7 Ways To Keep Toddlers Busy On Thanksgiving
Fun and easy ways to keep toddlers occupied until Thanksgiving dinner is ready.
Enlist Older Cousins & Siblings As Babysitters
Have a tween niece or nephew eager to get started in the babysitting business? Consider hiring them for a trial run on Thanksgiving. Treat it the same as you would a real babysitting gig: set ground rules, suggest some activities, and pay a fair rate. It’s really a win-win. The babysitter-in-training can earn experience while still knowing that you’re in the kitchen if the going gets rough. You will know your toddler is occupied and being watched, but you can still duck your head around the corner to check in. Built-in babysitters on the guest list. Now that’s something to be thankful for!
Give Your Toddler A Chance To Cook
In the middle of all the bringing and basting, try to find a few simple Thanksgiving foods that your child can have a role in preparing. Stirring together ingredients for pumpkin pie filling, mashing potatoes with a handheld potato masher (once they’ve cooled), or rolling the dough for the apple pie are all simple-but-important tasks that little hands can have fun doing. If you’re just too busy stuffing turkeys and roasting squash, this kind of project is perfect for grandmas or great aunts to supervise!
Photo Credit: LibbyLanePress
Give your toddler a box of crayons and a stack of paper placemats and put her to work creating colorful—and likely unforgettable—placemats for each guest. Let your toddler freestyle it on plain whiter paper mats or get a pre-printed coloring page-style mat like these printables from LibbbyLanePress on Etsy.
Photo Credit: PaperCraftParty
Decorate The Children's Table
I am in love with all of these fun party printables I’m finding on Etsy! This 50-page PDF pack of children’s table Thanksgiving decorations from PaperCraftParty is no exception. There’s plenty here—from a cute banner to coloring pages to pilgrim dress up cut outs—to keep the littles busy for hours. Enough time for that turkey to roast! Plus, for all us procrastinating parents, the PDF is immediately available to download and print out after purchasing. Yup, even on Thanksgiving Day.
Photo Credit: istock
Make Time For Outside Play
The best way I’ve come up with to keep the kids busy and happy while I’m taking part in bizarre rituals like burning marshmallows piled on top of sweet potatoes with a blow torch, is to get them outside to play as much as possible. If your spouse is otherwise engaged in the fine art of making green bean casserole, enlist the help of an aunt, uncle, or spry grandparent for outdoor supervision. You can still incorporate Thanksgiving prep by making a scavenger hunt list of nature items to use as table decorations, including colorful leaves, acorns, and pine cones.
Make Place Cards
The place cards that my kids make at Thanksgiving are such a hit with family that I just got off the phone with my great aunt who was calling to see if she could pick up some paper and crayons for this year’s creations. I am awash in kid art all the time, but in my extended family, where young children are a much rarer species, these little cards with my kids’ interpretation of how their names are spelled and a few of their signature scribbles are now as looked forward to as my Aunt Gloria’s pecan pie. Big bonus: with 15 guests this year for Thanksgiving, I am thinking this project is good for at least one hour of busy fun.
Make A Thankful Book
This “keep ‘em busy” activity actually doubles as a meaningful Thanksgiving keepsake. All you need to do is create a simple book by stapling or binding together enough pages to match the number of guests attending dinner. Your toddler can bring the book to guests and ask that they write down their name and what they are thankful for. This will probably take just enough time for you to get everything on the table. During dinner, an older child can read the book aloud.
Happy Thanksgiving! Or as my oldest daughter liked to say when she was a toddler, “Happy Gimme-Gimme!”
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