Many small hands make light work.

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Father and young daughter preparing Thanksgiving dinner.
Credit: martinedoucet / Getty Images

Thanksgiving might look a little different this year, but many of us will still be cooking up a storm. Every year I spend almost a week in the kitchen cooking and baking for the big day, but this year I’m doling out assignments in my own version of remote school: culinary class!

There’s no reason our kids can’t do more than set the table, right? Two of mine already bake cookies and help make salads, so I figured it was time for them to level up. And to my surprise, they’re actually excited about it! They’ve been scouring Allrecipes for the perfect side dishes and desserts that will taste amazing but not require too many fancy kitchen tricks.

Want your kids to add their own flavors to your Thanksgiving supper? Take a look at how my three mini sous chefs are contributing:

Pumpkin Ginger Cupcakes
Credit: Dianne

Daring Desserts

My ten-year-old is a baker at heart. She loves to make cookies, muffins, cakes, or basically anything sweet. As soon as she saw these Pumpkin Ginger Cupcakes, she laid her claim to dessert. They’ll be replacing our traditional pumpkin pie this year, and the best part? They can be made in advance and frozen, which means all she’ll have to do on the big day is whip up this delicious cream cheese frosting.

Now, my husband insists that Thanksgiving isn’t complete without pie. But I’m going to be swamped with other cooking and baking jobs that day, and pie crust can be a tough bake for kids. But a crisp is just a pie without a pastry crust. A tween can handle that, right? My husband agreed that an apple crisp would satisfy his need for pie, and my twelve-year-old son offered to try his hand at this delicious version in hopes of besting his sister’s cupcakes. I plan to let their sibling rivalry keep our Thanksgiving bellies full of sweetness this year.

Another Thanksgiving bake that will be a breakfast indulgence for us: this incredibly moist Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread. I make this regularly for our family because it’s so good! But my seven-year-old was feeling left out of the holiday dessert plan, and I promised she and I could make this seasonal treat together that morning. It’s quick, easy, and super tasty!

Slow Cooker Stuffing in a white bowl
Credit: GotRice?

Super Side Dishes

When asking kids to cook, it’s important to keep the steps short and clear for consistent results. Side dishes are the perfect place to strengthen their cooking chops. These recipes are low pressure and easy, but give a great dash of color, texture, and taste to a big holiday dinner.

My son’s favorite side dish? Grandma’s Corn Pudding. It’s always a hit with the whole family and feels like the ultimate comfort food. He’ll be making it himself for the first time this year. “Two baked dishes in the same day?” you may be asking. Well, I’m pretty sure he’s looking to earn some bonus Christmas karma for next month. But also—since he chose the two recipes—he’s way more invested in seeing them through.

My ten-year-old, unlike her brother, would spend the whole day in the kitchen if I let her. And I’m not complaining! But we have a small space and lots to make that day. So she’s decided to add the crockpot to the mix to save time and free up kitchen space. Stuffing this year is her responsibility, and so she’s going to make this simple, but delicious standard stuffing recipe. (Note: The first forty-five minutes on high are critical to help it get crispy on top, so don't skip that step!)

My favorite part of any meal is the bread, but homemade rolls on Thanksgiving? PERFECTION. My seven-year-old is the queen of kneading, though she gets tired after a couple of minutes. So these Unbelievable Rolls are just right for her little hands (and short attention span) with their quick kneading and proofing. She and I will get these set up and ready before the turkey comes out of the oven, and then they’ll slide right in there as we pull the bird out. A gorgeous, fast bake while the turkey rests and we finish dishing everything up.

Thanksgiving Refreshment with lime in a glass
Credit: France C

Fancy Sipping

“But what can I make on my own?” my youngest asked “Everyone else is making their own stuff!” I had to think fast. This kiddo has dropped an entire bag of flour, broken several glasses, and even accidentally stabbed herself with a fork. What could a tiny, earnest, accident-prone kitchen helper do for the family this Thanksgiving?

A fancy drink! This Thanksgiving Refreshment solved all our drama! Sparkly goodness that she can proudly “cook” and serve herself. In can be made into an even more involved activity by washing and adding fresh berries to each glass.

It takes a little extra planning and a second (or fifth) load of dishes to have your kids lend their hands to a big holiday meal like Thanksgiving. But it lightens your load in other ways and adds something really special and warm to the table. In a year as challenging as this one, that makes all the difference.

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