5 Easy Ways to Host Thanksgiving Dinner With Littles
As you gather around the table this year, there may be a few extra seats (and high chairs!). Welcoming family and friends to break bread and give thanks together is a special way to introduce littles to Thanksgiving. You may be looking for tips to host your first Thanksgiving dinner with kids in the mix. Read on for our top 5 Thanksgiving ideas to help you prepare a delicious meal, put on a nice spread and entertain guests of every age.
- Prepare ahead of time. Be smart about your limits that day. If you have an infant who needs to be close to you, try babywearing. Clean the house, get the linens ready and put out a tablecloth, decor, and set the table before you even begin cooking. Meal prep the day before so everything is ready to go on Thanksgiving Day. Think about where you want guests to sit and how many people are coming (if it’s more than 8 and you don’t have a big dining room, you might opt for buffet style and order lap trays for little ones). Order the turkey a couple weeks ahead of time and freeze it (you’ll need 2-3 days to defrost the bird depending on weight).
- Ask for help. If a couple family members can bring some dishes, your role as Thanksgiving chef and host will feel a lot more do-able. You’ll have time to focus on the bird, give your littles some special attention and cook up a few traditional dishes. Set up play mats and blankets near the kitchen area so you can keep an eye on littles while you prep. Thanksgiving dinner with kids becomes a bit simpler if you can ask a family member to be the designated babysitter for the day. Part of gathering together for this holiday is making fall family memories and spending time with people you don’t see as often like extended family or friends who live far away. Start early and serve dinner in the afternoon so little ones are part of the whole experience (and still get to bed on time!).
- Make a kids’ table. Whether it’s just one end of the table or its own smaller toddler table, gather the littles together in one spot so they can play, chat and eat together. It will give them a feeling of independence (just make sure they are sandwiched in by the dinner guest who can tend to their needs best). Make it fun with a Thanksgiving Day surprise or have the littles display a craft they made as part of the centerpiece (a painted pumpkin or a construction paper turkey work great) and give them coloring pages and crayons. If you’re just starting to introduce solids to baby, you’ll want to place their high chair right next to you and have plenty of burp cloths on hand to keep the mess at bay.
- Keep it simple but special. If it’s your first year hosting Thanksgiving dinner with kids, embrace the change that little ones bring. You don’t have to do it all to make it memorable. Make the meal plan as simple as possible, swap our complicated recipes for traditional basics and focus on one or two family heirloom recipes (like your grandmother’s apple pie or your aunt’s squash). Choose a few books and toys to keep in pom pom minis in the kitchen so little ones have easy access to fun and games in the kitchen while you prep. Stock up On The Go pouches with your little’s necessities for the day - soothers, teethers, small toys and snacks.
Involve your little ones as much as you can. Toddlers and preschoolers are naturally inclined to be helpful - so put them to work! The more you involve them in planning the menu, cleaning the house, shopping for ingredients and prepping recipes, the more engaged and excited they will be for the meal itself! It can feel like tasks take longer when littles are involved - savor the time spent together and remember it’s a learning experience that will have benefits for years to come. It will make Thanksgiving dinner more meaningful and memorable for littles!
Thanksgiving is a big holiday where you can continue family traditions and create new memories for your family to cherish. Take time to be present, dress up little ones in adorable organic cotton clothing in perfect fall looks, and set a timer for a family photo to mark the occasion. It’ll be a busy day - one you will want to remember. We hope these ideas for hosting Thanksgiving dinner with kids have you feeling prepared and excited about spending the day together with loved ones!
Frequently Asked Questions
Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the busy holiday season. It’s the perfect holiday to teach children about giving back and the importance of gratitude. They learn social-emotional concepts like empathy. It’s an opportunity to remind kids to value what they have and slow down and appreciate family and friends.
Give them space to have their own fun with a few special games like a scavenger hunt, trivia and thankful jars where everyone writes down a message of gratitude. Pick up some books about Thanksgiving and introduce them to the meaning behind this harvest holiday.
Make sure to serve some kid-friendly favorites like stuffing, Turkey, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. Most kids like a cooked ham and if they aren’t keen on the other main dishes, try something like a traditional baked macaroni and cheese or a casserole.