November 11, 2023

Toddlers at Thanksgiving: Tips for a Fun and Stress-Free Holiday

Written by Dr. Sandy Portko, Early Childhood Expertise

Family Futures Staff
Thanksgiving toddler
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Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to come together and enjoy a delicious meal. But for toddlers, it can be a bit overwhelming. With so many new people, new foods, and new sights and sounds, it’s no wonder that some toddlers get fussy or even cranky.

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving with toddlers this year, don’t worry – there are plenty of things you can do to make the holiday fun and stress-free for everyone involved. Here are a few tips:

  • Prepare your toddler ahead of time.

    Talk to your toddler about what to expect on Thanksgiving. Explain that there will be a lot of people and a lot of food, and that it’s okay if they don’t want to try everything.

  • Set realistic expectations.

    Don’t expect your toddler to sit still and eat a full meal. Be prepared for them to get up and down from the table, and to only eat a few bites of their food.

  • Create a toddler-friendly space.

    If possible, set up a separate table for the toddlers with easy-to-eat foods and drinks. You can also put out some toys and activities to keep them entertained.

  • Take breaks.

    If your toddler is getting overwhelmed, take a break from the table and let them play in another room. You can also offer to take them for a walk outside or to read them a story.

  • Be flexible.

    Don’t get too stressed out if things don’t go according to plan. Just relax and enjoy the holiday with your family and friends.

Here are a few additional tips for making Thanksgiving more fun for toddlers:

  • Get them involved in the preparations. Let your toddler help you set the table, decorate, or even make some of the food. This will help them feel like they’re part of the celebration.
  • Offer them kid-friendly foods. In addition to the traditional Thanksgiving dishes, offer your toddler some of their favorite foods, such as chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, or fruit.
  • Make it a sensory experience. Let your toddler touch, smell, and taste the different Thanksgiving foods. You can even set up a sensory bin with Thanksgiving-themed items, such as turkey feathers, corn kernels, and cranberries.
  • Play Thanksgiving-themed games. There are many fun Thanksgiving-themed games that you can play with toddlers, such as turkey bingo, pumpkin toss, and leaf matching.
  • Take lots of pictures. Thanksgiving is a special time, so be sure to capture all the memories with your toddler.

With a little planning and flexibility, you can make Thanksgiving a fun and enjoyable holiday for everyone involved, including your toddler.

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