Nothing is more grating on parents’ nerves than crushing it in the kitchen, making Pinterest-worthy meals only to have our kids — our own flesh and blood — act like we’ve plated poison masked as lasagna. Scratch that. There is one thing more irritating, and that’s our kids pulling the same “I don’t like that,” or “That looks gross,” performance on Thanksgiving when we have literally done nothing (to include sleeping and sitting down) but cook for 72 hours. We’re exhausted by dinner on Thanksgiving, and we’d love to get a bite of the turkey and 45 sides we’ve drooled over for 12 months before they’re all room temp. This is not an article of about getting food down your kid’s hatch. This is an article about how to put together a Thanksgiving kid’s table that’s going to keep them occupied long enough for you to tear into that sweet potato souffle without interruption.
Now, let’s set some traps – err, Thanksgiving kid’s tables.
Crayons and Paper
You know you breathe a little easier when the hostess of a restaurant grabs the crayons and coloring page before she seats you. If Chili’s can do it, you can do it. Better yet, stand back, Chili’s; make room for Macaroni Grill. We’re covering the whole kid’s table with craft paper. Get yourself a roll from a craft store or in the postage supply section of Target, Walmart — whatever is within reach. You can also order it from Amazon if you’re planning to make this a recurring thing.
Roll it out, secure it under the table with some heavy-duty tape (or push pins if you know you’re ditching your table at the next PCS anyway). Set some crayons out on the table as elaborately as you’d like, and let those kids go nuts. We all know kids only eat rolls and dessert on Thanksgiving anyway.
Plate with Flair
“My foods are touching!” You don’t need that noise while you’re diving into your turkey and dressing. You bring out the fancy stuff for the holidays — when else are you going to use that wedding China, right? Take presentation to the next level over at the Thanksgiving kid’s table too.
Try linear plating. Use small bowls or cupcake liners (hello, easy cleanup), and line them up. Just put little tastes of everything in front of the kids — there’s no point burning through half the green bean casserole if they’re just going to protest it because it’s green.
If you’re short on dishes (because that’s a legit problem when you’re hosting Thanksgiving), make the kid’s table family style with a twist. Just put bite-sized versions in the middle of the table on a tiered server. No forks, no plates, no tricks kids — get in there and get you some chow.
Do not put an actual puzzle at the kid’s table because you know those pieces are going for a swim in the gravy. Instead, plug in a little planning and create a one-of-a-kind tablecloth that will keep kids busy until the pumpkin pie comes out.
You can create a turkey-day-themed word search or — better yet — keep the kids occupied while you’re slaving away in the kitchen. Set them up with a white sheet and some fabric markers — preferably outside because — well, you know your kids. Let them all draw all kinds of pictures or sneak festive words into their own word search. Then, they can all spend time looking for them all during dinner. Whether you use an actual tablecloth, a sheet, a shower curtain liner, or more of your new go-to, craft paper, you can make this work.
Drown Out the Noise
Who doesn’t love a restaurant loud enough to drown out the sound of their kid’s complete disregard for indoor voices? Make a Thanksgiving playlist for dinner. The only catch is that the songs have to be recognizable to the crew at the kid’s table. So, this means you either learn to love Kidz Bop and Disney soundtracks or you test just how far you can push the kid’s table toward the garage.
If you’re really going all out, set the kids up in front of the TV, picnic style. Let them sit on a picnic blanket or on pillows around your coffee table. Push play on A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and enjoy your 30 magical minutes of feasting.
Speaking of old Chuck, remember how those kids had a menu of toast, popcorn, and jelly beans? Maybe you don’t make it a habit of making two dinners on any other day of the year, but who are you really punishing here by sticking to your guns? With Charlie Brown in the background, it’s not bad parenting, it’s a themed dinner party! If the kids joining you for dinner don’t love popcorn, just make little bite-sized versions of whatever else they like. They’ll be thankful. You’ll be thankful. Everybody wins!
Let’s wrap up with a little perspective. You need to have a Thanksgiving kid’s table if you’re breaking bread with more than just your family. The kid’s table is a Thanksgiving tradition, and as long as you have lids on the drinks (and the drinks are clear because — again — you know your kids), there’s nothing green in sight, and there’s enough distraction, you can use it to your advantage. After all, a warm, uninterrupted dinner is definitely something to be thankful for.
Photo Credits: Kristi Stolzenberg