With all the planning and preparation that goes into a family holiday get-together, often the to-do list can become overwhelming as organizers fail to take advantage of opportunities to include their most willing and available helpers — children.

With all the planning and preparation that goes into a family holiday get-together, often the to-do list can become overwhelming as organizers fail to take advantage of opportunities to include their most willing and available helpers — children.

Blue Zones Project Organization Lead Miriam Bell said kids can be involved in the preparation of the meal-planning and cooking.

“Let the kids pick their favorite side and engage them in the preparation of that dish,” she said. “Review the ingredients, shopping list and recipe with them before cooking.”

With adult supervision, she said children can prepare their portion of the meal.

“Examples of great kid-friendly recipes/tasks include pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, salad, roasted Brussel Sprouts, peeling carrots, scrubbing potatoes, juicing lemons or limes, making toast for breadcrumbs/dressing, design a fruit and/or vegetable tray.

Salvation Army Shawnee Capt. Stacey Connelly said even the smallest little ones can help empty cans of food.

“My girls love helping in the kitchen,” she said, “so we have a step stool so that they can help pour in ingredients that have already been measured out.”

Connelly also said children can help set the Thanksgiving table.

“Include holiday crackers (poppers),” she said. “They come with a crown that everyone can wear.

Bell went a step further on that note.

“Have the kids help create the table decorations and make name place cards,” she said. “Provide craft supplies and a sample for each name place card, and let the kids finish the job,” she said.

Also, provide the supplies and a picture or demonstration of how the table settings should be.

Children can be a great help after dinner is finished, as well.

“Assign post-Thanksgiving meal tasks such as clearing the table, gathering the linens or trash, drying and putting dishes away, putting away leftovers, putting ingredients away, serving beverages or dessert, leading a walk for guests around the neighborhood,” Bell said.

Creating a tradition for Thanksgiving is a great way to put family first and turn a stressful cooking experience into a bonding experience kids or grandkids, she said.

And the day doesn't have to be all about prepping a feast.

There are other ways to create a child-friendly holiday; give it a boost by adding in new activities.

Connelly said pack up the kiddos and bring them to The Salvation Army Thanksgiving Meal to help pass out silverware or help serve.

“Game night with the kids or even puzzles are always a way to enjoy time as a family, especially during the holidays,” she added.

Bell suggests selecting a pre- or post-thanksgiving meal card, board or outdoor game for all to play.

Examples of such games include: Twister, Checkers, Uno, Simon Says, Kick the Can, Pin the feather on the turkey (Similar to pin the tail on the donkey), Pumpkin roll relay and/or Charades.

Bell said the family can participate in or create a family turkey trot walk/run.

“Engage the kids in creating the swag or souvenirs for participants including decorated t-shirts, homemade medals or bags,” she said.

Another activity could be to put up the Christmas tree that evening and decorate it as a family, Connelly said.

She also said contests could be a fun addition to the day, like gingerbread house decorating or cookie decorating.