What parent of toddlers and preschoolers doesn’t dread Thanksgiving dinner, envisioning the dietary battle ahead?
As a veteran parent with 24 Thanksgivings-with-kids on my résumé, I’ve got some tips to share with first-timers (or first-time hosts to people with little ones). I hope these help everyone to enjoy their Thanksgiving dinner a little more.
- Don’t expect perfection. Getting through the day without major meltdowns is enough to ask on a holiday, especially if the kids are traveling too.
- Provide familiar food. While I’ve always drawn the line at chicken nuggets on Thanksgiving, I make sure that there are some foods that each child likes.
- Provide kid-friendly appetizers. Pretzels, baby carrots, cubes of mild-flavored cheese are healthy appetizers that most kids love. (And if you see a child filling up on veggies before the meal, don’t worry about their appetite later.) My sister always serves pigs in a blanket, which her kids call “dogs on the run,” bringing a tray out to the yard where there’s a cousin-vs-cousin football game going on.
- Let kids be kids. If they’re not up for trying the truffle stuffing, let them stick with a buttered roll, slice of turkey and a few broccoli florets.
- Let kids be helpers. Even a two-year-old can place a napkin on top of each plate at the table. Preschoolers can fill the bread basket, toss the salad and scrub potatoes.
- Let kids be comfortable. Dress clothes can look nice without being stiff, scratchy or fussy. Find a festive outfit your child likes to wear–and one he or she can play outside in. Or bring play clothes along for after the photo op with Grandma.