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Eight Ways to Keep Restless Kids Happy During a Family Holiday Event

The holidays are a wonderful time for the family to get together and enjoy each other’s company. But if you don’t make some plans for the smallest members of the family, their shenanigans at the kid’s table could get out of hand. Here are eight ways to keep restless kids happy during all your big and festive family holiday get-togethers.

1. Set out a unique table runner.

Run brown or white kraft paper down the length of the kids’ table and place crayons or washable markers at each child’s setting. Encourage the kids to decorate however they like; after the meal, hang the masterpiece along a wall or above the fireplace so everyone can admire the budding artists in the family. (Use removable poster tape or strips to hang the art so your wall doesn’t get damaged.)

2. Print out placemats.

You don’t need to be extra fancy – of course you can design your own custom placemats, but you can also simply paste coloring pages, one with each child’s name, on heavier-duty butcher or kraft paper. If you don’t already plan to have colored pencils, crayons or markers out, integrate three or four into a napkin ring or cup for each child that will serve as extra decor on the table.

3. Create a tree of thanks.

Holidays with family let us reflect on what we appreciate most. Don’t leave the kids out! You can set out a tree as a centerpiece at the kids’ table, along with several hanging tags where the kids can write or draw what they most appreciate this season. Let them decorate their thank you – shaped like a leaf or a turkey for Thanksgiving or an ornament for Christmas – and hang it on the branches of the tree.

4. Set out goodie bags.

Festive bags decorated for the occasion can contain stickers, temporary tattoos, small coloring pages or games geared toward the interests of the younger family members. A party supply store will have favors in a variety of themes, so select the characters or patterns most appropriate for each child. Opening the bag and playing with the items can keep most kids busy for at least a few minutes.

5. Make your own holiday Mad Libs.

This clever fill-in-the-blank game has been popular with generations of kids, but you don’t need the store-bought variety. Customize your story to family members, your location and even events that happened on past holidays. Assign the older kids the job of writing, then let the younger ones call out the words. After dinner, they can read the most amusing ones to the adults.

6. Construct mini chalkboards.

You can often pick up small chalkboards very inexpensively at a craft store. With a few pieces of chalk, kids can draw or doodle, play tic-tac-toe or hangman. Can’t find chalkboards? Grab a can of spray chalkboard paint and make your own on scrap wood or even cardboard. White boards are an option, too – but dry erase markers in the smallest ones’ hands can be messier than chalk.

7. Show a holiday cartoon or movie.

With the prevalence of connected smartphones and tablets, you don’t even need a TV to play holiday-themed cartoons that are age appropriate. If you subscribe to a streaming service, you should have ample material ¬ if not, rent or purchase a DVD or vet anything you plan to show from a free site before you hit play.

8. Start them talking with candy.

It’s a holiday – it’s okay to spoil the kids’ meal with a few pre-dinner treats. Encourage conversation among the kids who may not have seen each other for a few weeks or months by awarding treats to everyone who can name one thing they didn’t know about each cousin. Small but longer-lasting candy like lollipops and candy canes are ideal (just make sure that parents give approval first).

With a few creative ideas, you can get the kiddos at your holiday party’s “child table” excited and having fun while they wait for the meal to be served — and after dinner, as well.

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