Halloween is such a child friendly holiday. You get to act out fantasies, even being a bad guy, complete with costume. You get to walk around at night. You ask for candy and they give it to you. Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is a miserable child holiday. The adults are usually stressed beyond belief. There are no presents. Everyone watches boring TV, eats too much, and wants to nap. If you do get someone off the couch, they want to shop, for dumb stuff.
When my children were little, we would get them involved in activities that kept them occupied and out from underfoot, required minimal set-up, yet helped them feel a part of the preparations.
1. Kitchen prep: Even the littlest ones can put rolls in the bread basket and carry it to the table.
For a fun activity with lots of “wow” factor, soften butter and allow them to spread it into butter molds. Chill/freeze the molds for a bit and an adult can pop the pretty pats onto bread plates. Kids are delighted by these special items!
And be sure to provide lots of pretend play food sets. Kids love to imitate what they see!
2. Table decor: My children loved creating place cards for the table. You can purchase plain tents just begging to be embellished with stickers, stamps, crayons, colored pencils or markers. Just leave them with a clearly printed or typed list of names to cut down on “what does this say?”
Napkin rings require a bit more set up. Paint a few paper towel rolls brown, let dry and cut into 2” rings. Now kiddos can quickly glue on feathers and a turkey face. Or, provide a wooden bead set and some pipe cleaners. You’ll have a unique set of rings in no time!
3. Grateful notes: Put a little one in charge of having family members write down what they are grateful for on a notecard and place in a jar. The youngest reader can read each one at the table and others can guess who the author is.
4. Egg hunt: Yes, you read that right. My youngest loved Easter egg hunts and saw no reason that it couldn’t occur for other holidays. (And actually, given that turkeys play such a big Thanksgiving role, it actually make much more sense to kids…). We purchased wooden eggs that the kids decorated and hid, but you can simply recycle plastic eggs (if you can scrounge up the ones in fall colors—yellow, green, orange—all the better). Appropriate treasure might include candy corn, coins or printed riddles/jokes.
5. Secret Santa: If your family does “Secret Santa” for Christmas this can be a perfect job. Have the child write each name on a slip of paper (you may need to provide the list) or have an adult create the slips, and have a youngster pass around the hat.