Whether your children love to help in the kitchen, decorate, or make guests feel at home (even if it’s virtually), including them helps them feel more involved and excited about the holidays. Involving kids gives them a certain ownership of the special occasion and can create traditions that last for generations. Here are some fun ways kids can help make Thanksgiving and other celebrations even more joyous.

Help with Thanksgiving Cooking

If your kids like to help in the kitchen, give them age-appropriate tasks that actually help you, rather than merely assigning tedious busywork. Younger children in the six-or-under category can help by washing vegetables and mashing potatoes or tearing lettuce or greens into smaller pieces. For kids six and above, choose a kid-friendly recipe and make it together. Of course, pre-teens and teens may enjoy being in charge of a side dish or dessert of their own, and they’ll be so proud to see you enjoying a recipe they made themselves. 

If your kids want more ways to help in the kitchen, grab a timer and have them remind you each time the turkey needs basting. Teens can also assist by supervising younger kids as they help in the kitchen.

Here are four Thanksgiving dishes kids can make:

  1. Who doesn’t love pumpkin pie? This is one recipe children of all ages will enjoy helping you make and eat. A preteen/teen might even want to make this one on his or her own.
  2. These pumpkin turkey muffins don’t require baking (the muffins are store bought) but allow your children to get involved in food preparation in a fun way. If you prefer homemade pumpkin muffins, here’s a tasty gluten-free recipe to try. The best part is they can double as decorations too.
  3. An older child or teen can easily tackle this green bean casserole on his or her own.
  4. Buttery biscuits can help to round out a special meal, and kids of all ages can help prepare them. Here’s an easy biscuit recipe kids can make

Decorate for Thanksgiving

If you want to celebrate a greener Thanksgiving, avoid disposable decorations or those that will eventually end up in a landfill. Thanksgiving and other fall gatherings are a great time for crafting decorations by combining items we can find in the natural world, such as colorful fallen leaves, rustic twigs, and acorns, with everyday items like paper, thread, and glue. Enlist your children’s help in creating a gorgeous centerpiece, crafting autumn placemats, creating amazing place cards, and deciding the color scheme for your table. You might also ask them to decorate doorways in your home with fall leaf garlands so that your guests feel the spirit of the occasion as they cross each threshold. Think about creations that can be reused again or even composted. 

Here are 4 Thanksgiving decorations your kids can make:

  1. These gourd turkeys are a cute way to add a little fun to your feast table. Opt to bring fall foliage inside with this DIY fall centerpiece your kids can make (with a little help from you). 
  2. These fun Turkey leaf placemats not only make use of fallen leaves but also provide an excuse to get a little exercise before the big meal. 
  3. For marking seating arrangements, these pinecone place cards are memorable, fun, and quick to make. As an alternative, these acorn place cards are simple but just as festive.
  4. For your doorways, this paper leaf garland is a feast for the eyes, and you can easily use real leaves if you prefer them to paper creations. 

Welcoming Guests to Your Home or Virtually

A warm welcome really sets the tone for a wonderful holiday or special occasion. One of the easiest ways kids can help with Thanksgiving is by greeting guests. Both older and younger kids can become hosts in your home or virtually.

Older children can answer the door or start Zoom and welcome guests. Share your expectations with them in advance, explaining how a good host should greet guests. Younger kids can help greet guests too and you can try roleplaying with your kids, so they feel confident about issuing a hearty welcome.

Handling the Leftovers

For many, the leftovers are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving, especially for the cook who may now enjoy a few days away from the stove. It’s a bit of extra work to pack leftovers away properly, but extra hands make the job faster and easier. If your children remain eager to help after the big feast, allow them to help you with packing the leftovers for later enjoyment. 

Here are 3 ways kids can help:

  1. Assign each child a dish or two to pack in the containers you provide.
  2. Provide labels and markers and ask your children to label each container with the name of the food and the date it was placed in the refrigerator or freezer. Take the opportunity to talk about how you might use the leftovers, such as in tasty sandwiches, casseroles, and soups. 
  3. Pack a couple of containers of food to drop off to neighbors or family members who were unable to join in the fun.

Be sure to thank your kids for their efforts to help make the occasion extra-special. Let them know how much their willingness to pitch in means to you. As a reward, surprise them with a special thank you treat, such as a movie night or a special treat.