Thanksgiving’s Little Helpers: Fun Projects to Keep the Kids Busy

Check out Thanksgiving projects that are fancy enough to serve at the grownups' table, yet easy enough for kids to make.

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©Copyright 2012 Jackie Alpers - All rights reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Edible Thanksgiving Projects for Kids

Chores like peeling potatoes can make kids start to feel like they are on KP duty, and though that may be fun for a while, it can quickly turn to drudgery. This Thanksgiving, let everyone share chores so they go by faster, then set your kids up with one of these fun projects. Even little kids can roll cheese balls and cut out shapes with cookie cutters, and older kids can do more-complicated projects like creating a turkey-shaped veggie platter. These projects are win/win/win! They teach kids how to use creative thinking in the kitchen, they take some of the work off parents’ hands, and they keep kids occupied. Plus, the results look and taste good enough to meet the standards of your most-persnickety guests.

 

By Jackie Alpers 

Savory and Sweet Mini Cheese Balls

Mini cheese balls are fun because everyone can brainstorm together for topping combinations, and they are small enough that you can taste-test them in advance to decide which ones to serve to your guests.

Make the Cheese Ball Base

Start with this Mini Cheese Ball recipe from Food Network Kitchen and toppings of your choosing from the grocery store. Refrigerate the cheese balls for at least 4 hours, then roll in bowls of toppings. Press in additional toppings with your hands to coat completely.

Sweet, Sparkling Cheese Balls with Sprinkles

Naturally colored sparkling sugar, leaf-shaped mini quins, and jimmies in autumn colors — all from India Tree — were used to coat these glimmering, cheese balls while adding a bit of sweetness. Cover the cheese balls with parchment when refrigerating before serving, to keep moisture from melting the sugar coating.

Savory Cheese Balls

Have fun experimenting with different topping combinations. Pretzels, Cheez-Its and smashed Chicken In a Biskit crackers were used for the balls in the front row. Sunflower seeds, chocolate bits, vegetarian bacon bits and trail mix cover the cheese balls in the second row. To crush larger toppings, place them in a resealable plastic bag and hit them with a soft mallet. 

Turkey Handprint Cookie Place Cards

Guests may want to gobble up these personalized hand-shaped turkey place cards inspired by the classic kids' drawings, and Ree Drummond’s Hand Cookies recipe, as soon as they sit down to the table.

Handy Cookie Cutters

To save time, use premade sugar cookie dough and hand-shaped cookie cutters, or trace kids' hands with a dull knife. You can even order keepsake copper cookie cutters made from your child’s actual handprint.

To Decorate the Cookies:

Sparkle Gel Icing was used to write the names and apply the heavier candy and sprinkles. Icing writing pens with thinner tips ideal for longer names are also available. Spread a small amount of icing, Nutella or peanut butter onto the fingers, then decorate with sprinkles, cereal and candy. A dab of red sparkle icing was used to attach the candy corn beak and make the wattle (yes, that’s what the red part under their beak is called). Candy Eyeballs and Jumbo Confetti Sprinkles are both available from Wilton. Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal, candy corn and India Tree’s Chocolate Decoratifs also make tasty feathers. The cookies can be made a few days in advance and stored in a cool, dry place.

Turkey Crudite Platter

This turkey-shaped crudite platter is easy to put together. Use this photo as a template. Bigger kids can help younger kids put everything in the right place. It’s a veggie puzzle game! 

You Will Need:

Collards or other large leafy greens for underneath the tail, red pepper slices, sugar snap peas, mini carrots, celery sticks, pickles, olives and any other veggies that strike your fancy. Put all of the ingredients in separate bowls so you can get a good understanding of how much you have, and the sizes and shapes available. 

Up Close with the Veggie Bird

This photo shows the crudite platter up close so you can see how the turkey’s face is constructed with mini carrots, an olive slice for the eye, a cornichon for the beak, larger gherkins for the neck and a slice of red pepper for the wattle. Remind kids that their turkey does not have to look exactly like the one in the photo. It’s just a guide. 

Leaf-Shaped Chips and Cheese

The colors in each of these leaf chips are unique, just like autumn leaves. Whole-grain chips are “painted” with herbs and spices so each one looks and tastes different depending on the combination of spices used. Top with leaf-shaped cheese slices for a pretty fall-themed appetizer. 

You Will Need:

One package of 6-inch whole-grain tortillas, slices of cheese (pepper Jack, cheddar and provolone all work well), leaf-shaped cookie cutters, olive oil, herbs and spices in autumn colors, and salt. First, cut leaf shapes out of the tortillas and the cheese slices with cookie cutters. Refrigerate the cheese until ready to serve.

 

Decorate the Leaf Chips

Brush or spray the leaf-shaped tortillas with a small amount of olive oil. “Paint” dry, ground herbs and spices such as cinnamon, paprika, chili powder, pumpkin pie spice or turmeric onto the leaves with a moistened pastry brush, then sprinkle with coarse salt. 

Bake the Chips and Cut Leaf Shapes Out of Cheese Slices

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the chips on parchment-lined baking sheets for 5 to 18 minutes or until crisp and slightly browned. Serve with the leaf-shaped slices of cheese. 

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