Thanksgiving prep with the kids underfoot

By | November 24, 2013

I know that the folks who travel for Thanksgiving will disagree, but I’ve always thought that kids should be in school until at least dinnertime the day before Thanksgiving. Who in the world decided it would be a good idea to let the little munchkins out just when we moms are at our busiest? Oh, well…it is what it is, and, over the years, I’ve come up with some ways to get it all done with everyone’s sanity relatively intact:

Make your list and check it twice — your grocery list, that is.

Get your grocery shopping done while they’re in school, or you’ll end up buying twice as much as you need and probably getting sued because one of your kids ran over somebody with the cart.

Decide which recipes you can make ahead of time.

Some things can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days; some will need to go in the freezer. Even if you can’t make whole recipes ahead of time, get your prep work (mise en place, if you want to get fancy) done.

  • Vegetables can be chopped, sautéed, or whatever else you need to do with them.
  • Bacon can be cooked.
  • Cornbread for dressing can be baked.
  • You can even get away with making some custard dishes ahead of time; just be sure you put plastic wrap directly on top of the custard (and by that I mean touching it) so it doesn’t form a film. If you’re making a fancy cheesecake, bake the cheesecake ahead; then add all the bling on Thanksgiving morning.

Have things for the kids to do. 

This requires a small investment of money and planning, but it’s worth it.

  • Determine whether they can help with any of the cooking. I remember tearing up bread for dressing when I was an itty, bitty girl. Give them a potato masher and see who can go the longest without needing to stop and rest. Older kids can be in charge of measuring flour, sugar, etc. Little ones can be in charge of shuttling packaging to the trash or filling up the dishwasher to keep your counter space clean. If they’re going to be home, you might as well put them to work!
  • That should hold their attention for about 10 minutes. When the whining and moaning kick in, get them started watching some holiday movies, with the promise that anyone who complains about being bored will immediately be put back on kitchen duty.
  • Have some crafts lined up, even if it’s just Thanksgiving coloring pages you printed off the internet.
  • Download some holiday apps.
  • If all else fails, get the tree set up and let them go to town decorating. You can move some ornaments to the top half of the tree after they go to bed.

The bottom line is, you want the day to feel just different enough to be festive. Because festive and boring cannot co-exist. If you can manage to keep the holiday atmosphere going, they’ll take care of the rest.

I listed some fun apps and craft activities in this post.

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