A Parent’s Guide to a Stress-Free Thanksgiving


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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

5 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Give Thanks

Giving thanks and helping others isn’t just for Thanksgiving Day. You can incorporate simple, daily ways to instill and cultivate in your kids a sense of gratitude and a readiness to help others throughout the year. Before the holidays throw you into a frenzy, adopt these 5 everyday ways to practice thankfulness in your house.


1. Make “thank you” mandatory
Kids need constant reminders before a desired action or response becomes automatic. Continue to remind your children to always say thank you and explain to them that the response is expected whenever necessary. Similarly, make writing thank you notes a mandatory part of receiving a gift or a way to express appreciation to anyone who has gone out of their way for them. Little kids who can’t yet write can benefit from talking about what they like about a gift and why it was thoughtful, and can help you create a note by adding a personal drawing or even signing their name to it.

2. Model grateful behavior
Show your kids, each and every day, that you are grateful by making it a point to express your gratitude in simple statements, such as “Look what a beautiful day it is!” or “We are so fortunate to be together today,” or “That was so nice of your babysitter to take you to the park.”  Also remember to always say thank you to the people you and your children encounter throughout your day, including the checkout clerk at the grocery store and the mailman who brings your mail, rain or shine.

3. Give to others
Routinely giving to others provides opportunities to talk to your children about the needs of others and to instill and nurture their compassion and sense of giving back to their community. Have the kids help with grocery shopping by having them choose a few canned items to donate to a Thanksgiving food drive or a food bank, or choose personal care items to donate to a shelter. Prepare for the holidays by cleaning out closets and encouraging your children to donate toys they no longer use or clothes they’ve outgrown, explaining that they can make a difference by sharing.

4. Volunteer as a family
Volunteering teaches social responsibility and helps children develop empathy and a belief that one person can make a difference. Research from the United Way shows that volunteering can benefit a child’s psychological, social and intellectual development. What better way to spend time together as a family than by working together to help others in your community? There are ways to volunteer as a family including, but not at all limited to helping at food banks, shelters, environmental clean-ups and visits to the elderly or those who are hospitalized. Organizations such as Idealist or Volunteer Match can help match your family to a need in your community.

5. Create holiday traditions that show thanks
Holidays are a wonderful chance to show thankfulness. Creating holiday traditions around gratitude and giving ensures that your kids see the holidays as special for reasons beyond the commercial. Make kids part of Thanksgiving celebrations by having them share what they are thankful for, and make their own decorations to show thanks. A thoughtful project to do together is to create cards for your holiday guests that include a simple statement about why you are thankful for them. Take it a step further by showing your appreciation for those outside of your family, including teachers, sitters and your neighborhood police and firefighters. A wonderful tradition is to take a plate of homemade cookies to your local fire station each holiday season or to bring treats to a children’s hospital or nursing home.

According to the experts, showing gratitude is a critical factor to building compassion, empathy, and even to overall happiness. Grateful kids tend to be much more satisfied with their lives, do better in school, are less materialistic and less envious. As if you needed convincing that teaching your kids to feel and express gratitude benefits everyone involved!

Last Minute Tips for Creating a Fantastic Kids’ Table for Thanksgiving

The secret to keeping kids entertained and avoiding mid-meal meltdowns at this year’s Thanksgiving table is to give them one heck of a kids’ table. No blood, sweat or tears required to pull off some of these cool ideas. We’ve deemed them this week’s Five Favorite Pins for Parents. For more helpful ideas, check out our Pinterest Board – Kids’ Table.

5 Kids’ Table Ideas for Thanksgiving

1. Channel your favorite kid-friendly restaurant and leave fun coloring pages for place mats. These free printables are especially useful, since they are chock full of turkey day-themed activities.

via My Sister's Suitcase
via My Sister’s Suitcase

2. A simple Thanksgiving craft for kids can be even simpler if you pre-cut the necessary pieces and leave them on the table with a few glue sticks and washable markers. Create one of these gobblers as a sample and let the older kids guide the younger ones.

via Meet the Dubiens
via Meet the Dubiens

3. A miniature Mayflower makes a wow-worthy centerpiece. This homemade one also serves as a vessel for holding words of thanks to be shared before the meal. If you’re so inclined to go a little Martha Stewart on your kids’ table, let it set sail on a map tablecloth, and include paper-boat place cards to steer your young pilgrams to their seats.

Mayflower Centerpiece Image via Pinterest
Mayflower Centerpiece Image via Pinterest

4. Reserve some fresh veggies from your chopping board, and toss them into cute turkey cups. A little dip at the bottom makes them attention-grabbing snacks kids can munch while you make the meal.

via Me and My Insanity
via Me and My Insanity

5. Save your linens and keep the kids contained by decking their table in craft paper and leaving plenty of crayons to encourage them to make it their own.

via Decorating Files
via Decorating Files

Find & book trusted babysitters online at UrbanSitter.

Tasty Twists on Thanksgiving Recipe Favorites

Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner or delegated with contributing a dish, Pinterest is the place to be for recipe inspiration and how to. We’ve done some digging to narrow in on a few of our favorite pins to help you create delicious dishes with a tasty spin on your tried-and-true Thanksgiving favorites. Check out UrbanSitter’s Savoring the Season board for more great ideas.

5 Thanksgiving Recipes with a Modern Spin

1. Give the marshmallows a break this year and bring on the sweet potatoes in a whole new way with this sweet potato soup featuring pumpkin seeds and thyme. Easy on the chef, this pot of creamy, autumnal goodness can be made in advance of the big day and kept warm until you are ready to garnish and serve.

via Sweet Paul
via Sweet Paul

2. Pumpkin can lead the meal as a tasty appetizer like this pumpkin bruschetta just as well, if not better, than a classic pumpkin pie. 

via Sweet Paul
via Sweet Paul

3. Indulge in these acorn squash boats – so hearty it might just bump the turkey from its prime spot on the table.

via A Cozy Kitchen
via A Cozy Kitchen

4. Let this savory mushroom and leek tart serve as the star of a vegetarian feast. Even present it as a hearty starter or side dish for vegetarians and carnivores alike.

via Rachael Ray
via Rachael Ray

5.  Save some cash and surprise your guests with this delectable, spiced apple cider sangria. No one will miss the pricey wine.

via theKitchn
via theKitchn

Share your favorites and check back for more Pins for Parents – Thanksgiving Desserts.

Have an extra set of hands to entertain the kids while you prep for Thanksgiving – book a sitter online at www.UrbanSitter.com.

6 Festive Kids’ Crafts That Are Good Enough to Eat

For busy parents and babysitters, what could be better than a delightful kid’s craft and a snack wrapped into one? Edible art projects keep kids entertained, engaged and fed without much fuss. This is incredibly helpful especially when you are preparing holiday meals and entertaining guests. These are also great projects to have grandparents or guests spearhead while you cook–or set these up with your sitter for a fun afternoon activity.

Edible Festive Kids’ Craft Projects

Fruit Gobbler Turkey

via Spoonful
via Spoonful

Unload some of your holiday dirty work by letting the kids create the centerpiece for the big Turkey Day table. This big turkey is loaded with fruits and veggies that your kids will love assembling (while you work on dinner), and enjoy gobbling up just as much. You’ll need:

Bosc pear (head), Melon (body), Cheese (beak and tail feathers), Red pepper (snood, feet and side feathers), Raisins (eyes), Grapes (tail feathers), Bamboo skewers, Toothpicks.

Find complete instructions at Food.com.

Hairy Spider

via Kids Activities Blog
via Kids Activities Blog

Forget about the Halloween craft featuring a fat marshmallow as the body of a creepy crawler. These hairy spiders are of the healthy variety and for tots fascinated by bugs and they work any time of year. We can thank Kids Activities Blog for showing us how to easily create a healthy snack with a chunk of banana dipped in flax seed, pretzels for spider legs and raisins for eyes.

Another Turkey to Gobble

via Cute Food For Kids
via Cute Food For Kids

There’s no shortage of edible turkey crafts to tackle. We think this guy is pretty darn cute and simple enough for little kids to handle without frustration. There are two options – a healthy one made with clementine sections and a “special treat” version that uses skewers of candy for feathers. Both work the same way: cut the bottom off of an apple, flip it around and stick it to the other end with a toothpick to create a stable base. Next, thread oranges or candy and marshmallows to toothpicks and insert for the bird’s feather. Create a head and face out of construction paper, and let your own little turkey stick it on the apple body with another toothpick.

Candy Necklaces

via Blondie and Brownies
via Blondie and Brownies

Creating candy necklaces is a smart activity to help kids practice counting and patterns and to improve their fine motor skills. It also makes for a great project for a party, since it’s relatively simple and low fuss. There are tons of options for edible bits to string for a DIY edible necklace. Think fruit loops, mini marshmallows, Cheerios and pretzels. Blondie and Brownies suggests buying a few yarn darners, essentially large-eyed needles, to help with the threading (she found a set of 7 at Walmart for under $2).

A Mouthful of Teeth

via Kid Spot
via Kid Spot

Apple slices + peanut butter + mini marshmellows = a mouthful of teeth! No detailed instructions are needed for this adorable and yummy craft. Simply slice apples, spread with peanut butter or a nut-free alternative (cream cheese would work well) for denture cream, and stick mini marshmallows along the “gums” for teeth. Voila! Who wouldn’t smile at these?

Cheesy Reindeer

via Cute Food For Kids

You may cringe at the thought or jump for joy, but November 29 marks the start of the Christmas season! Get your kids in the spirit by plunging into a wintertime craft. Adorable reindeer are perfect for little hands to create with a Laughing Cow cheese wedge, pretzels for antlers, olives for eyes and a bit of red pepper for a nose. Cute Food for Kids provides a handy tip – use a straw from a juice box to punch out tiny eyes from an olive, and a fatter straw to create the nose from a bell pepper.

Leave these handy craft activities with your sitter while you’re out holiday shopping – search for babysitters online at www.UrbanSitter.com.

30 Days of Gratitude: Mom-Style

moms on beachNeed more happiness in your day-to-day routine? Several studies demonstrate the positive results of a little gratitude. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we have so much to be grateful for. Here’s one mom’s list of 30 things you can be thankful for every day this month.

30 Things Moms Can Be Grateful For

  1. Your children – plain and simple. Yes, they’re whiny and loud and messy and selfish, but their YOURS. They are literally a part of you. Be grateful for that. Not just now, but every day.
  2. Chocolate. It’s delicious and sweet and everything you need at the end of a hard day.
  3. Wine. See above.
  4. Your health. If you don’t indulge in too much of numbers 2 and 3, you should be pretty healthy and that is easy to take for granted.
  5. Your job. You get paid. You get to interact with other grown-ups. And you get to escape from the madness of the under-five-feet-tall crowd for part of your day. SAHMs, you get paid in a different form of currency, the health and well-being of your children, which is always something to be thankful for.
  6. Baby wipes, Clorox Wipes, and the Magic Eraser. Making our lives easier, one quick swipe at a time.
  7. The Real Housewives franchise. Or Scandal. Or Days of Our Lives, for goodness’ sake. Heaven is sitting on the couch (alone!) eyes glued to the LuAnns and Kyles of the world. Sixty minutes of pure bliss.
  8. 7:30 p.m. (or whenever your little ones go to bed). Ahhhh…time to catch up on guilty pleasure #7. Finally.
  9. The iPad. Yep, all guilt aside, it saves the day on more than one occasion.
  10. Your nanny or babysitter. Huge bonus points (and bonus dollars!) if she runs the dishwasher and picks up the playroom, too.
  11. A shower or bath, UNINTERRUPTED.
  12. The slow cooker. A delicious meal that practically makes itself? Yes, please!
  13. Spin class or kick-boxing. A natural way to raise your endorphins.
  15. Restaurants that do takeout. No matter how hard we try to be organic and cook everything by scratch, there are days when you just need to order takeout.
  16. Coffee. You may be asking, why wasn’t this #1? And you’re absolutely right.
  17. Amazon Prime. Why yes, I think I will add that 50 Shades of Grey knock-off book to my cart while I’m already here buying a jumbo pack of diapers. And knowing it will be on my doorstep in 48 hours? Life changer.
  18. Girlfriends. To laugh and cry and vent and drink with.
  19. Candy Crush. Just own it. You’ll feel so much better.
  20. Your partner. He/she might leave laundry unattended or “forget” to take out the trash, but for better or worse, they’re all you’ve got in the way of grown-up roommates. And at the end of the day if you can get a good laugh or snuggle out of it? That’s big.
  21. Spanx.
  22. Magna Tiles. Possibly the only toy that actually keeps kids engaged for more than three minutes. See #17 and never look back.
  23. Hair appointments. One to three hours in a comfy chair with a cup of tea and someone rubbing my scalp? Yes, please!
  24. Target. When you’re not ordering stuff online, it’s glorious to stroll down the aisles, convincing yourself you really do need that box of energy bars/bike helmet/wrapping paper/cardigan. Grab a Starbucks while you’re at it.
  25. Naps.
  26. Books. Escape for an hour into another world. No book report required.
  27. School (minus the homework, conferences, and volunteer “opportunities”).
  28. Date night. Head to UrbanSitter ASAP and find yourself again.
  29. Huffington Post. Celebrity sleaze, witty political analysis, and the most comprehensive parenting reference you can possibly imagine, all rolled up into one convenient website. We owe you, Arianna.
  30. Her eyelashes when she’s sleeping. And the way he says “lellow” instead of “yellow.” Her tiny hands, especially when they reach for you. And the fact that this parenthood thing is the most heart-wrenching, exhausting job you’ve ever had, yet you wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Moms, what else are you grateful for?

Find and book babysitters at UrbanSitter.com.