Stop. Right now. And imagine how you’re going to feel after all the Thanksgiving Day festivities are over. The guests are gone. The kitchen is cleaned. The trash is outside. And leftovers are neatly waiting in the refrigerator.
Are you exhausted, worn out and simply can’t wait for your head to hit the pillow because you once again took on too much work? Or are you tired – but totally content – because this year’s Thanksgiving really captured the spirit of family and friends with a focus on making memories?
Well, the only way to make sure that the second scenario comes true is to treat this year’s Thanksgiving like a team project which means you need to get everyone involved, assign tasks and responsibilities, and embrace the uniqueness of everyone’s contributions – like a quilt coming together piece-by-piece.
I know. It’s tempting – especially when little ones are involved – to take on everything yourself. But when you learn to involve everyone in the Thanksgiving celebration you not only set the stage for a fabulous event, you also give your children a front-row learning experience!
– Put your planning chart – with guests, timelines, menus and more – on the refrigerator! It’s a great way to get conversations and interest going! Plus it will show your kids how to plan big projects!
– Get your kids involved in the menu planning. Ask them what kind of foods they like! Test out some recipes ahead of time (maybe pulling Aunt Ruthie’s special bean casserole out!) Kids love stories – so find ways to share family stories about food. Every Thanksgiving, I make a special coffee cake my mother used to make. The recipe has nothing to do with Thanksgiving – but it has everything to do with family. And it brings a little bit of my mom to the table year after year.
– If you’re trying new recipes this year, plan a Friendsgiving the week before with friends, neighbors and/or colleagues. You’ll be able to test out the recipes before the big day to ensure success.
– And if you have guests coming, you MUST have them bring a dish or two! They will welcome the opportunity to contribute!
– I know that shopping with kids has its challenges, but don’t overlook the teaching opportunity – especially if you’ve involved your kids in some of the menu selection. Kids learn so much with this process: plan – write down – shop – pay. It’s a critical part of the learning process.
– This is one of the best ways to get kids involved with Thanksgiving because there are so many things kids can do on their own – or with a little help from you. And with a little planning, you can start all of the fun decorations a week (or even two!) before Turkey Day! It’s a great way to get them excited – and start to chip away at the to-do list.
– Food is clearly a big part of the Thanksgiving Day tradition. While it would be great if you could involve your little ones with the preparation of each, I know that’s tough. One of the things I like to do is come up with something special that each child can have responsibility for – but do it the day or two before Thanksgiving. That way, they are involved – but it’s done at a time that is a little less hectic. The Butterball website has a ton of great recipes, by the way. I’ve got my eye on the Heartland Vegetable Medley this year!
– One of my favorite things to do with kids is have them be in charge of “lunch” on Thanksgiving. That crazy time of day when everyone is hungry and you’re scrambling to keep things organized. Grilled cheese sandwiches cut out in shapes with holiday cookie cutters are always a big win in my house.
– Kids love activities. Work with them to come up with a slew of fun things for everyone – of all ages – to do during the gathering. Pull out those playing cards so Uncle Tommy can teach everyone how to play Gin Rummy! Board games and puzzles are also fun.
– With little kids, have a pre-set strategy for decompression so when they need to escape for just a few minutes to calm down you have a plan in place. Maybe it’s a 10 minute break in mom and dad’s bedroom to do a little craft. Remember, kids need to have their engines revved down sometimes.
– Dinnertime conversation should include everyone. So pre-plan some conversation starters! One of our family favorites is to cut the letters spelling “T-H-A-N-K-S-G-I-V-I-N-G” out of construction paper and tape them on the wall. Then we use those to start a round-the-table discussion of what people are grateful for. You can say anything as long as it begins with one of the letters on the wall!
– Make sure someone’s in charge of photos and videos. This is a great one for older kids! And if you have some older, wiser family members on your guest list, think ahead about some of the family memories you’d love them to talk about on video!
– Don’t forget (or be afraid) to pre-assign clean up duties! People want to help. And it’s really a good lesson for your kids to be part of the clean-up. Even in little ways.
Go make this Thanksgiving the best ever! Get everyone involved and make sure that YOU have a good time.
And don’t forget to ask each child – when you’re saying “good night” – “What will you remember about this Thanksgiving?”