Thanksgiving was not my favorite holiday when I was a kid.
Instead of seeing the holiday as a time for togetherness and gratitude, I have memories of long car rides, endless football games on TV and dishes.
The pumpkin pie was good, but there was no way one piece of pie – and a lot of whipped cream – could help Thanksgiving compete with Halloween or Christmas.
I’m not sure when Thanksgiving shifted from a “grown up holiday” to one I look forward to. Perhaps it was in my teen years, when I discovered the greatness that is my grandmother’s stuffing, or my visits home from college when homemade food was such a luxury.
Or maybe it’s when I graduated from helping with dishes to assisting in preparing part of the meal. Finally, Thanksgiving was no longer a spectator sport.
As you make your Thanksgiving meal, consider asking your youngest guests to lend a hand in the kitchen. It will require some patience on your part – and maybe some extra clean-up, depending on the age of the children – but the benefits are worth it.
Susan Moores, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, says cooking with kids can help get them interested in trying healthy foods they might otherwise ignore. Not only does cooking with kids encourage them to try healthier foods, this is quality time parents are spending with their children. After all, your child can’t watch TV, play videogame or text if they are chopping up vegetable for a salad.
Laurie Hendricks of Cedar Rapids says her kids help her preparing vegetables. It’s usually nothing more than washing carrots and celery, and arranging them on a plate, but Hendricks says the simple task keeps the whining at bay. Also, her kids – ages 4 and 6 – usually eat a few vegetables while waiting for dinner.
“It’s a win-win,” she says.
Andrea Border, also of Cedar Rapids, relies on her 7-year-old twin daughter to set the table. This includes making place cards for the family; a chore that keeps her daughter busy while everyone else cooks.
“I hold on to mine every year for her scrapbook,” Border says. “It’s become a fun tradition.”
Just remember kids lose interest quickly, so don’t plan your entire dinner on the assumption that junior will peel all of the potatoes. Give them projects with the expectation that they will be completed halfway at best.