If you are a parent or caregiver you know that meal times always have a potential for meltdowns. Here are ten tips to help you through Thanksgiving day and dinner to hopefully keep your little people happy!
1. Don’t miss nap time!
It might seem obvious now, but when we travel to another house, or get busy cooking in our own house sometimes we forget naps. Set an alarm on your phone so you don’t miss out on nap time. If you are visiting someone this year take a pack and play, baby carrier or even a favorite stuffed animal so your child will be more likely to sleep at a different house. Well rested kids are less fussy, and might be more amicable when it comes to dinner time.
2. Let them help.
We like to come up with at least one food the kids can make themselves. For my older kids it’s the family yeast rolls. They are learning a new tradition, but also helping to prepare the food. For my younger kids they could help with cookies, or rolling pigs in a blanket. There are all sorts of ideas on Pinterest for foods kids can make! A little pride in the dinner preparation can go a long way to helping them eat something new or different.
3. Have a fun table activity.
Sometimes dinner can take a while to finish up, or just the process of dishing the food can take some time. I always keep a set of dice on hand for my kids to play with while they wait for their plate, even in a restaurant. They can practice counting the dice, adding, multiplying and race each other. Another idea is to pick up a coloring tablecloth from Walmart. These keeps hands and brains busy while you put in the finishing touches.
4. Ask them to help plan the meal.
My kids don’t like ham or turkey, and honestly neither do I. I don’t make my kids eat the traditional proteins because I understand the dislike. Instead we talk about foods we do like and and make sure to bring those foods with us to Grandpa’s house. My oldest loves to bring deviled eggs, and sometimes he can be persuaded to make them. My younger kids would gladly live off chicken nuggets. I don’t mind stopping for some McDonald’s nuggets on the way if it means they will eat more than carbs and sugar for dinner and I won’t have to fight them to eat. I prefer stuffing made a certain way, so I sign up to bring it. We all have these food quirks and tend to sign up for things we like to make, your kids are the same as us adults!
5. B.Y.O.H. or bring your own highchair.
Don’t forget the things you would normally use when eating at home. Do you have a small child who needs a high chair? Maybe you can bring a small portable one instead of the giant one. Trust me, life is easier not holding the toddler at the dinner table. Same goes for dishes and cups. If your kids are used to using certain utensils, cups or plates take those with you! If you have created a routine at home continue that for Thanksgiving, keep things as familiar as possible.
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6. Keep up with your traditions.
Maybe you are staying home this year. Just because Thanksgiving is different you don’t need to let go of all your traditions. Find ways to alter your traditions to suit your needs this year. Normally we would all meet at my aunt’s house. This year, do to health concerns, we will be having a smaller dinner with my dad and facetiming with my aunt’s family. We will still get to talk and see the people we love, but in a different way. We might even make extra yeast rolls to drop off at their doorstep Thursday morning.
7. Make something familiar.
Have at least two familiar dishes on your table for the kids. On a table filled with things like artichoke, cranberry sauce and stuffing a simple bowl of mac & cheese could be a comfort to your kids and your picky eaters!
8. Don’t be afraid to try something different.
Maybe lasagna would suit your family’s palette more, or maybe even enchiladas; don’t be afraid to switch the menu up to your family’s favorites. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, there is no rule book that says you have to have a turkey and sides for dinner. Consider making your Thanksgiving more about only having foods you all love. You could create a new tradition where everyone gets to pick a favorite food to add to the table.
9. Have a back up plan.
Have a plan if the turkey doesn’t thaw in time, if the dog takes off with the ham, or if a child spills the mashed potatoes. Go into the day knowing that disaster is possible, but it will all be ok if the meal goes to the dogs. You own emotional state is often reflected in your kids. If they feel chaos coming from you they are likely to project more chaos.
10. Praise your kids!
Give them positive reinforcement as the day goes on! “Thank you for being a big boy and letting me finish baking.” “I am so proud of you for trying that new food!” “It made my heart happy to see you be kind even when you didn’t like the brussel sprouts.” Thanksgiving is not a normal meal by any means, and breaks from routine can cause some turmoil for little bodies, don’t forget to tell them how good they are doing!
So here is my controversial question, do you call it stuffing or do you call it dressing?