Early-Bird, Make-Ahead THANKSGIVING DINNER SKILL SCHOOL; cookin’ up gobble-gobble-grub & gratitude with kids in the kitchen!


  1. Our 7 Tips for Kickin’ it with Kids in the Kitchen with cooking tasks by age group (tots to teens)!
  2. Our Thanksgiving Meal Skill School Menu Links
  3. Listen-While-You-Work Thankgiving-y Audiobooks & Playlists for cookin’ up grub & gratitude with kids in the kitchen!

“The hands are the instruments of a man’s intelligence.” -Maria Montessori

Skill School is one of my favorite aspects of being a Homeschool mom. As a curriculum writer, former educator, and alternative-education enthusiast, I am passionate about teaching kids plenty of practical-life-skills. While most schools do not have the time, resources, or quite possibly the conviction to include vocational education in their curriculum, we Homeschool parents can honor daily life activities, practical skills, and artistic/vocational learning as equally critical to our children’s development and education as his or her academic courses. And we owe it to our children and society to do nothing short of that!

Our less-than-capable #adulting culture is a direct result of our failings (schools’, teachers’, parents’) to educate the little hands as well as the little heads that are placed under our care. Placing more emphasis on cognitive drills than on good hand-skills may be the norm at most schools, and may even be widely accepted by most parents and educators across the globe. However, the true education experts and visionaries (such as Maria Montessori, Rudolf Steiner, Charlotte Mason, even Socrates, Einstein, and . . . oh yeah . . . the Bible) would disagree.

Do we treat our hands like . . . “instruments”? What about the hands of our children? Do we practice the ancient wisdom of doing with all our might whatever it is that our hand finds to do (Ecclesiastes 9:10)? Our kids’ fingers were designed for far greater abilities—a much higher calling—than merely clicking buttons on a remote or cell phone. Let’s give our children the gift of helping them cultivate their gifted hands. And what could be a better time to start than in preparing Thanksgiving dinner together?

Join us this week in Skill School as we get cookin’! Grab your kids, and meet us in the kitchen as we learn cooking skills with Thanksgiving in our hearts!

Our 7 Tips for Kickin’ it with Kids in the Kitchen with cooking tasks by age group (tots to teens)!

Cooking with kids in the kitchen is no small task! If just thinking about it makes you nervous, you are not alone! Many people tend to get flustered in the kitchen, kids or no kids. It’s hot, there are knives, there is mess, and there is pressure to have something to put on that table. But I encourage you not to let any doubts deter you from having this amazing experience with your kid(s)!

This will be my second year making the Thanksgiving meal with our son (now in Kindergarten), and the first year I will be including our two-year-old daughter (gulp)! Seeing how proud our son was of our Thanksgiving meal last year is something I will never forget. It was a huge boost to his confidence, and he has been talking about making this meal again with me all year. I’m so pleased that it made such an impression on him. That doesn’t mean, however, that cooking a Thanksgiving meal with a preschooler was as easy as . . . pie. I have several key takeaways (you know, learned-the-hard-way-tips) that I will be using this year as we cook up all the Thanksgiving trimmings together!

1.) GIVE IT PLENTY OF TIME (and thyme)

Start early. Like a week early. You can refrigerate a good chunk of the Thanksgiving meal a few days or even a whole week ahead: herb butter, cranberry sauce, dips, pumpkin pie filling, washed & chopped veggies . . . just pick an item or two a day to tackle with your kiddos, and take a day off when you need it.

Also, in each cooking task with your child, allow him/her plenty of time and freedom to explore and play. If she wants to scrub the potatoes for thirty minutes, try to keep busy with other things in the kitchen (like things she can’t do) and just let her go to town scrubbin’ the spuds! If he wants to pick every thyme leaf off the stalk one by one with a pair of tweezers, by all means let him! Do the dishes, make dinner, fold a pile of clothes and let the little ones fall in love with the holiday colors, smells, tastes, and textures they are getting their hands into. Trust me, these are forever memories . . . try not to disrupt them. For older kids, direct them as little as humanly possible and don’t rush them!


You will want lots and lots of clean space to set your kid(s) up at different stations. Our favorite place to work is at the kitchen table. I assemble various projects on the counters and then bring them to the table one at a time for relaxed prep. We sit at the table and listen to music or an audiobook and it’s much less tiring than standing for hours in the kitchen.


Don’t expect that your child will be able to (or will want to) help you with every single cooking item on the Thanksgiving menu. Based on your child’s age and level of focus/interest, choose ahead of time which cooking items to allow him or her to try. Here are my recommendations by age (will vary somewhat child to child):

~Under Two~

  • Wear your baby/tot or seat him/her close to the action
  • Allow your little one to smell, taste, and touch food when you can (herbs, lemons, mashed potatoes, etc.)
  • Allow your little one to play with various cooking implements (empty mixing bowl and wooden spoon, whisk, napkin rings, etc.)
  • Tackle big cooking jobs with older children during baby’s nap

~Two to Five~

In addition to the ideas from the previous age category, allow your young child to attempt some of the following:

  • washing herbs, cranberries, potatoes, vegetables either on a high stool at the sink, or in a large bowl of water brought to his/her chair or highchair
  • scrubbing potatoes and other vegetables with a vegetable brush
  • drying herbs and vegetables with a towel
  • pulling leaves off herb stalks and placing in a bowl
  • using a potato masher
  • removing seeds from a halved, raw pumpkin
  • scooping out the pulp from a cooked and cooled pumpkin
  • pushing buttons on electric mixers, beaters, etc.

~Five to Eight~

In addition to the ideas from the previous age category, allow your child to attempt some of the following:

  • peeling potatoes and other vegetables with a vegetable peeler
  • mixing with a wooden spoon
  • using a lemon juicer
  • stirring at the stove with supervision
  • cutting herbs and vegetables with help and/or supervision (use best judgement according to child’s ability)
  • rolling and shaping pie crusts

~Eight and Up~

In addition to the ideas from the previous age categories, your eight year old should be able to try out / help with all of your cooking tasks with the exception of moving very hot or very heavy items out of the oven and/or off the stove . . . and I do not recommend that children work directly with the raw turkey or anything that comes into contact with it. Kids are much more susceptible to salmonella than adults are.


When you feel your energy just starting to lag, or when your child’s behavior or focus shows those first signs of wear, finish whatever task you must, clean up the kitchen, and start fresh again another day.


We had our first Thanksgiving prep cooking day today, and half an hour in our two year old announced: “Ok. It not coooging (cooking) time any moe! It’s eating time!” Teens will act similarly to tots in this way. Have something yummy to sip and snack on ready to go for when kiddos get hungry and cooking time turns to eating time!


Cooking with kids is an awesome time to listen to an audiobook or some lovely music together. Check out my recommendations at the end of this post.


Mess or no mess, you’ll want the pictures one day.

Our Thanksgiving Skill School Schedule Menu:

*Each day will focus on kid-friendly cooking tasks for each dish by age group*

LISTEN WHILE YOU WORK; Audiobooks & Thanksgiving Playlists for cookin’ up grub and gratitude with your kids!


(all of the following titles can be found on audible and/or free on HooplaDigitial through an online library account)

*For a list of all our favorite audiobook recommendations by age group, refer to my Book Lists Page*

Short Story/Picture Books

  • Thanksgiving is, by Gail Gibbons
  • Miracle on 34th Street, picture book version adapted by Susanna Leonard Hill, original for kids 8 and up by Valentine Davies
  • Balloons over Broadway, by Melissa Sweet
  • Thank You, Sarah; the Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Blessing Cup, by Patricia Polacco
  • Thank You Mr. Falker, by Patricia Polacco
  • The Thanksgiving Door, by Debby Atwell (a real treasure!)
  • Stories of the Pilgrims, by Margaret B. Pumphrey
  • Thank You Ma’am, by Langston Hughes (a real treasure!)

Chapter Books/Novels of Gratitude

  • The Little House on the Prairie Books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (just lovely to cook to!)
  • The Boxcar Children; The Great Turkey Heist, by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls (not about Thanksgiving but all about gratitude and an amazing choice for boys ages 8 and up)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life, by David McLaughlan (a Christmas story all about gratitude, for tweens/teens and their parents!)
  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott (a four-seasons gem)


  • Thanksgiving Hymns
  • Throwback Thanksgiving-y Songs
  • Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (jazz, instrumental)


Thanks for reading!

Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~

13 Replies to “Early-Bird, Make-Ahead THANKSGIVING DINNER SKILL SCHOOL; cookin’ up gobble-gobble-grub & gratitude with kids in the kitchen!”

  1. Oh my goodness, when I saw your pic of the Apple cider I was like… oooo I’m going to miss that Apple cider this year. And there you have it… a link! What a good friend haha! Miss you! Would love to catch up soon.


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