By Jaime Mathews

How to Give Your Kiddos More Thanks Than Turkey This Thanksgiving

Mamahood + Homeschool

The Sweet Life

November 22, 2021

Don’t get me wrong, I love my Thanksgiving turkey. But I like to think of Thanksgiving as a way to spend some sacred family time. So I will make the most out of this yearly opportunity for family love.

Let me just get this out, first and foremost: I love Thanksgiving. No friends, like I really LOVE Thanksgiving. I love shopping for all of the ingredients, trying new and unusual recipes (along with some of my favorite classics), fancying up the table, and prepping and cooking for several days leading up to the Big Day. I love watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, rocking out to music while I dirty every bowl and spatula I own, and I love nothing more than a mixture of pumpkin spice candles and turkey roasting in the oven.

Am I a total foodie? Honestly, not really. Am I a television junky? Not at all. Maybe you think I’m a glutton for punishment by standing around concocting dish after dish for days on end. I don’t think so. I’m not any of those things, I promise you. But I do love making nourishing food and creating a meaningful environment for my closest loved ones. It’s my way of showing love, honoring my family, and gathering together to share in all the ways we are blessed beyond measure. And this year, I am bringing my kiddos into the Thanksgiving festivities more than ever. And I am certain that by the end, they will be as thankful for this holiday as I am. 

Why It’s Essential to Include Your Kiddos in Thanksgiving Preparations

I don’t need to point out the obvious that these past almost two years have been a whirlwind of sorts. There has been so much fear, so much uncertainty, and so much change, that kids, more than ever, need to lock into some unchanging good, like holiday traditions. In my family, Thanksgiving was always a day of gathering together, stuffing ourselves with homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey, cranberry sauce, and honey-glazed ham. My mouth is already watering! But as a child, I don’t remember helping in the kitchen. I remember eating (a lot) and indulging in delicious desserts, but I don’t remember rolling up my sleeves, tying on my pint-sized apron and becoming the sous chef my mom probably desperately needed. 

But let’s be real for a moment, I can understand why. Cooking with kiddos takes a lot more time! I mean seriously, let’s have this honest conversation. It’s way easier to just do it ourselves, right mamas? But, what are our kids missing out on when we do holidays all on our own? What life lessons are they not receiving by being left out of all that the holiday has to offer? So, I am putting my controlling personality on the back burner of my stove top, sliding our dining room chairs into the kitchen so my girls can reach the countertops, scrubbing the dirt out from under their fingernails and putting them to work. Because Thanksgiving—at least in our home—is much more about the thanks we are giving than the turkey we are consuming. 

My kids have always loved helping out in the kitchen. They love to sift flour, stir in the chocolate chips (and eat some, of course), and season up the dinner dish. It might be because they love what we are about to cook and eat, but I think it is more than that. Kids want to feel a part of their family’s world. They want to feel valuable, included, and needed. It makes them feel proud of their capabilities, it grows their self-confidence, and (my personal favorite) it increases their awareness of what it means to be part of a family. And what better time to feel connected to your family than sitting around a beautifully decorated dinner table on Thanksgiving Day, knowing that you were an intricate part of making that day’s deliciousness. 

How My Kiddos Will Become Thanksgiving-Day Helpers This Year

When bringing on your micro sous chefs and party planners (a.k.a., your kids), preparation and organization is key. 

Food prep

To start, I am listing out every dish I plan on making and when it needs to be made. (Did you know you can cook several items a day or two before Thanksgiving? A brilliant idea that frees up oven space!) That way, I know which dishes my girls can help with, and those they can’t. Like for example, under no circumstances will my almost 8-year-olds be using a knife! Just had to throw that out there.


Let’s talk about decor. My twins are super crafty, so I am going to utilize their creative side when it comes to the seating arrangements. Now let me just stop for a second and say that rarely—if ever—have I assigned seating at any holiday gathering. But, if I want to include my littles in the holiday cheer, then I need to utilize all of their strengths (it also buys me some time when I have two hours of chopping to do). So this year, I will let them take the lead on the table decor. Maybe they will gather leaves from the backyard and glitter them up? Maybe they will cut out paper hearts and color-coordinate the names of each family member who will be joining? Perhaps a fresh sprig of rosemary will be placed at the center? I will offer suggestions and then, with a few prayers and deep breaths, I will let them take the lead on it. 

Mealtime meaning

We are a Christian home, so Thanksgiving always begins with a prayer of gratitude. But it doesn’t stop there. Each year, we incorporate something meaningful to share at the dinner table. As we clink wine glasses and break bread together, it’s also a perfect time to share what we are all thankful for. One year we simply went around and said just that: what we are thankful for. Another year we picked different people and said what we were thankful for about that particular family member (this is a great one if you have siblings who don’t get along so well). I can’t tell you how healing it is to watch a brother, who doesn’t often get along with his sister, tell her that he is thankful for how loving she is and that deep down, she’s actually pretty cool. Or to watch a sister who often banters with her younger sibling say how thankful she is to have a little sister who is as thoughtful and kind. Those words sink in deep and friends, those same words can mend bonds, heal relationships, and restore friendships. 

We have a gratitude jar in our home. From time to time, we will write what we are grateful for and place it in the jar. Maybe this year we will pull out some of the notes and read them aloud. Or maybe we will write new ones to read together and then keep. There are lots of ways to spend the time around the Thanksgiving Day table and if I can offer any suggestion, it’s that the time is sacred. So use it well. Create something meaningful to do. Allow your kids to think up ideas of what to do. Let them dream up a ritual of thanksgiving and praise. 

The gift of giving

Anyone else love giving or receiving homemade gifts? Me, me, me! I love receiving homemade jam or homemade pastries. There is something so meaningful about getting a gift that you know someone worked hard on. So this year, I’m going to put my Martha Stewart hat on with my kiddos to make homemade apple butter. This may not be a Thanksgiving Day must, but it’s the perfect time to tell someone “thank you” by giving them a labor of love gift. My girls are already excited about giving it to their teacher, their neighbors, and probably any passersby on our street! And I am beyond ecstatic that they are beginning to understand that Thanksgiving is all about what—and who—we are thankful for!

As parents, we have so much to do with creating meaning in our littles’ lives. So this year, for this Thanksgiving holiday, let’s step up the thanks, the acknowledgement of blessings, and gifts of gratitude that we all have to share—with each other, and with our kiddos.


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Jaime Mathews      Author

Jaime is a woman of many hats: follower of Jesus, wife, mama of three, homeschooler, business owner, blogger, writer and aspiring homesteader. Follow her on instagram @jaimeleemathews.

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