Getting Ready for the Feast
Thanksgiving fun for you and your children
While the Turkey Bakes
When you’re a child, waiting for Thanksgiving dinner can seem like an eternity. The aromas of roasting turkey and pumpkin pie combined with the buzz of grown-ups gathered to cook and chat around the stove tempt restless children into the kitchen. Rather than sending the kids off to play, let them contribute to the festivities! Your children can start off November making table and house decorations, and as the holiday approaches, they’ll love these great games and activities.
During the Thanksgiving holiday season, take the time to reinforce your child’s sense of belonging and importance to your family. There are many ways to show your kids how much you love and appreciate them; here are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Involve your children in the planning and preparation of the Thanksgiving meal. This is a fun opportunity for your family to interact and a good way to show your child how your family needs to work as a team—and how each team player is essential.
- During the meal, ask family members to state what they are most thankful for. Parents can offer thoughts on why they are thankful to have each of their children in their lives.
- Share your happy childhood memories from your own Thanksgivings. For many parents, the holiday season is a deeply nostalgic time. Let your kids know how wonderful it is to be reliving the holidays again now with them in your life.
- Don’t forget your children in the rush and frenzy of the holiday! Taking a couple minutes to stop and hug your child—whether she’s a toddler or a teen—will help her feel part of this busy season.
Today and Yesterday
Check out books at the library on the first Thanksgiving. Show your children pictures of Thanksgiving feasts—contemporary celebrations (look through magazines for a picture of a typical modern-day Thanksgiving feast) as well as those from long ago (your library books may have several different artist renderings of that first Thanksgiving). As you look at these pictures together, ask you and your child the following questions:
- How are these dinners alike? How are they different?
- What foods did the Pilgrims and Native Americans eat? What foods do you eat on Thanksgiving?
- Look at the eating and serving utensils. Did the Pilgrims eat with their hands or wooden spoons instead of silverware? Did they use wooden mugs and plates? What type of plates and glasses do we use today?
- Did the Native Americans and Pilgrims dress differently? How did they dress?
- Who comes to Thanksgiving dinner at your house?
- For what were the Pilgrims thankful? For what are you thankful?
A Handful of Turkey
Remember the turkey you used to make by tracing your hand? You can also make a hand turkey using an old garden glove. Use the thumb as your turkey’s head and glue feathers onto the fingers for the tail. Stuff the glove by filling the bottom (the palm) with pebbles or sand and then stitch it closed. Now your turkey will stand nicely on the Thanksgiving table. Or, you can choose not to stuff the turkey and your children can use the glove as a puppet to act out a favorite rhyme like this:The big turkey on the farm is so very proud.
He spreads his tail like a fan,
And struts through the animal crowd.
If you talk to him as he wobbles along.
He’ll answer back with a gobbling song,
“Gobble, gobble, gobble …”
Even your youngest children will enjoy making holiday napkin holders. Just cut a cardboard tube into pieces about 1-inch thick. Use markers, paint, or beads to create a design and then slip the napkins through the rings. Older kids can add more decorations—such as construction-paper or real feathers, to the inside of the rings.
Looking for a fun new way to decorate the Thanksgiving table? Use uncooked corn to decorate cloth placemats! First, break an uncooked ear of corn into two pieces. Then, firmly attach plastic corncob holders to the ends of the corn. Pour a few shades of fabric paint onto paper plates and roll the corn in the paint. Then roll the corn across a cloth placemat (plain muslin cloth works well). Repeat this process to make overlapping patterns and different colors. Finally, you’ll need to heat-set the painted placemats according to the manufacturer’s directions (usually either with an iron or a short cycle in the dryer).
Your placemats can be washed after the holiday and are sure to be a keepsake for many Thanksgiving to come. (Disposable placemats can be made using the same technique with poster paints and construction paper.)
Miniature horns of plenty created from sugar cones and fruit candies make striking party favors for a Thanksgiving table. Your kids can help assemble these treats that also double as decorative nametags for your Thanksgiving table.
To start, tie a ribbon around the opening of a sugar cone. Then with a tube of store-bought decorator’s icing and a steady hand, squirt the name of a guest along the side of the cone. Place the cone on a doily-covered saucer. Now your children can fill the cones with a variety of delectable treats, such as marzipan fruit, candy corn, fruit-shaped candies, and citrus slices. Or, for sugar-sensitive younger children, you can use cereal. And for the health conscious, use vegetables. Let the goodies spill out over the opening of the cone and around the saucer.
Entertainment after the Feast
Once the table has been cleared, rather than retiring to the living room to lounge, gather up the family and kids for some activities. Weather permitting, these games can be played outside, but if the snow is flying or fall rains prevent you from heading outdoors, try playing these games in a basement or playroom.
Penny Walk: A flip of a coin determines whether you turn right or left as you walk. Every time the penny lands heads up, the group takes five steps to the right; and if the penny lands tails up, the group takes five steps to the left. Before starting this game, ask each person to predict where he/she thinks the walk will end. Then, take turns tossing the coin until everyone has flipped it twice. The player who guesses closest to where the group finally stops wins.
Kick-the-Can Game: A variation on the classic game of kick-the-can, this contest is a fun way for kids to honor Tom Turkey on his big day. One player is “it” and tries to keep Tom (an empty soda can) inside a large chalk circle, while everyone else tries to free Tom by sneaking up and kicking the can out of the circle.
To start the game, the child who is “it” sets the can in the center of the circle. Then, while standing nearby with her eyes closed, she counts to 50 while the other players hide. When she is finished counting, she opens her eyes and tries to find the other players and tag them. Whomever she touches must stop in place and remain there. If a player is able to reach the circle and kick out the can without being tagged, he shouts “T.” The can is then reset in the circle and the game begins again with everyone hiding. The second time a player boots the can out of the circle, he yells “O.” The first player to kick the can for the third time earns the letter M and yells out “T-O-M” to win the game. (For the player who is “it” to win the game, she must succeed in tagging all of the players before anyone makes it to the circle and kicks the can three times.)
Picture Stories: When a few generations are gathered, the family album can be the perfect inspiration for some lively stories about past events. For fun, make a game of matching up childhood photos with more recent snapshots of different relatives. Or team up to write comical captions.
In this season full of remembering and thankfulness, don’t forget that the greatest gift you can give you child is love and time. In the bustle of the holidays, be sure to involve your child. She will love to help in any way that she can, while you go to the grocery store, clean, and decorate your home.
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