How To Keep The Little Ones Entertained If You’re The Kid Wrangler This Holiday Season

With all of the tension that comes during the holiday family gatherings (especially in the aftermath of this past election), a huge highlight can be the presence of children. Whether you’re reunited with younger siblings, young cousins, or your neighbor’s kids, they add a lightness to family gatherings—but they can also demand a lot of time and attention. And more often than not, it becomes the duty of millennials in attendance to help entertain the kids in residence—whether you have an affinity for it or not. So, here are a few activities that are guaranteed to be easy, fun, and a happy distraction for them (and for you) while you’re waiting for that delicious dinner!


Crafts are ALWAYS a hit, especially turkey-themed ones! Odds are your kid has done these crafts at school and will be super excited to recreate them. There are some really fun ideas on this Pinterest link (ranging from decorating balloons to handprint and footprint turkeys).

One of my personal favorites is to make thank you notes and/or gratitude lists on turkey cut-outs. It’s super easy! All you’ll need is several sheets of construction paper, scissors, pencils/pens and crayons. Have your kid trace either your hand or their own on the construction paper, and then cut out the outline. You can cut out tiny triangles for a turkey “gobble”, and thinner strips of paper for legs.

Then, talk to your kid about who and what they are grateful for that day. They can pick five things, and write one on each of the turkey’s “feathers” (your finger outlines). It can also be fun (and sweet) to have them write a thank you note to each of their family members that is helping with dinner to thank them for all their hard work. They can use the cut-outs to make place cards for each family member– the list goes on and on! It’s super simple, little to no mess, and is a great way of incorporating the spirit of Thanksgiving with something to keep their hands busy.

Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is a staple in most households, and it can be a particularly fun and engaging experience for the little ones in your life. When we have a lot of young cousins/siblings at my house for Thanksgiving, we always watch the parade in the morning, and then we have the kids put on their own Thanksgiving Day parade for the family. This requires a little pre-planning for visiting cousins and friends. But, most often the kids just want to re-wear their Halloween costumes.

After the parade and while dinner is being prepared, I take the kids upstairs or outside and we plan the order of our parade, who wants to hold hands with who, etc. Then, at our scheduled time, we take a walk outside where the kids can parade and pretend like they’re in New York City. Depending on their ages, they may even want to come up with little dances or skits like they do in the live parade, so definitely encourage it. All you’ll need for this one is a little patience, a little pre-planning, and a good set of songs for them to march to.

Helping with Chores

While the older kids may moan and groan, most little kids LOVE helping out, especially at big fancy events. Make it an activity: Everyone has a very special, grown-up job that they are “in charge” of for the night. I guarantee they will take it with reverence and, as long as they aren’t handling anything breakable, it’s a win for everyone.

Your kids can help carry plate chargers, put down the table clothes, take out the forks, spoons and knives (depending on their age), setting napkins and helping with centerpieces. After dinner, they can be in charge of helping bring out the desserts, or just putting away whatever item they helped bring out in the first place. Now, depending on how late your family dinner goes and how old they are, they may fall asleep before dinner is over, but it’s definitely still worth playing with them.

Story time

There is a magic to story time that never fails—it succeeds in classrooms, it succeeds at bedtime, and it certainly succeeds at holiday gatherings. Story time helps kids develop their communication skills and encourage their imagination, which is vital in a child’s development. You can rely on picture books to tell these stories for you, or you can make up some of your own. Making up stories on a whim can be really fun—and the kids will really love it if you use their names and the names of people they know as the characters in the story. They can go on magical adventures through time, meet pilgrims and Native Americans, learn how to fly in space, or go swimming in the ocean with Nemo and Dory. And you don’t have to come up with all of the content yourself—ask them questions to fill in the gaps and keep them engaged. Then they’ll really feel like they’re a part of the story. A word of caution though: this tends to be a favorite, and you’ll be asked for at least a dozen encores, so only commit if you’re really ready (or if you know dinner is starting soon).

Outside Playtime

The actual temperature of Thanksgiving can be unpredictable, but as long as it’s not completely freezing outside, outdoor activity can be a welcome break for all involved. Grab a soccer ball, some jump rope, and chalk and you will have the perfect formula for at least an hour of outside playtime. Ask them to hunt for different sticks, stones, or leaves, and have them build something out of it or use them for some artwork – one of the many STEAM activities they could do.

This is a perfect way to get your kids-in-residence out and about in the fresh air after a morning of parade-watching. Most likely, some of the other adults (and even the teenage kids) will join you so it will be fun bonding for all.

What’s your favorite way to entertain your kids in residence? Tweet us @LitDarling!

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