Thanksgiving: Keeping the kids busy while dinner is being prepared

For some, holding a Thanksgiving get-together for family and friends is a well-organized breeze. For others, the visions of getting food on the table while keeping an orderly house from being undone by bored children before the guests arrive puts them over the edge.

Since Thanksgiving is meant to be a time for making sweet family memories, we have put together a list of ideas that create the proper mood without locking the children outside.

Yes, it can be all about fun and games

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (NBC) is always fun to watch. Make it even more entertaining for the kids by turning the parade into a bingo game. Print off this free, ready-made bingo game from Family Fun that includes all of the parade highlights including the Radio City Rockettes, the Tom Turkey float and Santa Clause.

Let them help

These cute Thanksgiving place card and place mat kits make the table special. For less than $15 your kids can create 12 place settings.

Start a new family tradition with a Thanksgiving tablecloth . The kids will like it because they can write on the table. Buy a light-colored tablecloth and fall-colored fabric pens ahead of time. Let the kids write what they are thankful for on the cloth. ParentsConnect.com suggests that you place a pen by each person's place setting so they can write down something for which they are grateful as well.

Get them involved as the guests arrive

Make a "thankful tree" like the one here to use as a centerpiece. Have the kids hand out the leaves to guests to write down their blessings. Then the kids can hang the leaves on the tree.

Turn it into a game. Another way to share what everyone is thankful for is to have the kids pass out slips of paper so everyone can write their thoughts down anonymously (older guests can help the little ones). Later, mix them all up, read them aloud, and have everyone guess who wrote each one. These could be saved and kept as a reminder of blessings for years to come.

Let the kids be in charge of photographing or videoing the table, guests chatting and all of the other memory-making events that go with a family holiday. If there are a few children who are interested in using the camera, you could purchase enough disposable cameras to go around and then have those photos developed digitally onto a CD. Or they may need to have time limits with the camera and take turns.

Bring out their creativity. Give them supplies to make pilgrim and Indian costumes out of brown paper sacks and construction paper.  Your kids may even like to make up a "play" to reenact the first Thanksgiving for the rest of the family in their newly-created costumes.

If you still want to lock your children outside, think about renting a bounce house for around $100 . All of the kids (and grown-ups) in the neighborhood can be entertained and out of the kitchen while the food is being prepared. You may make some new mom-friends on your street in the process.

Enjoy this special day with family. Kids love to be involved with the preparations and entertainment. With a little bit of planning, your pre-Thanksgiving hubbub can be less stressful and not so hectic.

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