If you grew up celebrating big holiday gatherings, at one time or another you were probably relegated to the kid’s table, the little outdoor game where youngsters who weren’t deemed old or mature enough for the main event were relegated away from the adults. But while traditional, some parents resist the practice of separating children and adults at mealtimes, arguing that it teaches children that they are not an equal part of the family.
Nicole Booz of Gettysburg, Pa., has two children under the age of 4 and believes that children should absolutely sit at the table during holiday meals.
“They’re part of the family and that’s why they celebrate,” the founder of GenTwenty.com tells Yahoo Life. “Not only does it set the tone for you as a family to include them, but it shows that you respect them as people.”
Booz says her family will pair an adult with a child at the table.
“Holiday meals can be overwhelming, especially for small children who are not used to the different rhythms of the day and meal times,” Booz explains. “Pairing an adult and child together gives them guidance when they need it and can have a smoother mealtime experience overall.”
Michelle C. McKnight of Holden, Massachusetts, is another mom who doesn’t believe in a kid’s table during the holiday season.
“Thanksgiving is a family celebration where we share a meal with those we love most while giving thanks for our blessings. Our two greatest blessings are our children,” says McKnight, who has daughters ages 3 and 6. “We all have dinner together every other night. Why should we change what we love?”
She adds, “There is no one I would rather spend Thanksgiving with than my two little girls and my husband. Family and friends with their children come to our house every year and we set up an extra long table to accommodate everyone. Children sit with their parents to eat. We don’t even offer a children’s table. It is ridiculous to let children be separated from the rest of the family during a family holiday.”
While dining together is certainly important, some families leave it up to the kids to decide what feels most comfortable for them each year.
“The kids organize themselves at our house for Thanksgiving,” Dennis Shirshikov, a strategist at Awning.com and a father of three boys ages 5 and under, tells WebMD.
“All children of [ages] 3 through 15 organize themselves,” he says. “The smaller ones just hang out in the high chair and go on their own schedule. They know that they can choose to sit separately, join us at the table or even sit alone in the kitchen.”
Shirshikov notes that the children’s seating preferences almost never stay the same from year to year.
“This changes every year depending on the kids and what they’re doing,” he says. “Sometimes they don’t even come to eat, they choose to play. We think it’s more important that they enjoy their time at Thanksgiving than forcing them to sit at the table. That makes it all the more fun to sit at the table.”
And of course, some families still love the time-honored tradition of the kid’s table.
Jenna Carson, a mother of three from Portland, Oregon, says she looks forward to hosting Thanksgiving dinner with her extended family every year, and they always have a kid’s table.
“Our family always sets up a special kid’s table at one end of our dining room so they have a chance to catch up with their cousins and just have fun,” says Carson, who works in PR for Music Grotto. scattered all over the country, the children have often not seen each other since last Thanksgiving.”
Carson says that while the kids have their own space, they’re never too far from the rest of the family.
“Of course, a few of us parents help hand out the younger kids’ plates and we sit just a few feet away at the adults’ table,” says Carson.
Mo Mulla, a parenting expert and the founder of Parental Questions, says he’s seen some families take a hybrid approach.
“Traditionally, the kids sit at the family table during Thanksgiving dinner,” says Mulla. “However, due to the amount of food consumed and the mess created, some parents now choose to have an attendant who sits with the children at their own table. This allows for more one-on-one time between the children and the caregiver.”
In the end, though, he says there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
“As a parenting expert, I recommend that parents discuss which option is best for their family and go for what everyone is most comfortable with,” says Mulla.
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