At Thanksgiving, we take stock of the past year to recount moments of joy, perseverance and a spirit of “thank goodness, we made it!” And we eat.
But how should we celebrate? Split up by age, or all generations together?
Growing up in my family, Thanksgiving was a grand event, full of big Irish personalities in my grandparents’ small craftsman home. They 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 place mats. 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. When the cutouts are done, use tape or hot glue to affix a toothpick to the back, then place them in a flowerpot filled with floral foam. As new cutouts are done, kids can watch how their artwork is used to produce a unique Thanksgiving-themed centerpiece.
Curious about the origins of classic Thanksgiving food. We’ve got the answers, here.
2. 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 place mat.
- Help a family member set the Thanksgiving table.
- Say thank you to your Thanksgiving host.
3. Grow a Family Gratitude Tree
While at the kids’ table, pass out paper leaves. Encourage children to write something they are grateful for and put their leaf into a container where adults each pick one to read aloud to the group.
After the gratitude leaf has been read, place it on a family gratitude tree. The tree could be as large or as small as you want. Make it 3-D or flat, so you can frame it for your Thanksgiving host to keep as a reminder of the day and of family.
Whether or not you offer a Thanksgiving kids’ table, use these tips to create an atmosphere of gratitude that family and friends will treasure.