Growing up in my family, Thanksgiving was a grand event, full of big Irish personalities. My family would shift furniture between the kitchen and living room to create a long, makeshift table to accommodate the lovingly opinionated and boisterous crowd. The kids’ table was attached to the end of the long “parents’ table,” so although we kids had our own space, we were within our parents’ view. And as I have learned through the antics of my own children, this was purposely done to hinder any impromptu food fights.
Some say a separate Thanksgiving kids’ table keeps children from learning proper table etiquette. Others believe a carved-out space for kids is what families need in order to maintain balance in an already chaotic—and sometimes stressful—environment.
(By the way, if you’re expecting a large crowd for Thanksgiving and unsure how much food to prepare, use this handy guide to help gauge your gobbly good feast.)
My Two Cents: Give Kids Space
I’m all for creating opportunities for kids to relate to one another. I believe making a special space for children to enjoy Thanksgiving at their own table enables them to express who they are and learn from peer interaction in a way that isn’t as easy when sitting between Mom and Dad or Grandpa Bill and Aunt Patty.
And I’ll be honest: Although most kids dream of graduating to the adults’ table, I recall one downside to that rite of passage included more listening to adults than actually participating in conversations. Maybe this was unique to my family and the times, but I remember sitting at the parents’ table, wishing I were back with the kids. It was just more fun over there.
How to Set Up a Stellar Kids’ Table
Make kids feel like VIPs at their very own table by setting up thanksgiving crafts and activities. Here are some ideas to incorporate into your own Thanksgiving kids’ table, to help create new family traditions and memories. (Psst! Grown-ups may want in on the action, too.)
1. Do Crafts
To create a whimsical experience and keep little hands busy, cover the kids’ table with rolls of drawing paper instead of traditional tablecloths. Use empty cans of Thanksgiving staples like cranberries and pumpkin to hold crayons and other art supplies. Encourage kids to create their own colorful placemats. This helps kids to remember where they are sitting and provides a great outlet for creativity.
For a kid-made centerpiece, let them decorate pre-cut Thanksgiving images like turkeys, corn and the Mayflower. This Thanksgiving-themed coloring book ($7) filled with 110 designs can help get you started. When the cutouts are done, use tape or hot glue to affix a toothpick to the back, then place them in a flower pot filled with floral foam. As new cutouts are done, kids can watch how their artwork is used to produce a unique Thanksgiving-themed centerpiece.
Here are our favorite fun Thanksgiving treats for kids of all ages.
2. Create a Kids’ Menu
Taste of Home
- Gobble Those Veggies : One way to get kids to eat their vegetables? Arrange a platter of fresh crunchers in the shape of a turkey and let them dunk to their hearts’ delight. Get the recipe for our Two-Bean Hummus that’s yummy enough for the whole crew.
- Chocolate Caramel Turkey Legs : To make 20 of these adorable Thanksgiving treats, microwave 40 caramels on high until softened, 10-15 seconds. Mold two softened caramels around half of each braided pretzel. Dip in melted chocolate. Place on waxed paper until they’re set. Voila!
- Mayflower Mix: Fill a chocolate-dipped waffle cone with trail mix to give little ones a fun snack to munch on before the big feast.
3. Have a Scavenger Hunt with a Thanksgiving Twist
Create a passport-type scavenger hunt card, with activities to do and clues about items throughout the event space. Identify key adults to serve as passport stampers once children solve clues or complete activities. Include items like:
- Sing “Over the River and Through the Woods” with a family member.
- Find a secret turkey hidden under one of kids’ table chairs.
- Finish decorating your Thanksgiving kids’ table placemat.
- Help a family member set the Thanksgiving table.
- Say thank you to your Thanksgiving host.
4. Decorate a Gratitude Pumpkin
Taste of Home
While at the kids’ table, pass around a painted pumpkin. Encourage children to write something they are grateful for (or ask adults for assistance). As the pumpkin is being passed around, ask each person to read theirs out loud. When it’s finished, use it as a centerpiece for display.
Whether or not you offer a Thanksgiving kids’ table, use these tips to create an atmosphere of gratitude that family and friends will treasure.