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Getting Your Kids Involved in Thanksgiving Dinner Prep

It’s almost that time to be preparing and prepping and cooking for Thanksgiving day! I know for many families, Thanksgiving will look very different this year. Many celebrations will be much smaller than normal, but the one good thing about a smaller family size to serve - more time to have your children help in the kitchen!

I know, I know. It sounds like a big disastrous mess. But hear me out on this one. Helping prep and cook is a GREAT way for your children to target many developmental skills, in a FUN way.

First and foremost - it gives your children an opportunity to bond with you, spend time with you, and learn an important life skill. Cooking also addresses:

  • sensory processing and feeding

  • fine motor skills

  • bilateral coordination skills

  • and so much more!

Getting your children and/or picky eaters in the kitchen helps them to learn about and interact with new/non-preferred foods in a safe and non-threatening way! I know many kids don’t want to eat half of the foods offered at Thanksgiving, but helping to cook the foods can encourage trying them! While cooking, your child will interact with, touch, smell, manipulate (cut, mash, etc.) and maybe even test new foods! Helping with the process of preparing foods helps your child to learn about the texture, color, taste etc., in a fun and non-threatening way.

Your child will be developing fine motor strength and coordination when they are manipulating kitchen tools, stirring, mashing, etc. They will be targeting bilateral coordination skills when using both hands on a rolling pin, or using one hand to hold an item and the other to cut.

Know what else your child will be improving? Language and vocabulary skills! There are so many new words to be learned while working in the kitchen. Be sure to talk through the steps with your child, explain the kitchen tools and foods, etc. Describe the properties of the foods, where they come from, how they’re grown/processed, etc.

Need some specific ideas?

  • Green bean casserole: your child can help with this simple dish by opening containers, pouring, and stirring

  • Carrots: cook whole carrots until they are soft, and have your child cut with a butter knife into small rounds

  • Pies: have your child use a rolling pin to roll out the dough, and assist with pouring and mixing ingredients

  • Have your child choose a dish! This is especially helpful for picky eaters. This way they know at least one food will be preferred. Encourage your child to try an adaptation to a preferred food, or give a list of options based off foods you know they enjoy

Lastly, let’s talk about ways to decrease the mess for you!

  • Make sure you and your child are wearing play clothes that can get messy

  • Designate one area for your child to work

  • Lay down a plastic tablecloth for the child’s work area so you can toss it away after

  • For safety, your child may do better with their own stool or seat, which also helps to designate one work space area

Happy cooking, and happy Thanksgiving!!

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