Hosting Thanksgiving often means welcoming entire families to your table, young children included. It can feel a bit daunting, especially if your hosting experience has been limited to adults-only dinner parties thus far, but it can also be quite fun. Like most things holiday- and hosting-related, your success mostly comes down to being prepared and having a positive attitude; if kids will be in the mix this year, consider these tips.
- Ahead of your guests’ arrival, do yourself a favor and stow away breakable items that will be within reach of little ones. This especially applies to items of high emotional or monetary value. Even well-behaved, mellow children with watchful parents can have accidents; instead of worrying over whether that might happen, nip the potential problem in the bud. Likewise, close doors to rooms you’d prefer to keep a kids-free zone.
- Designate a quiet room or cozy corner for naptime before naptime is necessary.
- Boredom begets misbehavior. Though you needn’t stock your house with toys and children’s books, consider picking up something to draw with (a box of crayons, markers, or coloring pencils) and something to draw on (coloring books, blank notebooks, or some unlined paper). These kid-friendly materials are budget-friendly, don’t take up a lot of space, and can provide hours of entertainment. An age-appropriate board game can be a great move too. If all else fails, offer to queue up A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving or another family-friendly movie.
- If the kids are old enough, and it won’t stress you out (be honest with yourself here), put them to work. Younger children can snap off the ends of green beans, roll out pie crust or tear pieces of bread for stuffing; older kids can measure ingredients, mash potatoes, use a whisk to make whipped cream or set the table. Children of all ages can help decorate name cards—if they can’t write yet, a grown-up can help with that part. Not only will involving them with meal prep serve as a source of entertainment, but they’ll also feel more invested in the meal, and help you out a bit along the way.
- Adult hanger is nothing compared to the hunger-induced crabbiness of children. While there’s no need to stress over preparing fancy appetizers, do yourself—and your guests—a big favor, and set out some kid-friendly finger foods. Store-bought items like cheese, crackers, dried fruit and nuts are great.
Last but not least, remember that with its classic American flavors, traditional Thanksgiving fare is inherently kid-friendly. Don’t stress over accommodating picky eaters; at most, consider adding some dinner rolls or cornbread to the menu, even if it’s store bought. Even those with a less-adventurous palate should be able to find something they like; it might mean their plate is loaded up with turkey, mashed potatoes, and nothing else, but that’s just fine. For that reason, don’t be offended if some of your young guests are reluctant to try new-to-them-foods—it isn’t a reflection on your skills.