Young Hands, Helping Hands

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Beth Pinyerd

By Beth Pinyerd

“Over The River and Through The Woods” by Lydia Maria Child is one of our favorite traditional songs that we love to sing on Thanksgiving. I love the stanza that says, “Over the river and through the woods, now Grandma’s cap I spy. Hurrah for fun, the pudding’s done. Hurrah for the pumpkin pie.”

Why not include young hands in making the pudding and pumpkin pie?

Over the years of Thanksgiving feasts in my early childhood classroom, the very best feasts the children and I have enjoyed are when they are able to take part in preparing the meal. This involves being safety conscious and providing oversight to young children.

I would like to share some simple suggestions for including young children in Thanksgiving meal preparation. Cooking with your children is a rewarding experience that they will remember. Too, small tasks can be spread out in preparing for your family Thanksgiving feast on Thanksgiving Eve as well as Thanksgiving Day. 

Include your young children in meal planning. Present the general meal plan and let them make suggestions of foods they would like to add. With other family members, they can share ideas. Too, Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for young children to try different foods.

As we know, green beans and green bean casserole is truly a Thanksgiving tradition. Let those young hands snap the ends of green beans as well as just snapping green beans in halves. As a teacher, I tried to incorporate a math lesson with green bean snapping by counting the green beans needed. Young children normally compete with each other to see who can snap their bowl or pile of beans the fastest. Hey, this can be a fun activity between parents and children to see who can snap many beans the fastest.

Children love to use a peeler to peel potatoes and other vegetables or fruits. This is done with older children after they have been taught what to do and too, adults have to closely supervise this meal task. This also applies if children are using a grater to grate cheese or other holiday foods. 

Potatoes are a staple at many Thanksgiving feasts. After potatoes are boiled, cooled and soft, young children can use a hand masher or big spoon to mash the potatoes.

Sweet potato casserole is a yum, yum favorite at Thanksgiving feasts. Let young children count out the marshmallows to place on top of the casserole. They can enjoy a snack of marshmallows as they embark on this meal prep.

If vegetable or fruit salads are a part of your Thanksgiving menu, young children can break up rinsed lettuce in small pieces, drop other vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, etc. into the salad mix. With fruit salads, young hands can mix apple chunks, banana slices, pineapple, peaches, etc. Many congealed salads call for mashing fruits and cream cheese together. With clean hands, children can enjoy mashing fruits to be poured into a congealed mix. Children feel connected with the foods when they can be a part of the preparation process. Watching the congealed salad gel with different fruits is a wonderful delicious science lesson.

With so many dessert preps of pudding, pies, cakes, cookies and candy for Holiday meals young children can easily be included in the measuring and mixing of ingredients needed for meal desserts. They will be fascinated by the creation that their stirring and mixing have done when a delicious pie or cake is eased out of the oven for the Thanksgiving table. 

In preparing the turkey, this is more of an observation lesson for very young children as they watch how you prepare this traditional Thanksgiving meat. They can watch you prepare the turkey for baking. They can watch you set the baking temperature and timer.   Cornbread stuffing or dressing is something they can engage in by breaking up the bread needed to mix in with the spices.

Another easy task for young hands is for your younger children to butter the meal rolls.  Keeping a stick or tablespoon of butter out to warm up to room temperature makes it easy for your young child to spread on rolls or bread. You can add a little bit of honey, sugar or cinnamon to the soft butter to make a delicious spread. Some families may want to make their own butter with a mason jar and heavy whipping cream where the children get to shake the jar of whipping cream till it thickens to butter. This has always been a classroom favorite. You can add little bit of your family’s favorite seasoning to add extra flavor to the butter concoction. 

Young children love to set the table for family Thanksgiving meals. Adults will need to gently guide on how the table is to be set. Simple paper placemats can be drawn by each child as the Thanksgiving meal is cooking. This will give the children an activity to do as well as feel a part of the Thanksgiving meal prep. 

Families on this Thanksgiving Feast gently remind your children of the fruits of the spirit from Galatians 5:22, 23 — But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. With life’s recipes pour in a gallon of love, sprinkle in a dash of joy, weigh out a pound of peace, throw in a pinch of patience, pour in a cup of kindness, measure out a tablespoon of goodness, pour in a quart of faithfulness, pour in a pint of gentleness and serve up a bowl of self-control as part of your Thanksgiving family feast with young children. Reflect back on “Gratitude Altars” this past year with your children and family and truly thank God for all He has done on this Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving from Classroom Observer!

Beth Pinyerd

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