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Tips for a Smooth Thanksgiving with Kids

Updated: Jan 30, 2022

Whether its visiting with family for the holidays, making reservations at a nice place or its hosting Thanksgiving yourself; navigating the holidays with kids can throw a wrench in any plan. Here are some great ways to help make Thanksgiving go smooth with kids:


Nap time is essential for little ones, so make sure that dinner time is after the normal wake up time. Be prepared for baby or toddler to change their sleep pattern that day, either earlier, later, too long or not long enough. It happens almost every holiday for almost every kid.

Also make sure you establish boundaries with your family about letting them sleep. We know that family means well and is excited to see your bundle of joy, but disrupting nap time will not help Thanksgiving run smoothly or even well.


We want our kids to be able to eat the Thanksgiving dinner at meal time, but we also want to prevent whining and crabby behavior. Light snacks in the morning or before dinner is okay. Have a veggie tray available, yogurt, fruit or fruit cups, applesauce, puff cereal, anything that will help curb kiddos appetite for a short time.

Meal Prep

If you are hosting Thanksgiving and the kids are old enough to help, let them help. Even if its not a big task, something minor can give the kids a sense of pride and helpfulness. Another great tip if you are hosting is to have your family bring side items and make Thanksgiving potluck style. This puts less pressure on the host, because when it comes to little kids and holidays no one needs more pressure. If you are going to a potluck style Thanksgiving and have kids at home try not to do elaborate dishes, make it quick, make it simple and if all else fails pick something up from one or our fabulous local restaurants and dump it in your own dish.


No matter how many kids will be attending your Thanksgiving, having some form of entertainment or engagement is important. Activities, coloring sheets or books and games are great ways to entertain kids. Please do not bring your childs favorite toy, stuffed animal or blanket. It never fails that it will either get lost, left behind or something on it. Also please make sure you discuss with other parents bringing kids about whether or not their kid(s) feel comfortable bringing electronics. A simple conversation ahead of time can prevent a child from feeling left out or upset by not having an electronic.

Meal Time

* Whether you have a kids table or have the kids sit at the same table as the adults, its always important to have a discussion with your partner or someone who could help about what happens when there is a fit, tantrum or just upset kid. Take turns, no one wants to eat Thanksgiving alone and the kid needs to be taken care of.

*If you have a baby make sure you have easy access to your child or bring a highchair with you.

*Have realistic expectations about what kind of foods your kid will eat and how much. I absolutely recommend telling your kid they can have a roll after they finish their vegetables or whatever. If your kids are like mine they want to eat bread and nothing but bread so this rule helps make sure they get the good stuff in first.

*If your kids are old enough to understand, make sure you have the conversation with them ahead of time about trying things even if they may not like it and not to complain with picky eaters because we don't want to upset a family member. I know some families with picky eaters where the kid only eats a couple of things at Thanksgiving and when they go home they make chicken nuggets. You do whatever works for your family.

*It does not matter how old your kids are, always have a lid on the cups!!! This prevents spills and a lot less mess to clean up.

*Some hosts are not familiar with kids and that's okay, but make sure that you bring a kids plate and kids silverware just in case. It's not that they don't care, it's that they don't know and we don't want their nice plates to get broken or ruined.

*If you have a baby, make sure you feed baby before meal time so that baby can be settled and content while you eat.

*Make sure that you and your partner have an exit strategy, some times the Holidays are a little bit of an overload for a baby or toddler. The daily routine has changed, there's lots of people around and sometimes the tantrum lasts a little longer than you thought it would and that is okay. It's what happens with life with toddlers or kids. (For most kids that get overwhelmed, it happens during meal time)

What To Bring With You

*Bring extra diapers and wipes!!!

*Bring a back up outfit or 2. Spills happen, messes happen, blow outs happen, just be prepared. (It may be a good idea to bring a couple of back up shirts for you too)

*If your Thanksgiving is later in the evening, bring pajamas to change your kid into just before you leave. If your kid ate really well they may just fall asleep in the car and you may be able to carry them to their bed or crib.

*Have a small first aid kit on hand, just the basics and essentials, nothing major.

What happens if you accidentally leave the Baby Bag At Home

It's happened time and time again, where the routine changes and you spent time packing the baby bag and then you accidentally leave it at home. On a normal day that would be fine, but on Thanksgiving most stores are closed. So where do you go and what do you do??? Don't sweat it!! There are a few stores open on Thanksgiving Day for those emergencies:




*Dollar General

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