Want to involve kids in the Thanksgiving meal… without going crazy? Read on for my favorite tips, broken up by age appropriateness!

Thanksgiving calls to mind a few important themes: families and friends gathering together, eating a ton of food, and gratefulness for the blessings in our lives and country.

But if we’re being honest, kids are usually an afterthought to the whole “cooking and gathering” thing. Right? They’re cute, and their little turkey-themed crafts are adorable, but other than that they are often underfoot when in the kitchen, which relegates them to other areas of the house.

But in the spirit of Thanksgiving, this year, I’m going to take a deep breath, set aside my perfectionist tendencies, and involve my kids in the meal.


Read: How to Survive Cooking Your First Thanksgiving in 6 Important Steps


I wanted to gather some ideas for age appropriateness, so obvs I turned to the web and Pinterest. Turns out, there’s tons of ways kids can help that don’t involve the possibility of them stabbing themselves or each other with sharp knives or touching a hot stove.

Here are some of my favorite ideas to get kids helping at Thanksgiving, broken down by age:

Ages 2-4

Cook items in a crockpot or Instant Pot

I highly recommend any busy cook utilize one or both of these awesome timesaving devices in their Thanksgiving prep! Crockpot garlic mashed potatoes is one of my favorite, and little kids can easily turn it on or even monitor the doneness of the ingredients.

Mash potatoes

Whether you made them in the crockpot or on the stove, kids are great at mashing potatoes- both white and sweet.

Stir stuffing before it’s added to the bird

If you’re making stuffing from scratch, little hands are great at mixing the bread cubes and other seasonings and additions to the stuffing.

Set the table

Kids can lay out plates, silverware, glassware, and even bring some of the lightweight dishes to the table before everyone sits down to eat.

Decorate the table

Pinecones, (unlit) candles, placemats, place cards, pretty branches and flowers- let the kids go wild with creativity when it comes to decorating the holiday table.

Help clear the table after the meal

Use those short legs to ferret items from the table the the kitchen in double time.


Read: Harvest Rice Bake (perfect for vegan Thanksgiving)


Ages 5-7

Make place cards

Kids with writing skills make great place card designers. They can also cut out and decorate placemats.

Wash and prepare produce

Kids can tear lettuce, wash produce, break apart cauliflower, destem herbs, etc.

Grate cheese

Tip: freeze blocks of cheese for a few minutes before grating it so it’s easier to shred.  

Mix meringue or pie filling with hand mixer

Licking of the beaters afterwards is explicitly encouraged.

Peeling potatoes

Their small fingers are more adept at getting peel off of every nook and cranny.

Setting the timer

Let a more responsible kid be in charge of the timer and alerting adults as to when specific dishes are ready.


Read: Leftover Turkey Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping


Ages 8-12

Rolling out pie dough and pouring in filling

Pie is simple to make, whether it’s from scratch dough or refrigerated dough. Kids can roll it out, combine fillings, and pour the filling into the pie shells.

Checking the temp of the turkey

If kids can handle a hot oven, they can pop the thermometer into the turkey in the correct location (this is a great starter recipe) and monitor the temp as it cooks

Prepare balls of dough for baking rolls

The parker house rolls are simple to make and kids are great at rolling them into balls to place in the oven for baking

Basting the turkey

Show older kids how to carefully baste the turkey in its own juices, whether you use a baster or a spoon.

Making cranberry sauce or gravy

Cranberry sauce and gravy are simple, though they require a hot stove. If kids are responsible enough to manage a hot pot, they can make cranberry or gravy.


Want ideas and breakdown on how to prepare Thanksgiving dinner from top to bottom? I’ve got a whole meal plan, full of recipes, grocery list, tips, tricks, shortcuts, an hour-by-hour gameplan, and more in my Thanksgiving Survival Plan download!