October 15, 2009

10 Ways to Keep Kids Happy During the Holiday Meal

The holidays are a time for the entire family to gather for a leisurely meal. The meal can often go on for quite a while, leaving young children antsy in their seats. This meal is notoriously known for having a kids’ table where the children sit on their own with one adult, rather than at the grownups’ table. 

Whether the children sit at a specially designated table or with everyone, having a few activities planned during the meal will go a long way toward keeping everyone happy. Find inspiration for easy fun that is sure to keep your kids happy during your special holiday meal here:

  1. Fun Drinks. Set out special colored glasses—plastic would work well—and outfit the kids with fun straws, umbrellas, fruit, and ice cubes with holiday gummies frozen inside. The kids will be delighted with the fun drinks. They can even help make them before dinner and make re-fills too.
  2. Crayons. Place holiday-colored crayons on the table with plain white napkins at the kids’ place settings. Ask the kids to draw their favorite holiday scene on their napkins for added decoration and fun.
  3. Trivia. Have a ready-made holiday trivia game at the table. This works especially well with older kids, but you can also ask very simple questions to include the little ones too. For example, if this is a Thanksgiving meal, create a series of questions around the history of the holiday, traditions, etc. to keep them guessing.
  4. Your Little Helpers. Include your kids in the preparation of one of the holiday dishes; even little kids can help bake cookies. When you are ready to serve, engage the children in a discussion about how they made the dish and have them help serve it.
  5. Charades. Children often have a hard time sitting still at the dinner table for long periods of time. If the meal is long, have them take mini-breaks from the table. If you see your child fidgeting, ask them to get up and do a charade for the rest of the guests (such as a turkey for Thanksgiving or a reindeer for Christmas). After they are done, they can be seated again. This quickly breaks their monotony and also helps keep them at the table.
  6. Place Cards. Have the kids create place cards for the guests to easily find their seats at the dinner table. They can create these cards using heavy stock paper and fancy glitter glue to spell out the names.
  7. Storytelling. At some point during the meal, allow the children to tell the story of the holiday in their own words. See how much they remember about the pilgrims or the Christmas story or Santa’s origins. Alternately, allow children to read a special holiday tale from a favorite book to everyone gathered.
  8. A Chorus Line. Although singing is usually considered rude at the dinner table, children have often learned special songs at school for the holidays. Allow them to get up and sing a chorus of favorite tunes. Invite everyone to sing together.
  9. Clean Up. There is always plenty to clean up after a holiday meal. With kids ready to get up and leave the table, provide them with the task of helping clear the plates. It makes it easier on you and keeps the kids industrious.
  10. Card Sharks. As the kids rush to finish their dessert, have several different card decks on their table that they can play with as everyone else finishes their meals. Games like Old Maid, Go Fish, and Concentration are all good choices.

The holiday meal is an annual tradition. Make sure to include some activities for the kids so they will enjoy it too!

-- Lisa Kothari, Peppers and Pollywogs



One thing that I have always incorporated was "making butter." In a clear jar (depending on age glass) add heavy cream, salt and shake! Easy and fun. I also have adults that offer unwanted assistance in the kitchen shake. ;0)
For help with cooking quick bake rolls are easy for pre-k. placing napkins and setting the table can be fun for most kids if you sell as fun.
I always have a holiday craft for our guest to make for their take home gift.

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