20 Ideas for Involving Kids in Thanksgiving Preparations

Girl stirring with dough on face
To journey without being changed

is to be a nomad.
To change without journeying
is to be a chameleon.
To journey and to be transformed
by the journey
is to be a pilgrim.

– Mark Nepo

With a little forethought and supply gathering, you can set your kids on a mission to contribute to your Thanksgiving. Not only will they be entertained but also they will meaningfully enrich your celebration. Here are my top twenty ideas.

Food Preparations
Young children:

  • add ingredients to a bowl and stir
  • wash vegetables, throwing them into a pot of water
  • keep the kitchen timer and telling you when the time is up
  • add the marshmallow topping to the sweet potatoes (though there may be a few missing!)

Older children:

  • slice vegetables and arrange on a platter – or boil or steam
  • use the mixer with mashed potatoes
  • get items out of the refrigerator to place for you on the counter
  • move final dishes out to the table for serving

Table Setting
Young children:

  • put placemats and napkins at each place setting
  • put silverware on the napkins with some modeling first (adult do the knives)
  • take condiments or salt and pepper to the table

Older children:

  • place glasses at each place setting with some modeling first
  • fill glasses with ice and/or get drinks for individuals
  • place or move chairs


  • send to the yard or go on a neighborhood walk with Grandpa to collect kindling for the fire or collect fall leaves for decorating the table
  • put out construction paper and markers or crayons and make decorations to add to a centerpiece on the table. Have pictures of the first Thanksgiving available for inspiration

Add to the True Meaning of Thanksgiving

  • lay out paper and markers or crayons for making fall leaves of all colors. Make enough that each person can write some quality they appreciate about another person Happy Thanksgiving illus by Jennifer Millerat the celebration.
  • brainstorm and write out the things they are grateful for and display them on the table or in the house.
  • outline a foot on colored paper and cut it out and write a fact that is known or a question about your ancestors or family history. See if you can pave the way from the table to your front door. Allow it to spur discussions with relatives about your lineage.
  • research and learn more about the first Thanksgiving, http://www.scholastic.com/scholastic_thanksgiving/. Take it one step further and try and talk from the perspective of one of the first Thanksgiving participants.

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