help wanting a piece of the action.

A giant blow up turkey greeted us at my son’s preschool, neighbourhood houses became adorned with post-Halloween uncarved pumpkins and elaborate autumn wreaths and every grocery store product sprouted a new and imaginative pumpkin-inspired version.  From pancake and bread mixes to tortilla chips and salsa to cheese and crackers – if it was in a can, carton, jar or box, there was a pumpkin-inspired version.

Being new to the country, I was excited to host my first American Thanksgiving dinner. Being a mom of a busy three year old boy, I also wanted to host a Thanksgiving that was stress free and kid friendly. I asked some friends and neighbours for advice, and here is what I learned:

Tip #1: Don’t be a hero – share the meal-making with guests.

Whether or not you are hosting a traditional potluck-style meal, divide and conquer your Thanksgiving menu by divvying up at least a portion of the menu between guests.  Your guests will enjoy participating in the meal-making action and sharing their favourite dish with the group.  Pre-and post-Thanksgiving recipe swapping between friends is part of what makes Thanksgiving fun.

Tip #2: Cover the basics first. Divide the meal into four categories: the bird, the sides, the pumpkin pie and the drinks. Have one item in each category before you start moving onto extras. Having five to six side dishes to go with the bird, appetizers, themed place cards, elaborate centrepieces or pumpkin-spiced post-dinner cappuccinos are always appreciated, but these won’t make or break your celebration.  If you are feeling overwhelmed or your toddler is being particularly uncooperative on Turkey Day, just get your basics covered, the rest is gravy!

Tip #3: Have a few tricks up your sleeve for keeping the kids entertained.  A new toy can keep kids entertained and happy for hours – and it needn’t be expensive.  Try creating a Thanksgiving treasure chest (an old shoe box covered in thanksgiving themed wrapping) and fill it with a few dollar store finds for the kiddos.  If you’re feeling crafty, you might also want to make a kids thanksgiving craft station beside the table where guests are eating, in case kid’s cooperation levels go sideways.  Here are a few craft ideas:

Thanksgiving balloon turkey buddies: blow up some sturdy orange or brown balloons and ask the kiddos to decorate them with stickers, feathers and googly eyes to make their own Thanksgiving balloon buddies.

Thanksgiving place card holders:  pinecones make wonderful place card holders and the kiddos will enjoy painting and decorating these with feathers, beaks and googly eyes to look like turkeys.

Tip #4: Don’t forget to give thanks. We often don’t take time to take a step back to look at everything wonderful and beautiful in our lives – big and small.

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