Fun Ways to Include Kids in Thanksgiving Cooking this Year

Thanksgiving cooking
Image via Jamie Davis Smith

Thanksgiving is around the corner! For many families that can mean hours spent in the kitchen preparing a feast. While some chefs prefer to be left alone, others love having little helpers in the kitchen for at least some of the Thanksgiving cooking!

Lee Scott, Chair of The Goddard School Educational Advisory Board thinks that cooking with kids can be fun as well as educational. With a little planning, even the youngest children can participate in Thanksgiving cooking. Scott encourages cooking with children to add to their STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) learning. Cooking covers skills in many of these areas. For example, figuring out how to use ingredients involves creativity, measuring and exploring the ingredients uses math and science skills, searching for recipes online uses technology skills, and building cakes can include engineering basics.

You can get your kids involved in the process early by asking for their suggestions on what to make. If you don’t want to wind up eating pizza for Thanksgiving, give them a couple of choices to choose from. There are plenty of kid-friendly Thanksgiving dishes to choose from. Once you have made your selection, work with your children to list the ingredients you will need. If you are using ingredients you already have, talk with your children about what they like and plan from there. By involving them in this way, you will be helping your children develop decision-making skills and learn about different foods. You can simplify the process for young children by giving them easy choices, such as whether to have carrots or celery or both in the stuffing.

Another fun way to involve your children in Thanksgiving cooking is to ask them to help with measuring, which can be a great math lesson. Place a piece of tape horizontally just below the correct line of a measuring cup to help younger children pour the correct amount. Older children can read the recipe out loud and measure ingredients as you cook. If your young children need help reaching the counter, move some of the prep to the table or use a safe tot-friendly stool like the True Tot Tower.

As you get ready to eat, everyone can help set the table. This teaches sorting, counting and organizing skills. When you sit down to enjoy the meal you have created together, ask your children what they like best.

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Read books about cooking to help children understand the cooking process while supporting the development of language skills. Try reading the stories at bedtime after you have been cooking together or before you make your meal to provide inspiration. Some suggestions are Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park and Ho Baek Lee, Feast for Ten by Cathryn Falwell, and Froggy Bakes a Cake by Jonathan London and Frank Remkiewicz.

Looking for Thanksgiving recipes kids can help with? 

{ MORE: A Dozen Kid-Friendly Fall Recipe Ideas }

Kidstir, a cooking subscription service for kids, suggests the below simple mini apple pie recipe as a great way to get even young kids excited about cooking:   


  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pie crust (we used a storebought organic pie crust)
  • Milk and egg (for brushing on pie tops)

Hands-on time: 15 minutes
start-to-eat time: 35 minutes

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Mix the chopped apples, sugar, cinnamon, and orange juice in a bowl. Set it aside to get nice and juicy.
  2. 2. Unroll the pie crust and place it on a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap on your countertop. Cut out twelve 2 1/2 inch circles with a round cookie cutter or rim of a glass. Press each one into a muffin cup.
  3. 3. Gather the dough scraps and roll them out. Use tiny cookie cutters to make decorative shapes or cut thin strips for lattice toppings.
  4. 4. Add 1 rounded tablespoon of filling to each cup. Dot with a tiny piece of butter. Add a top crust with slits, a pie crust star, or a lattice top. Pinch the edges with the tines of a fork to seal.
  5. 5. note Brush the mini pies with a beaten egg mixed with a little milk. Bake in a preheated oven at 375° for 15 to 17 minutes or until the filling bubbles and the crusts turn golden brown. Let the pies cool for just a few minutes in the pan, then carefully remove each one by running a sharp knife around the edges and popping it out of the pan.

Makes 12 Mini Pies 

Do you have a favorite dish that gets your children involved in Thanksgiving cooking? Share in the comments!

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Fun Ways to Include Kids in Thanksgiving Cooking this Year

Jamie is a Beltway Insider who loves channeling her pre-motherhood love of traveling into spending time exploring all D.C. has to offer with her brood of two girls and two boys ages 9, 7,5, and a baby. She is a reformed lawyer turned full-time kid wrangler who enjoys photographing her everyday chaos and anything salted caramel. Since life is never dull, she loves writing about the issues and events going on in her life at any given time, including caring for a daughter with special needs and th ... More

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