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back to article list Hostess 101 > Keeping Kids Entertained at Holiday Meals

Keeping Kids Entertained at Holiday Meals

Simple, fun ideas for beating boredom!

Holiday meals are a time for the entire family to gather around for a leisurely meal together.  It can often go on for quite awhile, leaving young children antsy in their seats.  This meal is notoriously known for having a kids’ table where the children sit on their own with one adult, rather than at the grown up’s table. 

Whether the children sit at a specially designated table for them or are sitting with everyone, having a few activities planned that will keep kids busy and entertained during the meal will go a long way toward keeping everyone happy. Find inspiration for easy fun that is sure to keep your kids happy during your special holiday meal here:

1. Fun Drinks.
Set out special colored glasses, plastic would work well, and outfit them with fun straws, umbrellas, fruit, and ice cubes with holiday gummies frozen inside.  The kids will be delighted with the fun drinks.  They can even make them up before dinner and also make re-fills too.

2. Crayons.
Place holiday colored crayons on the table with plain white napkins at the kids’ place settings.  Ask the kids to draw their favorite holiday scene on their napkins for added decoration and fun.

3. Trivia.
Have a ready-made holiday trivia game made-up.  This works especially well with older kids, but you can also ask very simple questions to include the little ones too.  As an example, if this is a Thanksgiving meal, create a series of questions around the history of the holiday, traditions, etc. to keep them guessing.

4. Your Little Helpers. Include your kids in preparing one of the holiday dishes, even little kids can help bake cookies.  When you are ready to serve, engage the children in talking about how they made the dish and have them help serve it as well.

5. Charades.
Children often have a hard time sitting still at the dinner table for long periods of time.  If a long meal, have them take mini-breaks from the table.  If you see your child fidgeting, ask them to get up, and do a charade for the rest of the guests, i.e. a turkey for Thanksgiving or a reindeer for Christmas.  After they are done, they can be seated again.  This quickly breaks their monotony, but also will help keep them at the table.

6. Place Cards. 
Have the kids create place cards for the guests to easily find their seats at the dinner table.  The kids can create these cards using heavy stock paper and fancy glitter glue to spell out the names.

7. Storytelling. 
At some point during the meal, allow the children to tell the story of the holiday in their own words.  See how much they remember about the pilgrims or the Christmas story or Santa’s origins.  Alternatively, allow children to read a special holiday tale from a favorite book to everyone gathered.

8. A Chorus Line.  Although singing is usually seen as rude at the dinner table, children often have learned special songs at school for the holidays.  Allow them to get up and sing a chorus of favorite tunes.  Invite everyone to sing together.

9. Clean Up. 
There is always plenty to clean up after a holiday meal.  With kids ready to get up and leave the table, provide them with the task of helping clear the plates from the table.  It makes it easier on you and keeps the kids industrious.

10. Card Sharks.  As the kids rush to finish their dessert, have several different card decks on their table that they can have fun playing as everyone else finishes their meal as well.  Games like Old Maid, Go Fish, and Concentration are all good choices.

The holiday meal is an annual tradition.  Make sure to include some activities for the kids to enjoy it too!


Lisa Kothari is the founder and president of Peppers and Pollywogs, a kids' party planning company that provides parents with ideas, entertainers, and interesting web-based tools (customized rhymes and cards for your invitations!) to make kids' party planning easy. She has recently written and published Dear Peppers and Pollywogs, What Parents Want To Know About Planning Their Kids' Parties which is available at and Peppers and Pollywogs.