Gone are the days when children were “to be seen but not heard.” Why then, are young people still relegated to the kids’ table at Thanksgiving dinner? Anyone who’s ever had to sit at a rickety card table or even cozy up to a repurposed coffee table during a big holiday gathering can tell you it sucks — especially while the adults seem to be having all the fun at the “real” table.
Okay, okay; getting the short end of the stick is just part of being a kid sometimes. But even if you want to ignore the fact that’s a total bummer to be stuck at the kids’ table, when you put the young people out of the way on Thanksgiving, you’re missing out on all kinds of teaching moments — and possibly even the joy of watching your four year old gobble down a whole turkey leg in three minutes flat.
For starters, a kids’ table creates an us-versus-them mentality. When you force kids to sit at a separate table, or even in a different room, you create a divide. Now, more than ever, we need to demonstrate inclusivity. And let’s be honest: Everybody knows they’re at the kids table because they’re too immature to sit at the main table — which is really just an invitation for them to misbehave. Seriously, if everyone’s seated together, the chances of anyone flinging mashed potatoes or throwing Brussels sprouts across the room go way down.
Most kids get plenty of opportunities to play with other kids anyway, and even sit down at a table with other kids if they go to school or daycare. How often, though, are they given the chance to share a big meal with extended family or your adult friends? Thanksgiving dinner is a great way for young people to work on their social/party skills while still in the comforting presence of grown-ups they know and love.
It’s also the perfect time to teach (and maybe even practice) a little gratitude. Asking everyone to share something they’re grateful for is an easy way to start a conversation among people of all ages. Gratitude is always a good thing, of course, but it’s especially valuable for kids when Christmas and Hanukkah are right around the corner. And if you haven’t yet found a way to introduce topics of racism and inequality, talking a bit about the true origins of Thanksgiving is a good place to start (in an age-appropriate way, of course).
If your problem is that there’s no room at the big table, well, isn’t Thanksgiving all about togetherness, anyway? If you’re already setting up a card table, you might as well stick it on the end of the big one. Build a bigger table (throw a pretty tablecloth or linen sheet over it if it’s ugly) or squeeze in some extra chairs, and make your Thanksgiving dinner a truly inclusive event.
And whether you've got a newborn, infant, toddler, or even big kid, pull them right up to the table with the fresco (which you can use from newborn days up until age 8!). Pop off the two-tray system and slide them right over.