The holiday season is a magical time of the year. You get to spend more time with family and friends, enjoy favorite foods that you only get to eat at specific times of the year, and enjoy great seasonal activities. For toddlers, however, the holidays can be fodder for a meltdown just waiting to happen. By following these tips, you can help make the Thanksgiving holiday more enjoyable for you and your little one.

1. Try to stay on schedule. Keeping a toddler on their preferred schedule is of critical importance during the rest of the year. If you want a meltdown-free Thanksgiving holiday, keeping on a schedule will help significantly. Do your best to let your little one nap on time, whether that means wrapping them in a familiar carrier or laying them down on Aunt Margaret’s bed for an hour or so during the family celebration. If you’re staying in town, consider arriving a little late or leaving a little early to keep your child on their regular nap schedule. The loss of time with family may be well worth it for the return in peaceful toddler behavior.

2. Bring the right toys. If you’re going to be visiting a home that isn’t kid-friendly over Thanksgiving, bring along items that you know will entertain your toddler. This can include everything from crayons and paper to bigger toys that you know will catch their attention. Consider purchasing a new toy or two to bring out if your little one starts getting into trouble or struggling to stay away from pretty breakable items that your well-meaning family member forgot would be so attractive to children.

3. Put familiar foods on the table. Thanksgiving may be the ultimate comfort food meal, but if your little one is a chicken nuggets and mac and cheese kind of kid, there may not be familiar foods for them on the menu. Make sure that in addition to all of the adult favorites, there are some kid-friendly dishes making an appearance on the table–even if that means that you bring along a little bag of cereal or cheese crackers. The holidays aren’t the right time for making a stand about trying new things, especially if your toddler is already overwhelmed and out of sorts. Instead, make sure there are a few things on their plate that you know they’ll eat.

4. Listen to your toddler’s cues. Thanksgiving is often filled with family members that you don’t get as many opportunities to see throughout the year as you’d like. Chances are, all of those family members want to cuddle with your little one. Some toddlers don’t mind all the attention. Others feel shy and want to stay close to Mom or Dad in the middle of the chaos. When it comes to family time, listen to your child’s cues! Don’t force them to give hugs or accept kisses that they don’t want. Instead, encourage family members to interact with you and your child from a distance that’s comfortable for your little one. They’ll be more likely to warm up and enjoy the time together that way.

5. Bring along items that will make your toddler more comfortable. A few pieces of toddler silverware tucked into a diaper bag, or even a portable high chair tucked into your car before you head out for the family meal can make a big difference in how your toddler handles the holiday, especially when it’s time to eat.

Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a boring affair for your toddler. With a little preparation, you can prepare your family for a fun holiday with a minimum of meltdowns–for either you or your little one.


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