Thanksgiving Cooking for Parents and Kids

Thanksgiving is a great time to enlist your little chef as a helper. Plan a day full of culinary kids’ activities that will get the whole family into the holiday spirit. Include a shopping trip, food preparation, and more into this turkey day treat!

Your Child’s Age and Cooking

Prior to starting any cooking activity with your child, take a minute to assess her age and ability level.

There are different expectations for children in different age groups. For example, a very young child or preschooler can be expected to handle minimal tasks that do not involve using any sharp tools or actually cooking over heat, while a teen can take on more of an adult role.

Age should not be used entirely on its own to assess your child’s kitchen know-how. Kids who have been part of recipe planning and food creation from a very young age may be able to take on more advanced jobs. On the other side, a very immature or inexperienced cook should be given simple tasks that can be easily completed.

Always keep safety concerns a top priority. These include:

  • Constantly supervise your child. Never leave any child of any age unattended in the kitchen.
  • Do not allow young children to handle raw meats or eggs.
  • Remind children to thoroughly wash and dry hands before and after cooking.
  • Never allow children to use sharp tools or utensils.
  • Never allow children to operate or use any heated appliance such as a stove, oven, or even toaster.
  • Do not allow children to handle hot containers or foods.
  • Always start the cooking session off by going over safety/kitchen rules.

Holiday Shopping With Kids

Don’t leave the kids at home with dad (or mom, or grandpa, or the babysitter) when preparing a Thanksgiving meal. Instead, start the activity with a fun shopping trip.

Before heading out to the store, get out the cook books and make a list or try kid friendly sites with holiday recipes such as Disney FamilyFun. Ask for help coming up with an appropriate menu. Allow your child to choose one dish (within reason) that he will help you to prepare. This is also a great literacy exercise for young children. Have the kids read the recipes to you, and then ask them to write down the ingredients on a piece of paper.

With your list in hand, pick a convenient time to go to the grocery store. Kids of any age will get easily bored waiting in long checkout lines, and may get frustrated wading through crowds of other holiday food shoppers. Try an off-peak time that works with your child’s natural schedule. If you have a very early riser, plan a pre-breakfast trip to the store.

Cooking a Thanksgiving Meal With Kids

Kids can help out in many different ways while preparing the Thanksgiving meal. Although the turkey prep may be solely up to you, try some of these ideas by age group:

  • Preschoolers: Stirring and mixing with hand tools such as a spoon or spatula. Using a cookie cutter. Rolling dough. Pouring simple liquids such as water. Washing produce such as cranberries or yams.
  • Grade Schoolers: Measuring ingredients. Pouring and mixing ingredients with hand tools. Reading the recipe to you or another adult. Adding garnishes and finishing touches to foods, such as placing marshmallows on top of yams prior to baking (or frosting cookies, cakes, and other similar treats).
  • Teenagers: Depending on the teen’s maturity level, many kids of this age can do the same tasks as an adult (with supervision).

Easy Holiday Foods to Make With Kids

Keep in mind that every child is different when choosing menu items to make together. Although these child friendly foods are fun to create, your child may need something that is either easier or more difficult depending on his or her age and ability.

  • Cranberry sauce
  • Turkey shaped cupcakes or cookies
  • Corn bread
  • Succotash
  • Green salad
  • Yams with marshmallows
  • Fruit pies

Turn your Thanksgiving meal into a time to learn! Invite your child to help you plan and cook the feast. Create a new family tradition and give your little chef a chance to feel a sense of accomplishment in his or her culinary creation.

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