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A Holiday Hand

Preparing a Thanksgiving dinner presents families with many fun, and sometimes challenging, opportunities. From sharing recipes passed down from your great-grandmother to negotiating who gets the drumsticks, there are many tasks to accomplish before everyone sits down to a delicious dinner.

After the parades have passed or before the football begins, knowing how you can amuse your family and keep them involved in the spirit of the day will give everyone another reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving.

1. Use idle hands. Give your children a job in the kitchen or at the family dining table to keep them busy and make them part of the meal. Dusting the table, folding the napkins or adding the croutons to the salad diverts attention from fighting or boredom and helps them pass time. Whether they’ve created place cards or filled water glasses, your kids will be proud as you all sit down to celebrate knowing they had a hand in preparing your family’s meal.

2. Amusing origami.
A flower, pilgrim hat or turkey made with love are fun projects that give your holiday table a unique flair. Using napkins, tissue or construction paper, your children will enjoy creating festive decorations while waiting to eat. Easy Origami by John Montroll (Dover Publications, $3.95) is a helpful book that offers children of all ages and interests ideas for creating fun objects.

3. Place their energy. Carol Larson of Cicero began a tradition of having her children make the placemats for the family’s holiday meals. “I stock up on poster board, markers, felt and other craft items and let the kids’ imaginations take them on a creative journey,” says Larson.

4. Rake up an appetite. Send your ravenous bunch outdoors to rake up leftover leaves for a leaf-throwing contest or to jump into. Your kids can also go on a scavenger hunt for aromatic and decorative items to fill a bowl of fresh potpourri. Using pine branches, pine cones, colorful fall leaves or acorns, and gourds you can channel your children’s excess impatient energy into a centerpiece for your holiday table.

5. Call a turkey. Suggest your guests hold a turkey-calling contest, complete with lots of squawking, pecking, wattle shaking and flapping. With the potential to win prizes such as the first scoop of stuffing, your kids will love this lighthearted competition. Assigning category levels for the cutest, loudest or most authentic turkey, your entire family will enjoy waiting for dinner to be finished.

6. Infuse history. For years Marty Nowak’s children have used the time waiting for their family’s Thanksgiving meal to reflect on the past year. “Having the kids sort through photos or mementos for each of their scrapbooks has provided a dual purpose for us,” says the Syracuse mother of two. “They’re entertained and we all stay organized.” Working on their scrapbooks or your family’s photo albums also provides a foundation for kids to remember what people and events they’re most thankful for.

7. Travel back in time. Encourage your children to consider the lives of the first celebrants of Thanksgiving. Tying and decorating cornhusk dolls or figurines to use in a Thanksgiving play or as place card holders for the table includes different cultures and items into your holiday.

8. Document their thanks. Equip guests with stationery and colorful pens to write notes of thanks to family members or friends, or to start a Thanksgiving time capsule. Penning a letter detailing what they’re thankful for about the past year and what they hope to be thankful for next year gets your children thinking about the meaning of the season. Tuck their thoughts into an envelope to be opened at next year’s Thanksgiving so everyone can express themselves before dinner.

9. Traveling turkey eaters. If your children are impatiently pacing their grandmother or aunt’s floor waiting for dinner to be served, help them pass the time by completing themed crossword puzzles, cryptograms and word searches. Visit www.puzzlemaker.com before leaving for your feast to create word and number games to challenge each other or the family members you’ll be sharing dinner with.

10. Make a list.
As the day passes and children have exhausted their creativity, many parents find starting a Christmas or Hanukkah wish list helps to pass the time until dinner is on the table. Or, keeping the focus on being thankful, the kids can scan newspaper ads and catalogs looking for gifts they can give to people they’re thankful for.

© Family Times: The Parenting Guide of Central New York