15 Ways Kids Can Help With the Thanksgiving Meal
Most days, I’m not looking to spend hours in the kitchen (thank you, Dinner Kits!). But Thanksgiving is one day of the year when I like to slow down, pour a glass of wine, and break out my favorite cookbooks and family recipes. The catch? I have a precocious toddler who loves to “cook,” too. I’ve spoken to other parents and the consensus is to embrace it—and sure enough, having some extra (tiny) helping hands for major meals has proven to be a memorable experience for both of us. Here are some tips for bringing your kids into the kitchen this Thanksgiving. Let’s get messy!
This is where I’m at. At this age, kids are observing and learning the world around them, and love to ask questions. Embrace it and talk them through things—it’s a great way to hold their attention (screen-free, amazingly). My daughter loves to be given a small, focused task. Vegetables offer the perfect tactile experience. And who cares if they steal a few bites?
Give them some green beans to snap. Two kids? Make it a race to see who can fill up their bowl faster.
Salad offers a wealth of fun jobs: de-stemming kale, ripping up lettuce, or letting them go wild with the salad spinner.
Mashing not-too-hot-potatoes is safe and fun.
If they’re learning their numbers, there’s plenty of opportunity to practice in the kitchen:
Count out the apples for the pie, the number of bread cubes for the stuffing, or the number of teaspoons or cups. Your recipes will never be more precise!
Let them tell you when the liquid in the measuring cup hits the right number.
Baked goods and desserts offer their own delights, and let your kids show off their personalities, too.
If you’re not afraid of a little mess, sifting flours and cracking eggs are on the table...literally, in some cases.
Rolling pie dough is another simple, repetitive task. With pre-made dough it’s even easier.
I always make extra dough and let my daughter make her own mini pie or cookie. She can fill it and decorate it to her liking, and no creation is ever the same! My mother did the same with me, and it’s so meaningful to keep the tradition going.
Kindergarten to Early Grade School
I reached out to the Good Eggs community to see what our customers had to say for this age range. It seems to be all about discrete jobs where they can take something from beginning to end. You may need to lend a hand with the stove or oven, but it’s a great learning opportunity. As your kids grow they’ll take pride in owning their special dish.
Cranberry sauce is a perfect candidate — one mom says her 7-year-old loves watching the cranberries “pop.” If your children are not quite saucepan ready, let them choose the different flavorings that go into your family’s special mix. Or let them open and coax out the wiggly canned version!
Casseroles and layered dishes are another winning option: broccoli and cheese, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with topping, etc. With a little prep on your end, they can be in charge of combining or layering all the ingredients.
Decorating cakes and cookies is the perfect chance to unleash kids’ creativity and concentration. A friend says she never sees her 8-year-old more focused than when he is when given a blank canvas and an icing tube.
As you’re putting the finishing touches on the meal, task them with the table setting and centerpiece. One friend of mine sends her kids into the yard to pick flowers and look for pine cones, and then has them assemble a “cornucopia.”
Middle School and Above
At this point, your kids are eligible for MasterChef, Jr.! In addition to all of the helpful ways younger kids can pitch in, kids at this age can join in on the planning.
Do a family viewing of a baking or cooking show and let it inspire a conversation about a new dish to add to the table.
Let them read a cookbook with you and get inspired. You can even put them in charge of ordering groceries on the Good Eggs app as you build a menu together.
Let them pick out a simple Good Eggs celebration kit or side dish and put them in charge of bringing it together on the day. Matching aprons optional as you’re working side-by-side in the kitchen (but highly encouraged).
If your middle schooler isn’t interested in cooking, an old family recipe that’s important to you presents the perfect opportunity to bring them into the kitchen. Sit them down with a cup of cocoa and share your memories of the dish and Thanksgivings from your childhood as you pull the recipe together.
Finally, there’s one task kids of every age are eager to help with: unboxing your Good Eggs delivery! You can preorder Thanksgiving favorites right now, to make sure you have everything you need for the day.
Cooking and hosting a big holiday meal is no small task, but hopefully now you’re inspired to put eager helpers to work. There may be some extra clean-up, and some things may take a little more time. But the memories will last way longer than the leftovers.