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Invite your children to be holiday meal helpers

Though the Thanksgiving tradition of bringing friends and family together around the dinner table may look a little different this year, that doesn’t mean the occasion can’t still be warm and memorable.

In fact, if your children have never been a part of the holiday meal preparations before, why not make a new tradition? Learning to prepare a meal is a great way to bond with your child and an important skill to share. Here are some easy and safe ways to involve your kids in preparing a holiday meal:

Creamy mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a staple in the holiday meals made by many families and the simple process of whipping up the creamy pillows of potato makes it simple for kids to join in.

Ingredients: 6 potatoes, ½ cup milk, 4 tbsp butter

1. Skin the potatoes and wash them before sticking a fork into the spuds.

2. Your child can place the potatoes in the microwave and set the cooking time at 7 minutes.

3. When the potatoes are finished cooking, remove them from the microwave carefully as they will be hot. Cut each potato into four sections and allow to cool.

4. Once the potatoes are cool enough to touch, your child can put them into a large bowl. Show your child how to measure out the milk and butter.

5. Your child can now add the milk and butter to the bowl and use a masher or fork to begin mashing the potatoes.

6. Add salt and pepper to season and your side dish is complete!

Savory stuffing

Everyone who enjoys stuffing has a different way of making the dish but here’s the basic way to get started cooking it with your child.

Ingredients: 1 bread loaf, 1 whole onion, 3 celery stocks, 1 can chicken stock, 2 tbsp butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and begin cutting the vegetables.

2. Once the veggies are cut, ask your child to help you put them into a sauce pan.

3. Add some butter and allow the veggies to sauté for about 7 minutes on medium high heat.

4. While the vegetables cook, cut the loaf of bread into 1-inch-wide slices, then direct your child to pull the slice apart into about four or five chunks. Your child can place the chunks of bread into a casserole dish.

5. When the veggies are done sautéing, hand your child a long spoon and ask him or her to help you scoop the onion and celery combination overtop the bread in the casserole dish.

6. Open the can of chicken stock and allow your child to pour the liquid over the bread and veggies until the chunks of bread are moist but not soggy.

7. Add the desired seasonings like salt and pepper over top, then ask your child to cover the dish with foil. Bake for 35 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes to finish this side dish!

Gooey Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is a crowd pleaser and a dinner time dream come true for many children, though this recipe is a bit more grown up than the boxed version.

Ingredients: 1 cup elbow macaroni, ¼ cup milk, ½ cup shredded cheese, 2 tbsp butter

1. Ask your child to pour water into a pot and fill it up a little over half way full.

2. While you put the pot on the burner and turn up the heat to boil, you can have your child open the box of noodles and measure out the noodles.

3. Once the water is boiling, pour in the noodles, reduce the heat to medium, then cover the noodles and allow to cook for about 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, you can ask your child to measure out the milk, butter and cheese.

5. Once the noodles are finished cooking, use a colander to strain the water out.

6. Your child can pour in the three measured ingredients and begin stirring until the cheese, milk, and butter are completely mixed in.

7. Add salt and pepper to taste and your side dish is complete!

Green Beans

Every hearty holiday meal needs a green vegetable option to round out the carbohydrate-heavy dishes, so why not make some green beans with garlic.

Ingredients: 1 cup green beans (fresh, frozen, or canned), 2 tbsp butter, 2 cloves garlic

1. Chop up some garlic into small slivers and put the pieces into a sauce pan with the butter, turning the heat on to medium high.

2. If you buy your green beans fresh, your child can wash them and snap the stems off the ends. If your beans are canned, open the can and ask your child to drain the water. If the beans are frozen, your child can pour them directly into the saucepan.

3. Let the beans cook until they appear soft and sautéed, then remove them from the heat and season to taste.

No matter what food your holiday meal includes, there are many ways to involve your children in the preparations. While you should handle the parts of the recipe that include using sharp objects to cut ingredients, stovetops and ovens to cook, and moving or touching hot food and surfaces, there are many elements where children can assist. Inviting your children to help prepare the meal helps them understand measurements, following directions or recipes, and why the meals you prepare for them each day are so special. Later on in life, these cooking skills will be even more important in your child’s life and starting early is a great way to not only learn, but make memories together.

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