To cook up the biggest meal of the year, proper prep is a must. From dressing the big bird to assembling your favorite side dishes, there are opportunities aplenty for kids to help out and learn along the way. So roll up sleeves, wash hands, and help those little sous chefs get to work!

Photo: woodleywonderworks via Flickr

1. Season the Bird
Let the kids do the ultimate honors by adding a dab of butter, shake of dried herbs, teaspoon of salt, or squeeze of lemon. A typical turkey rub recipe can be simple (here’s a yummy one from the Food Network), also providing a good way to help older kids with measuring and fractions.

Photo: mazaletel via Flickr

2. Gobble Up!
Any good chef tastes along the way. With so much cooking for the big meal, expand little palates or familiarize them with what will be on the main menu. You can make a motivating game out of it too with a taste test sticker chart or bingo sheet like this one from Catch My Party.

Photo: Yoshiyasu NISHIKAWA via Flickr

3. Stir the Pot
From stuffing to mashed potatoes, from pie filling to gravy, deliciousness can be stirred up at nearly every turn. Speaking of mashed potatoes, we’ve rounded up a cornucopia of kid-friendly, Thanksgiving-inspired recipes that promise to be picky-eater approved.

Photo: Jen Gallardo via Flickr

4. Decorate the Table
Turn the kids’ table into a craft table for some Thanksgiving-themed décor you can add to the adult table, too. Have the kids collect and paint acorns to scatter, arrange fall leaves in bud vases, or make a simple horn of plenty centerpiece. See our favorite ideas by clicking here.

Photo: Rachel Tayse via Flickr

5. Scoop Squash
While their jack-o-lantern carving skills are fresh, scoop out some winter squash or fresh pumpkins for clever containers for soup or stuffing. And if you’re wondering how to cook a whole pumpkin, Teaspoon of Spice can show you how.

 

Photo: Cassandre Crawford via Flickr

6. Save Some Leftovers
We tend to teach kids how to share with their friends early on. Thanksgiving offers the ideal opportunity to show them how to share with those who don’t have such plentiful plates. Make a drop-off together at your local food drive, have them help you welcome a neighbor to the table, or freeze and take some pre-meal portions to a family in need. If they really get in the spirit, host a Friendsgiving in support of No Kid Hungry!

How have the kids helped you with Thanksgiving prep? Share in the Comments!

— Jennifer Massoni Pardini