by Stacey Schifferdecker
Ask most people to name the main focus of their Thanksgiving celebration, and chances are you will hear about time spent with family and friends at a Thanksgiving feast. From turkey and dressing to pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving is all about the food and the chance to share a special meal with friends and family. But have you ever noticed how much time is spent preparing the Thanksgiving meal compared to the time that is spent sitting down at the table together eating it? Many Thanksgiving meals take hours to prepare, but the eating is over within minutes. If the dinner table is the site of your fellowship time with friends and family, this doesn’t give you much time to connect and share together.
To extend your time together, make cooking the meal as much a “togetherness” time as eating it is. And especially invite the children into the kitchen to help with meal preparations. Kids love to help in the kitchen and will feel proud and happy to be included.
Think your kids can’t handle any Thanksgiving cooking chores? The trick is to pick tasks appropriate to your child’s age and attention span. Your kids love you, but they don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen with you! Give them jobs that last for a little while or that only require sporadic attention so your children can also watch the Thanksgiving parade or run around with their cousins.
Good jobs for even young children include stirring jello, filling deviled eggs, putting together an appetizer tray of pickles and olives, and mashing potatoes. Older children can peel potatoes, make the devilled egg filling, make a pie filling, and even mix up the dressing or stuffing.
A fun activity for a group of children is to make their own butter. All you do is fill a small, lidded container with some whole cream and a dash of salt and then shake it. It takes about 15 minutes of shaking, so the children can pass the container around and take turns. When they are done, you will have a lump of delicious homemade butter to put on your Thanksgiving rolls.
If your children have an artistic bent, you can put them in charge of setting the table, including making place cards and other decorations. Sugar cones filled with fruit candies make miniature horns of plenty that look pretty on the dining table. Or find a book or website with napkin folding instructions and let your children have fun folding the napkins in different ways.
As you cook with your children, you can also teach them cleanup skills. How much easier is the Thanksgiving cleanup when you wash dishes as you go along rather than piling everything up as you go along! Teach your children to clean up after themselves as they cook (who knows, maybe the skills will spill over into everyday life – then we would definitely have something to be thankful for!)
Of course, some things will take longer if you cook with your children than if you do it yourself. The mashed potatoes might have a few lumps and the deviled eggs might not be picture perfect. But you will be teaching your children valuable life skills and creating wonderful holiday memories at the same time. What could be better than that?
Remember, have fun but stay safe. Adults should always supervise children, and keep them away from sharp or hot objects.
Stacey Schifferdecker is the happy but harried mother of three school-aged children—two boys and a girl. She is also a freelance writer, a Children’s Minister, a PTA volunteer, and a Scout leader. Stacey has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and French and a Master’s degree in English. She has written extensively about parenting and education as well as business, technology, travel, and hobbies.
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