Cooking Up Thanksgiving Traditions

Cooking Up Thanksgiving Traditions

Helping in the kitchen creates great memories for kids
by Barbara F. Backer
for Real Families, Real Fun

The year is filled with events that grab children's attention--birthdays with decorated cakes, parties and presents, and Valentines Day with its cards and sweets. Independence Day has fireworks, and Halloween and Purim mean dressing up in costumes. In contrast, with no presents, costumes or fireworks, Thanksgiving doesn't seem to hold as much interest for kids. They know they'll have a few days away from school and perhaps a turkey dinner with family and friends, but what else is there to fire their engines? They are often sent off to entertain themselves while the adults prepare the meal and the table.

Why not involve the kids in holiday meal preparations? Even the youngest can stir chopped fruit into the gelatin before it congeals, or mix fruit into muffin batter. Let him help you pour the stuffing mix from the package into a large bowl. An upstate New York mom tried some of our ideas and concluded, "Everyone in the family can help out in meal preparation, no matter the age. Just give age-appropriate jobs that can be fun, and don't forget about setting the table and clean-up. I think it's good for families to do things like this together."

Tasks for the Littlest Kids

Children ages 3-5 enjoy making stuffed celery. Give them vegetable brushes and let them wash a few ribs of celery. With a plastic, serrated-blade knife, children can then cut the celery into pieces as long as their pointer fingers, getting a little measuring practice along the way.

Provide a small bowl of peanut butter and have the children spoon a bit of this into each celery cup. If desired, children can sprinkle sunflower seeds or raisins on top of the peanut butter. Peggy LaClair said her girls, Rachel (9) and Christine (5), "enjoyed making celery logs with peanut butter for a snack for us while we waited for dinner."

Easy Dessert Ideas

Young children can have a hand, too, in making dessert. Simplest of all is letting them pour a can of pumpkin pie filling into a prepared pie crust. Then they can watch as you put the pie in the oven. Be sure they see the transformed pie come out of the oven. This is a great science lesson in how heat changes some things.

For another easy dessert, let your young ones help you make butterscotch pudding, following the directions on the box of instant pudding mix. Then, have them combine this with a can of pumpkin pie filling (not plain pumpkin). Ta-dah! You have pumpkin custard, a rich and creamy treat. This can be eaten as is or used as a topping over pound cake or ice cream.

Older children enjoy preparing the batter for pumpkin bread. You'll find a good recipe on most cans of pumpkin. With your supervision, children can measure ingredients into a mixing bowl. Let them crack the eggs into a strainer before adding them to the mixture. The strainer will catch any stray eggshells. Let the youngest kids drop in the raisins and nuts.

Remember to emphasize safety. Only older children should be allowed to operate the electric mixer, and then only if you are supervising very carefully. Don't let children put things into or out of the oven. That is a grownup's responsibility. Keep children away from hot pans, hot foods and hot ovens.

Ask your children what other food items they'd like to make for the holiday feast. Honor their requests. They'll long remember being involved in the planning and preparations, and next year they'll look forward to cooking up some more holiday spirit.

Jennifer B. in California chose to make caramel apples with her kids. She said, "I think they liked seeing the finished product right away instead of waiting for it to cook and then cool before eating. The only thing Patrick said was to hurry and get them finished."


Take photos of the children while they are preparing food and put them into an ever-expanding Thanksgiving album. The family will enjoy seeing this record of the children's growth.

This article © 2001-2004 Studio One Networks.

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