Editor's note: This post was originally published November 3, 2014.
Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, and food. It's an exciting time of the year when we start anticipating the holiday season and when we give thanks for all that we have. But it's also a time when parents and grandparents can sneak in a little bit of learning and a whole lot of fun for their children and grandchildren.
Changing the Thanksgiving routine may sound crazy because often family members can become "stuck" in certain roles. Nana makes the turkey; Aunt Pat makes her famous stuffing; Ruby makes the cherry cheese pie. Uncle Curt mashes the potatoes, and cousin Clara brings her amazing rolls. The kids and cousins do a whole lot of playing. The teens and uncles play football, while the aunts and women gossip in the kitchen.
But this year, mix things up a bit. Let's get our kids in the kitchen doing what they can for the Thanksgiving meal. Not only will it teach them important life skills like cooking and preparing food for others, but it will help them work on their reading skills as well.
In my opinion, there's no better reading practice than hands-on, real-life reading in the kitchen.
- Encouraging kids to work together to make one part of the meal: salad, bread, sides, or dessert;
- Pairing up each adult with a child and those "teams" work together on one part of the meal;
- Giving each person a new role to try to "mix up" jobs of the past;
- Visiting the library now for some new-for-you cookbooks; and
- Putting names in a hat and choosing jobs for next year at the end of this year's meal or gathering.
And if all of this is too much, don't sweat it. Simply inviting a child into the kitchen as your "helper" this year is fine, too. Even if you know the recipes by heart, consider pulling out the old recipe cards so that your helper can watch as you pull ingredients and follow directions.
Let the child see Great-Grandma's fancy, flowing handwriting on the card and share your memories of her with the child. Share your own childhood memories of being in the kitchen with your family members during Thanksgiving meal prep, and you'll be surprised at how interested your helpers become—and how much they learn.
Need some recipe starting points? Check out these cookbooks for some Thanksgiving meal inspiration:
Food and Recipes of the Native Americans by George Erdosh and G. Erdosh
Food and Recipes of the Pilgrims by George Erdosh and G. Erdosh
Food and Recipes of the Thirteen Colonies by George Erdosh and G. Erdosh
Ultimate Kid-Approved Cookbook: Delicious Meals Kids Will Eat, Nutritious Meals Mom Will Love by Cooking Light
Desserts Around the World by Lee Engfer
Vegetarian Cooking Around the World by Alison Behnke
How do you get your kids involved in Thanksgiving Day meal preparation? We'd love to know!
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