You know those sweet images of kids helping their moms in the kitchen on Thanksgiving? Flour dusting on a little one's sweet nose, mom sweetly standing behind her as they roll out the dough for a pumpkin pie? They make for great commercials and might even entice you to pick up a child-sized apron during your next Target run because, d*mn mit, you're going to make some memories and keep your kids busy while you cook all at the same time.
And then you actually try to have them sprinkle the fried onions on the green bean casserole and you immediately regret watching those TV ads in the first place. But setting them down on the floor to do their own thing doesn't seem to help either. You're constantly tripping over one, refereeing fights when you should be peeling sweet potatoes, and yelling "Don't touch that! It's hot!" every time someone comes within ten yards of the oven. Look, I get it. You're busy and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade can only hold their attention for so long. If little cousins haven't arrived to take the burden off of you or everyone's too involved with football, then I've got seven ways to keep those children busy while you prepare your feast. Oh, and I promise they don't require strait jackets. (Although, that's always a viable option.)
1. Give Them A Thanksgiving Craft
Want little hands to stay busy and little butts to stay in one spot? Give them a Thanksgiving craft. 30 Minute Crafts has some great, easy ideas for Thanksgiving table decor using mason jars, pipe cleaners, and a little bit of paint. Your kids will feel like they're contributing to the Thanksgiving feast without you wanting to make them take a nap.
2. Feed Them
Look, when my kid is acting wild and can't occupy herself, I strap her in her highchair and give her snacks. I'm not talking about pumping your kid full of cookies to make them sit still, but if you think they could handle some fruit or even samples of what you're cooking, go for it.
3. Let Them Form a Kitchen Band
Every parent has a picture of their kid banging the hell out of some pots and pans, so why let your kid go without? Pull out those colanders, that giant spaghetti pot, and even some tupperware. Have your children form their own little (possibly annoying) kitchen band while you put the finishing touches on dinner.
4. Give Them The Extra Pie Dough & A Cookie Cutter
You know all of that extra dough left over from your perfectly fluted pie crust? They make excellent distractions for your rambunctious kiddos. Set them up at a table with the extra dough and an assortment of cookie cutters. They can make the dough into any shape they want and, if you have the room in the oven, you can sprinkle some sugar on their creations before baking. Perfect little kid-made cookies!
5. Have Them Make A Wish List
Give them those Black Friday ads, a marker, and let them go to town. This task should give you enough time to complete Thanksgiving dinner, eat it, and carry you into the next day. OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but kids love to make wish lists, so this should give you at least long enough to open a bottle of wine and enjoy an uninterrupted glass.
6. Make Them Door Greeters
Sic those energetic children on their grandparents and cousins the minute they walk in the door. Let your kids know that family will be arriving soon and it's best if they man their stations by the front door or windows so they know the minute they arrive. What kid doesn't love to be in charge?
7. Make Them Clean
This one may not work on the baby of the family, but even a two year old can get excited about a broom or a dust rag. Sure, it's not necessarily "cleaning" when they're using their little sticky hands to wipe the window glass, but it can keep them occupied and give them a feeling of responsibility for making Thanksgiving as awesome as possible.