7 Ways to Entertain a Toddler on Thanksgiving

It's the busiest cooking day of the year, and your toddler can likely sense that something special is happening, which means they want to be involved. And while we'd love to indulge our toddler's desire to "help," slowing down the meal prep process on Thanksgiving can lead to disastrous results.

Instead, arm yourself with activities that will keep your toddler busy and (hopefully) out of the kitchen and your way on Thanksgiving. Here are seven ideas to help you plan fun and engaging activities for your toddler. 

1

Offer Festive Activities

Toddler Thanksgiving

Courtney Weittenhille / Getty Images

Prepping Thanksgiving dinner is always a process, and there's a good chance your toddler is going to want to help. Set up a place to play near mom and dad, and be prepared with a basket of festive activities that will keep her busy with new trinkets and toys.

No need to go overboard — Thanksgiving-themed coloring pages that can be downloaded and printed from your home computer, as well as turkey stickers and other art supplies, should do the trick. 

2

Let Them Help With a Project

Keeping your toddler out of the kitchen and your hair might actually be impossible, so plan for this by having a simple cooking project ready for your toddler to participate in. Find ways to cook with your toddler that are safe and fun. Just make sure you also plan for the inevitable mess and clean up. 

3

Get Them Outside

If there are other adults in the house to help you manage your toddler, enlist them to take your toddler out for a few hours. As long as it's not raining, getting your toddler outside and playing will help them burn off some energy, which will also help ensure a good nap and a pleasant demeanor for family and friends who come to celebrate the holiday with you.

Bundle your toddler up and head to the backyard or the local park. Being outside is a great way to boost everyone's mood in light of the pandemic.

4

Watch a Themed Movie

If screen time is a special treat for your toddler, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to allow it — and it will help you get some work done while your toddler is busy watching. There are plenty of kid-friendly Thanksgiving movies and shows, many featuring your toddler's favorite characters. 

You may even be able to set up a watch party either through a provider like Sling, or by setting up a FaceTime call while everyone watches the same movie. (Just be sure to time the start so you're all at the same place in the movie.) This is a great way to share an experience together when the pandemic is keeping you apart.

5

Make an Easy Thanksgiving Craft

Thanksgiving-themed crafts abound on the Internet. Choose an age-appropriate craft that allows you to be as hands-off as possible, and set up materials in advance. You can listen to their chatter, offer suggestions, and ask questions while you work.

6

Use Technology to Your Advantage

In years past, most people tuned in to one of the country's longest-running holiday traditions—the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade. Unless you lived in New York City and could attend the parade in person, most tune in to the parade on TV. The three-hour-long event wowed little ones with songs, balloons, floats, and performances—even if it didn't hold their attention the entire time. 

This year, due to COVID-19, the parade is a made-for-TV event only—no live spectators allowed. But if you don't think that will hold your little one's attention, why not plan a Zoom call with grandma while you're cooking?

7

Let Them Make Their Own Feast

Toddlers love to copy whatever their parents are doing, so set up an area where they can make a pretend Thanksgiving feast of their own. If you have a play kitchen with pretend food, this is a great time to encourage them to use it. You can also get out extra bowls, pans, and (safe) utensils, and let your toddler mimic what you're cooking up in the kitchen. 

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