Here are 9 ways to help please the little ones during Thanksgiving dinner so everyone has a peaceful, and grateful, meal.
The Thanksgiving grown-up table might be beautifully decorated with sprigs of wheat and multi-colored maize, but more often than not, the real party happens at the kids’ table. In fact, I’ve had a few Thanksgiving dinners where we had to lure an adult or two back to the grown-up table because they were having more fun listening to made-up knock-knock jokes with a huddle of kids, even if it meant they had to cram their knees under a table fit for toddlers.
If your seating arrangement calls for a separate kids’ table this year, here’s how to make their table just as festive and special as the big one:
1. Keep Them Close
Having a separate table for kids can be a great way to create extra seating, but keep the kids’ table close enough to the adults’ table so that there’s still the feeling of one big family. Include the kids in your conversation and let all the laughter weave together. Besides, you’ll want to be within earshot just in case one of the kids happens to say, “Hey, want to have a food fight?”
2. Flameless Candles
Just because they’re little and can’t read “Martha Stewart Living” yet doesn’t mean kids don’t appreciate all the fancy details that decorate a holiday table. In fact, they might notice and appreciate them even more than grown-ups. Add a tiny vase of flowers, a few small pumpkins and some flameless candles to the kids’ table to create a fancy ambiance that will be sure to make the kids feel special.
3. Make Your Own Place Card
Setting out place cards for kids is a fancy touch to the table, but they’ll love the idea even more if they help create them. Some tree branch slices (available at most craft stores) make cute take-home gifts that the kids can easily decorate with colored permanent markers.
The kids can also easily personalize chalk tags, which you can wipe off and reuse.
4. Add Entertainment
Kids usually eat faster than adults and might need some incentive to stay seated through the long Thanksgiving dinner or Grandpa’s prayer — whichever lasts the longest. Have a jar of markers and crayons on hand so the kids can doodle after they eat.
You can skip the drawing paper and tear off a sheet of butcher paper to tape to the kids’ table as a tablecloth.
5. Pour Some Bubbly
My kids call it “kid wine”– the sparkling juice we bring out for holidays and special occasions. We serve it in tiny wine glasses, and we make a big deal out of what a special treat it is to get a bubbly drink in a fancy breakable glass. So far, no broken glasses!
6. Teach Them How to Toast
Here’s the fun part about teaching kids how to toast: They’ll do it 20 times, creating new things to toast to — things you never even thought of — and you’ll love hearing them do it. “Here’s to Barbies!” “To Taylor Swift!” “To Stinky Diapers!” Giggle, giggle. After all, someone has to entertain the Thanksgiving crowd!
7. Conversation Starters
Kids like to eat and run and might not understand yet just how rich the conversation can be around the dinner table.
8. Thanksgiving History
I was very impressed with my husband one year when he printed out some kid-friendly information on the history of Thanksgiving and read it out loud, encouraging questions and discussion before dinner. There are some great lessons and a beautiful story behind the Thanksgiving holiday and traditions — and kids will love hearing about how it all got started.
9. A Grateful List
During dinner, pass around a notebook and have everyone write down three things that they are thankful for this year — in general or specific experiences, there are no rules. Make sure to include the kids. Before you bring out the pies, have someone read everything on the paper out loud (one of the kids will love this job) and take time to reflect on what a meaningful year it’s been and all that you have to be thankful for.