November 20, 2012

With a little planning, kids will be welcome guests at the table

Personality-based strategies keep children engaged, and the holiday meal running smoothly.

Rants, raves, reviews and resources for Dallas-Fort Worth parents

Understanding how to keep younger children entertained on Thanksgiving, even if they are not your own, will help make the holiday peaceful and calm, making it all the more special for both you and your children.

Have a long list of helpful but fun jobs that you can give the tactile children to do, as it will help them feel important and special.

Even a small child can stir the stuffing for the turkey, put the napkins in the holders, or wash or mash the potatoes.

They will have a limited ability to sit for very long at the actual dinner, so seat them last and let them leave the table first. During the dinner, seat them away from your more formal guests, as tactile children are the ones who will grab a turkey leg and start banging it like a drumstick, or put their hands into the mashed potatoes, activities certain relatives can find alarming.

Have activities prepared for them to do after dinner, even if it's helping to clean up.

Visual children will love to help with decorations -- drawing the place cards, arranging the table or making a centerpiece.

Prep them on what to say if guests bring food that doesn't look appetizing, and to ease the dinner itself, these children will be great to sit next to a very particular older relative, as they will be tidy, organized and appropriate.

Try to arrange their food to look appealing on their plate, to ward off unnecessary fussiness. And if they do start to become restless, have coloring books on hand to take the pressure off.

Auditory children will be very entertaining guests.

Being naturally chatty, they will love asking questions, telling stories, singing songs and talking to everyone at dinner.

The auditory child will participate in the "What we are thankful for" ritual with enthusiasm, as he will have a long list of things to be thankful for.

All that said, if it's a large party, he may start to burn out, finding the extra noise tiring. Allow auditory children to leave the table and do quiet activities in another room, if need be.

Taste- and smell-oriented children will be enthralled at the prospect of having all their relatives and the people they love together.

They won't be a lot of help with organizing and cleaning up, but they will be very good at keeping Grandma company and making sure everyone is included and happy.

Expect them to move seats during the meal, as they will want to sit next to everyone and perhaps make a plan for doing so between meal courses. They can tend to get so excited that they become overemotional, so prepare them by making sure they get plenty of sleep, and don't let them get too hungry, even if that means providing a snack before the main dinner.

Thanksgiving is about being thankful for what we have in life, and our special little people are often the first on the list. Enjoy this time with the whole family, especially the little ones around your table.

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