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5 easy Thanksgiving sides kids can help make for this year’s feast

Make a new tradition this Thanksgiving by having the kids help cook

young girl having fun cooking in the kitchen
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It may be hard to say goodbye to summer, but there’s quite a lot to love about fall. From apple picking to Halloween and those super fun hayrides, autumn is jam-packed with family-friendly fun. Once those trick or treat bowls are empty, it can only mean one thing; Thanksgiving is on the horizon. Once the calendar turns to November, everyone’s prepping for Thanksgiving and the subsequent December holidays.

Yes, Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday to spend time with family and friends. If you’re cooped up in the kitchen all day, you feel a little left out of the Turkey Day excitement. Invite the kids into the kitchen this year to help with arguably one of the best parts of the holiday dinner — those side dishes.

While some may struggle with roasting the most delicious turkey possible, not all Thanksgiving dishes are such a challenge. There are many sides, in fact, that are so easy that even the kids could cook them (with a little assistance, of course). Here are five easy Thanksgiving sides kids can make this November that just might upstage the turkey.

A teen chopping up vegetables while her parent watches.
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Thanksgiving sides kids can make

Turkeys get all the attention when Thanksgiving rolls around, but the bird is not the star of the day. Ask anyone what their favorite Thanksgiving dish is, and you probably won’t hear turkey. Sure, it wouldn’t quite be Thanksgiving without turkey, but it’s those tasty sides everyone gets excited about. Of course, every family has its traditional sides.

Whether it’s a can of cranberry sauce that just has to be on the table or grandma’s green bean casserole, there are sides that are in the running for best supporting honors. Sure, some are more complicated to make than others, but sides are a huge part of the Thanksgiving dinner. Making those sides with the kiddos is a must-do tradition. It’s how everyone learns how to cook those special dishes they look forward to each November. So, let’s get cooking because these Thanksgiving sides kids can make right by your side.

Bread

Every Thanksgiving feast needs bread. One of the great things about bread is that it’s a side that you can make ahead of time. All you need to do is refrigerate and reheat the bread in time for your meal. This means you can take an afternoon ahead of Thanksgiving to make the bread with your children, so you’re not all in a rush on the big day.

If you don’t quite trust your bread-making skills, try out this recipe with the kids. It starts with refrigerated dough, but then adds in a lot of yummy stuff — think butter, parmesan, and garlic — before baking. Kids enjoy the opportunity to get really a hands-on experience with the dough rolling and dipping the dough balls in butter and seasonings. Then, all that’s left is the baking, which you could do on Thanksgiving Day.

For mini loaves that are more akin to your traditional dinner rolls, try this hands-on recipe that allows children to do the majority of the mixing in a sealed baggy. It’s also a nice fit for family members who have an egg allergy since the recipe doesn’t call for them. More in the mood for biscuits during your Thanksgiving feast? This two-ingredient recipe comes together in 15 minutes, and kids enjoy mixing and then cutting out each biscuit before baking.

Potatoes

Mashed, roasted, or baked – however your hobbits like them – potatoes are a must on Thanksgiving. Even toddlers can get in on the fun when it comes to making these “smashed” potatoes. Let your children wrap each potato in foil. Bake in the oven and allow to cool. Line up the potatoes on a baking sheet once they’re at a comfortable temperature, and let your children smash away before roasting.

Want something a little more traditional? This mashed potato casserole is packed with flavor and easy to make ahead of time for more convenience. Have your kids help with the actual mashing of the potatoes and the addition of all the yummy add-ins, like cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Stuffing

For many families, the stuffing is the only Thanksgiving side that matters. Kids can help bring this beloved holiday side dish to life by making these “stuffins.” Take traditional stuffing and put it into muffin form for a fun take on an old classic. You’ll want to cook the onions and celery for your children if you don’t want them near the stovetop. Once they’re ready, the kids can handle the rest.

Salad

Salads are great sides for kids to help with as you don’t need to use the stove. Once things are chopped, it’s just a simple matter of layering and mixing. Plus, younger kids love combining the different textures, tastes, and colors. This Thanksgiving salad combines spinach, dried cranberries, almonds, cheese, butternut squash, and a simple homemade dressing. Kids can help out with creating the dressing as well, mixing together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, and spices.

Another option is this more citrus-y salad, with squash, mixed greens, pomegranate seeds, pecans, and cheese. It also features a homemade dressing recipe that’s easy for children and teens to follow, combining yummy ingredients like orange juice and maple syrup.

Green beans

If there’s a vegetable that graces your Thanksgiving table, there’s a high likelihood it’s going to be green beans. Since many children don’t enjoy the traditional green bean casserole, change their minds about green beans with parmesan green bean fries. Have your child wash and trim the green beans, then do the mixing of the cheese, garlic powder, and salt. Combine it all and pop it into the oven.

Family cooking together in the kitchen
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More tasty Thanksgiving sides kids can make

Cooking with kids and teens really is a lot of fun. It’s also a wonderful way to help kids learn their way around the kitchen. Thanksgiving is a food-centered holiday, and it’s the perfect time to bring everyone into the kitchen, including the kids. If you’re looking to find new Thanksgiving favorites to add into the mix, here are a few more side dishes the kids and teens can make on their own or with a bit of help from the adults.

  • Mac and cheese is not just a kid favorite. Adults love it too. It’s also an easy side to make ahead of time and heat up for Thanksgiving dinner. Peanut Blossum has a quick mac and cheese recipe that’s ready for the oven in just 15 minutes.
  • Canned cranberry sauce is okay, but it’s actually not that hard to make your own. This Thanksgiving try cranberry sauce recipe from Simply Recipes. It includes substitutions if you’re looking for a cranberry sauce with less sugar. Let the adults or teens supervise the boiling cranberries.
  • If your family is tired of rolls, add some cornbread to the table this Thanksgiving. Kids love to bake and this cornbread recipe from Bless This Mess is super simple.

Whatever way your kids end up helping you with this year’s Thanksgiving feast, remember — it’s not necessarily about how great the food is. It’s really all about the memories made. So, if something burns or the mashed potatoes have a few lumps, don’t sweat it. We’ve all burned a dish or twelve in our time. Focus on the joy and pride on your kiddo’s face as they tell everyone what they helped make, and everything will taste wonderful.

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Holly Riddle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Holly Riddle is a freelance food, travel and lifestyle journalist, who also dabbles in copywriting, ghostwriting and fiction…
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