What are the best activities to keep the kids entertained during holiday dinners?
Spending time around the table with family and friends is the best part of the holidays. From appetizers to the main meal to after-dinner conversation, sometimes the fun can last for hours. If you have young children at your gathering, it’s not likely they’ll sit down for longer than it takes to scarf down a few bites of macaroni and cheese. To help make your holiday dinner enjoyable for everyone, we asked BestReviews’ baby and child expert to share activities to keep the kids’ table entertained. Dr. Aimee Ketchum is a parent and pediatric occupational therapist with years of experience in early childhood development.
How to make a holiday dinner kid-friendly
Get kids involved
Making kids feel like equal members of the party will help everyone enjoy their time around the table. For example, Ketchum recommends getting children involved in both the preparation and setup of big holiday meals. “There are so many little jobs they can do that are age appropriate. Involve children in the planning of the meal by telling them how many people will be at the meal and having them help plan how many place settings, chairs and food will be needed. This is good for early math and reasoning skills.” She also says, “Setting the table is a good skill for sorting and categorizing and also helps with spatial skills. Baking with adults is a great way to learn early math and science skills.”
Make it fun for kids
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to seating arrangements. However, children often enjoy being with siblings, cousins and friends at a kid’s table, and it can be fun to make the table kid-friendly for the meal. Ketchum says, “The first thing to do is put butcher paper down on the table and spread some crayons or markers around so that children can draw and color right on the table. You can also draw some tic-tac-toe games or shapes to color in.”
Ketchum also recommends preparing activities for kids ahead of time. For example, she suggests sensory bins with red and green colored rice or noodles for Christmas, blue and white for Hanukkah or red, green and black for kwanza with measuring cups, spoons and sensory toys. The saran wrap game is another fun activity for kids. “Small presents can be wrapped up in a big ball of saran wrap. Children sit in a circle to pass the saran wrap ball around, and each child unwraps a layer and takes out the prize that becomes exposed.”
Share the traditions
Help kids understand the “why” behind your holiday gathering. Including children in activities and traditions teaches them about their culture and racial identity. Explain why you do each tradition or prepare a particular dish and what they mean to your family.
Best products to keep the kids’ table entertained
Up to six kids or adults can get in on the fun of this exciting guessing game. Players get to choose their favorite headband design from a cat, unicorn, pirate, crown and more. It’s ideal as a dinner game since kids can figure out what’s on their cards while sitting down. Sold by Amazon
Keep younger children entertained while helping them develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, cognitive skills and more. These educational lacing beads come in a wooden storage case with 30 beads of varying colors and shapes that are perfect for little hands to grasp. Sold by Amazon
Coloring is one of the most simple yet entertaining activities for kids of all ages. Put down butcher paper, a fun coloring tablecloth, holiday placemats or plain paper and let children’s imagination keep them busy for hours. This box comes with 40 classic colors. Sold by Amazon
Lacing cards are an educational yet exciting activity for preschool and young elementary-aged children. This set comes with five double-sided cards and color-coordinating laces in a convenient carrying bag. Teach children about color matching, hand-eye coordination, how to tie and much more. Sold by Amazon
Kids shouldn’t have to worry about spilling or making a mess on their tablecloth, and this Christmas-designed option is great for letting kids express themselves. Plus, when used with washable markers, the poly-cotton blend tablecloth is machine-washable and doesn’t allow colors to bleed through to the table. Sold by Amazon
Those who want to see kids working together and giggling throughout the evening will love these Christmas-themed Mad Libs. This activity book is filled with 21 silly fill-in-the-blank stories about visiting Santa and his reindeer at the North Pole and other festive holiday questions. Plus, kids will build reading and comprehension skills while having fun. Sold by Amazon
The set of card games includes six classic activities, including old maid, go fish, war, memory match and more. Since the cards are extra-large, they’re perfect for kids to hold, read or lose to each other. Plus, these card games teach about numbers, colors and other valuable skills Sold by Amazon
The dinner table has never been more fun than with this 24-page activity book. From coloring to finding matching pictures, there are activities for children of all ages. Each page is scored to tear away cleanly and use as a placemat. Sold by Amazon
Stickers are one of the top ways to keep kids entertained. Stick these holiday stickers on the tablecloth, each other or an ornament. This set comes with 40 easy-peel stickers in 10 Christmas designs. Sold by Amazon
Divide into teams or play individually while asking up to 10 questions to guess the animal on the game card. Kids can stay in their seats, and it’s fun for ages 6 to 99. Plus, the box is portable and travel-friendly. Sold by Amazon
Don’t forget to keep a few age-appropriate books on the table for entertainment. This hardcover book is trending as one of the top read-aloud books for young children. If they love tacos, dragons and silly stories, this book is sure to be a hit. Sold by Amazon
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Bre Richey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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