Making the Kids’ Table Special
By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
One of the things that I am most thankful for each year come November are the family traditions that we enjoy for the holidays, such as decorating for the season. Whenever possible, I like to involve my children in this so that they can feel a sense of connection and pride in the festive feeling in our home. This is especially true at Thanksgiving. If you can’t remember a year where you were banished to the kids’ table despite feeling way too old and way too cool, then you’ve either got a teeny-tiny family, or your family had a massive dining room table!
This year, make sure that the kids’ table is the place to be, and have some fun with your children in the process. A few simple and fun touches will make your kids feel like their meal is equally as special and fussed over as the adults’. If you have a large number of children coming early in the day, you could plan one of the crafts below as a time-filler to keep little hands busy and out of the kitchen before the big meal. You could even ask one of the too-cool teenagers you’re sticking at the table to supervise the projects, or even a dad–though make sure you ask before kickoff if you want quality supervision.
Basic Table Set Up
I like to use a real tablecloth for two reasons. One, I’m cheap and they are washable, and two, because it gives the kids a “grown up” feeling. However, there’s nothing wrong with a runner made out of butcher paper or newsprint to let the kids color.
For an easy and interactive centerpiece, secure a block of floral foam inside a miniature tin pail. Decorate the pail with stickers or ribbon if you wish. Then, set several small branches (yes, from the back yard; let the children gather them as part of the adventure) into the foam. Provide your young decorators with individual silk leaves and have them write what they are thankful for on the leaves. A parent or older child can tie the leaves with ribbon or affix Christmas ornament hooks to them. Now they are ready to hang from the “tree” of branches and foam. Other fun pieces for the center of the table include pine cones, mini gourds, and mini pumpkins. If you’ve got particularly active children, you could even include sheets of face stickers at the table so the kids can give their pumpkins personality.
This project takes a traditional holiday element and makes it more kid-friendly. Cornucopias are an easy table addition. If you’re not adverse to sugar, fill a waffle cone with fruit-shaped candies and pumpkin candies and use it to decorate the center of the table. If your family likes to keep things a little healthier, have younger children pluck grapes while older children slice bananas. Fill your waffle cone with fruit salad for a tasty appetizer for each child’s plate. Either option comes in handy when the turkey needs an extra 15 minutes.
I know it sounds crazy to do for children, but cloth table settings can actually make an adorable keepsake while enhancing the decoration of the kids’ table. You can find white cloth napkins at various retailers for between $2 and $3. Taking the napkins, trace each child’s hand with a fabric marker or pencil and then allow them to paint it in, adding turkey details at the end. Or, just go for it and make hand-print turkeys. Paint the child’s palm and thumb brown, painting each additional finger in a fall color, like yellow, red, orange and green. In either case, children should immediately wash their hands when done. Mix a little sugar or salt in the soap to help get paint off little fingers. If anything doesn’t wash off each crevice or nail, don’t worry. It will flake off in a day or so. If you’re making these the day of, be sure to start early, especially if you’re having children paint in their hand prints. Children tend to go a little heavy-handed on the paint and you’ll need drying time!
Your name cards can do double duty when they mark each child’s place and hold their crayons! Use a pine cone turned on its side and
glued to a heart-shaped piece of paper for “feet”. Be sure to use heavy construction paper or foam sheets to help balance the pine cone. On what would be the bottom of the cone, attach a piece of paper shaped like an 8, decorating the top with a turkey face, and writing the child’s name on the bottom before attaching it. Finally, nestle crayons under the “petals” of the pine cone to complete your turkey.
However you choose to decorate and celebrate, I hope on this Thanksgiving you have lots to be thankful for, including healthy, happy children running around your kitchen!
Kristina Schnack Kotlus is a local mother of three children, and the owner of PWCMoms.com, a resource for parents and families in Prince William County, and Blog of the Year for 2012. You can find her at Facebook.com/PwcMoms or tweet her @PwcMoms, too!