Preparing a holiday feast can be stressful for anyone, but for parents of young children it can get really hairy. If you’re charged with hosting Thanksgiving this year and are wondering how you’ll pull off a delicious meal, a clean house and content, well behaved children, read on for tips on how to make it happen. We guarantee you can do it without losing your sanity or your sleep.
- Plan a family-friendly meal.
Thanksgiving dinner may be the biggest meal of the year. Don’t make it harder on yourself by preparing separate dishes for finicky, young eaters. Your kids may not be game for a complicated oyster stuffing, but they’ll likely devour fuss-free dishes, such as mashed potatoes, green beans and hot buttered rolls, that the adults at the table will enjoy just as much. Everyone loves and appreciates simple, nostalgic comfort food. Make a meal of it, and leave the more sophisticated recipes for another day.
- Be well prepared and start early.
It’s wildly stressful to fight crowds of last-minute shoppers, and even more so when you have grumpy kids in tow. Avoid last minute shopping by starting early with a thorough game plan for the meal that includes a detailed, aisle-by-aisle shopping list for everything you’ll need for the big day. Your list should include items you’ll need to prepare and serve the meal, as well as incidentals you’ll need to have well stocked, such as toilet paper, dishwasher detergent, light snacks and items for the bar. Hiring a sitter to take care of the kids while you focus at the grocery store and run errands without distraction will improve the odds against having to make multiple or last minute trips.
- Choose your sweet spot and outsource the rest.
You could do it all, but why would you? Decide which aspects of the meal and preparation you enjoy the most and hire someone to do the rest. You can eliminate a lot of the stress and save time by hiring a service to thoroughly clean your house, even launder bedding for overnight guests and iron the tablecloth and napkins, so you need only stash toys before your guests arrive. Would it helpful to order a centerpiece for the table so there’s no need to remember to buy flowers and find the time to arrange? Of course, any part of the actual meal can be purchased and prepared, ready for you to simply reheat and plunk it into a pretty serving bowl at mealtime.
- Enlist your kids’ help.
You may think that letting the kids help will only slow you down, but if you choose and assign jobs wisely and don’t wait until the last minute to do it, you’ll have extra help and entertained kids who are proud to be a part of the action. Assign your kids chores to help prepare for guests, such as putting away toys, cleaning their room, dusting, folding napkins, and helping to decorate and set the Thanksgiving table. Kids can also help with cooking, the tasks depending on their age. For instance, let older kids peel potatoes or slice carrots, and younger kids wash vegetables or put the bread in a basket. When guests arrive, ask your kids to welcome them and offer to take their coats.
- Set a kids’ table.
You might love the idea of everyone piling around a big table, but your kids and your guests will enjoy the meal a whole lot more if you give the kids their own space. Your guests will appreciate a more peaceful meal while the kids will like having a little leeway and their own special table. Make it a fun spot by providing crayons for doodling and a healthy snack to munch while they’re waiting. Make it easy on yourself by setting their table with a disposable or easily washable tablecloth and break-proof dishes. Our Pinterest board Kids Table has lots of great ideas for making a fun, festive kids’ table, including cute turkey cups for holding crudités, printable placemats and pilgrim hat place markers.
- Let your guests contribute.
Asking your guests to bring a dish they love to the meal benefits you, the menu and your guests. You’ll have less to shop for and prepare, and you’ll have a guarantee that your guests will have something they especially enjoy for the holiday. Avoid an overload of pies or a meal devoid of veggies by asking that each guest brings something from an assigned category, such as a side, dessert or beverage.
The most important tip for enjoying your holiday is to be okay with imperfection. It’s not about setting a table worthy of a magazine or serving a gourmet meal. It’s about gathering family and friends around your table to share and give thanks for a wonderful meal and a happy time together.