The three T’s of Thanksgiving: tradition, togetherness, and tons of food. It's time to add one more to that list: training. Time to make a master chef out of the little sous chef you might already have watching your culinary feats from the sidelines.
Kids are naturally curious, and they definitely love getting their hands dirty. So kids are a more natural fit in the kitchen than some wary parents might think. It’s also important to get them involved in cooking from a young age, so they can start learning the basics and set the foundation for a healthy future with food.
Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is a Herculean task. It can be hard to surrender some of the responsibility to a rookie chef. On this day of all days, time is of the essence, and the stakes are high for making a feast that will dazzle and delight guests. And then of course, there’s the added stress of having children anywhere near knives and stoves.
But letting kids in on the action definitely embodies the three T’s of Thanksgiving to a T. “Cooking with kids takes a little longer, but it’s bonding time,” says Jean Colliver, a Thrive Market member and supermom from Virginia Beach, Va. Maybe slowing down is just what’s needed to really take in this special holiday. So pass on some traditions to the little ones in your life and let them help get that ton of food on the table by giving them some of these fun, easy tasks. First step: Thoroughly wash those tiny hands.
Keep things in check
With a mile-long to-do list, start a checklist and put your little sous chef in charge of marking items off as they're tackled. It will be super helpful and they’ll feel really powerful—win-win. You can even sneak a peek at the list now and then to make sure all bases are covered.
Make a wash-and-chop assembly line with your kids passing veggies to you to do the slicing and dicing.
Making butter at home is so easy and loads of fun for kids, not to mention it tastes amazing. All it takes is a container with an airtight lid, a little salt (optional), and some cream—grass-fed is best for flavor. Just put the cream into a container—you can add salt to help preserve it, but if you have butter left over after Thanksgiving dinner, you’re eating it wrong (we’re kidding). Have your kids shake up the container for 15 minutes. It will divide into buttermilk and milk solids. Pour it all into a fine mesh sieve over a mixing bowl and save the buttermilk for later. Rinse the milk solids in the sieve with cold water to remove residual buttermilk. Voila! You won’t believe you’ve got butter.
Mash ’em up
Kids were made to mash potatoes! To take their appreciation for food to the next level, try this recipe for parsnip-apple puree with them. They might be wary of eating something that sounds so novel, but if they’ve had a hand in whipping it up, they won’t be able to resist a taste.
Just knead it
“Kids love kneading and touching gooey stuff,” says Colliver. Let them get their little hands all over that bread dough. The ingredients are minimal and dough thrives on being handled and manipulated, so kids can really play with it to their hearts content. Their arms will likely tire out before there’s any risk of over-kneading, too.
Sometimes you just need help with those little details to move things along in the kitchen. Kids to the rescue! They can easily be trusted to fill deviled eggs. Depending on the kids’ age, maybe they won’t always look pretty—but you can handle the part the makes them taste good. These little appetizers are so addicting, most guests won’t balk if they look imperfect. (And if they do, then more for you.)
Soup it up
Soups can be pretty straightforward, so with parental supervision, whipping up a batch of something so hearty and decadent can be a big confidence-booster for kids. Carve out some special cooking time to make a batch like this kabocha squash soup. While this flavorful fall soup is a little ambitious, kids can definitely help with some of the steps, like scooping out the flesh from the squash and pureeing the whole mixture.
We’ve put together a kit for making the easiest pumpkin pie ever! The recipe is simple. Let your kids mix up the ingredients (with eggs and lemon zest), pour it into the included pie crust, and pop it in the oven.
Setting the table
This is an easy task that also allows kids to engage in organizational and creative thinking. It also can inspire them to develop a habit of sitting down for a proper meal at the table instead of in front of the television.
The part most grown-ups hate—cleaning up—is also the part that small kids strangely seem to like. Loading the dishwasher is easy, but it’s also really important, and kids in general seem to enjoy being little helpers. So, let them do their thing while you stand proud. You both did good!
Photo credit: Kristen Rogers Photography via Stocksy