Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Making Thanksgiving fun for kids/ the kids table

Hello, and welcome to this short Thanksgiving series.  I've been sharing all of the things that make hosting Thanksgiving an enjoyable and somewhat effortless event in our world.  I've been hosting Thanksgiving for years now, and I've done it with no kids, babies, tiny tots, little kiddos, as well as our current stage, teenagers.  I've always tried to make an effort to create little events or special moments for the kids, as they can get easily overlooked in large gatherings. 

My top tips for creating a welcoming space for kids during Thanksgiving are: 

Embrace the chaos.  It gets loud with littles running around your feet, needing things, laughing, being tossed in the air by uncles and such. There in the chaos, is where the memories are often made. It'll be nice and quiet later, when everyone is gone or in bed, so simply welcoming it in, for that short time is helpful.

Plan a special place for kids, if there is a separate table for them.  Printable placemats, (I am using these ones here) a new box of crayons, a special sparkling drink or a treat often help dinner stay relatively uninterrupted. 

Now that my own kids are older, I find myself thinking back about what was helpful to me when they were little. Seating the parents near to their children seems rather obvious but it's a great tip if you'll be planning seating arrangements.  Making sure they have seating at the end of the table to hop up and down as needed is always appreciated.

Using paper plates and disposable items at the kid's table is a great idea, so nothing special gets broken, and also, so parents can relax and not worry about Grandma's china in the hands of a fork smacking toddler. I do like the kid's table to reflect similarities to the adults table so they feel special, and included.

Storing a pre-set-up kids table in another, out of the way room while everyone is gathering and visiting before the meal is great, as it helps with traffic flow. Once dinner is nearly ready, it's easy enough to transfer the table to where it needs to be.  (In years past, I've set up the card table in the center of the room, and people were having to walk around it for two hours before the meal.  I'm smarter now. Ha!)

Planning a few activities for the kids after the meal is often really important, as the adults usually still want to relax and enjoy more social time together.  In years past, we have encouraged everyone with kids to pick up a gingerbread house kit, and after the table has been cleared, the kids are gathered and get to put candies on their houses (or just sit and eat them.) It's a fun way to make some memories with nephews, nieces, and your own kids.  In fact, this year Ava and I are both going to decorate one, as are my sister in laws and their kids.  Everyone seems to want in on this, and it helps to have that incentive for kids who are getting bored or squirrely pre-meal.

Another really fun thing we have often done after the meal, is assemble homeless gift bags.  Everyone is encouraged to bring a minimum of ten, of various items (small toothpastes, water bottles, granola bars, band-aids, socks, batteries, etc.) and then we set each pile of items all around the cleared table, everyone gets a ziplock bag, and we walk in a circle around the table, filling our bags with items.  Once done, each family is able to bring several bags in their car during the holidays, and when we see a homeless person beside the road, we have something useful and thoughtful to offer them.  Kids always get into this activity and even love handing them out.  It's a really tangible way to explain being thankful and sharing our blessings with others.

Those are my favorite tips for hosting a Thanksgiving meal with children.  One thing I'm still working out this year, is the teenager dynamic.  Our event grew unexpectedly and I've run out of space- table top, chairs and such.  I really want my teens at the adult's table, as it feels important that they are included, but they may have their own special place at the kitchen island this year to make it work. I'm learning quite a lot about hosting when it doesn't go as planned or anticipated in my head.  Just when I thought I had that locked down, I got some lessons on being gracious.  I suppose one can never be done learning what true hospitality looks like.  It's far different than being "the perfect hostess," (something nobody has time and space for.) and far more like being generous and kind, welcoming and accommodating.  I'd love to hear any ideas you have on this or hosting kiddos, so be sure to leave a comment. 

Happy Hosting, XOXO, 


  1. I'm loving your series! Every year, our Thanksgiving is different. I host, we cook 2 25lb. turkeys, and we have an open door policy for Thanksgiving - I cook, and anyone who wants to come is welcome. I never know just who will show up (even people we don't know well have heard and surprised us by coming), what they'll bring, etc. This has hands-down been absolutely the best for teaching me what it means to practice true hospitality. My home is open to all and I want to live that. My home is a haven, warm and nourishing, and I want it to be known. This is my favorite, favorite tradition and it continues to grow every year. xo

  2. Love these plans. This year instead of hosting, we will be heading to my bachelor brothers house. Among a few other things for the kids to do, I am bringing two- 300 piece holiday themed puzzles. After dinner we are going to have a little family friendly competition building the puzzles as teams. Hopefully it will be a good way to occupy and entertain kids of all ages!