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Adlen Robinson: How to entertain guests on turkey day

Thanksgiving Day is just about two weeks away, and many of us will be opening our homes to a lot of family and friends.

Thanksgiving Day gatherings are always fun, but as the host, you are usually too busy in the kitchen to be actively entertaining. I have got your back!

I have hosted countless Thanksgiving Day dinners — some with 20-plus in attendance. No dinner party is perfect, but there are lots of things you can do to ensure yours is as enjoyable as possible. Get ready to do a little pre-turkey-day planning for the best dinner party ever.

 Last week we talked about strategies for planning your perfect turkey day dinner. Remember, making lists is of paramount importance. That being said, this is the perfect time to think about seating. Do you have enough chairs, dishes and silverware? Do you need a children’s table?

Speaking of children … if there will be young children at your feast, doing a little pre-planning now is critical. Let’s face it, when young children are attending a family dinner, one thing is for certain — they get bored fast. And when children get bored, their natural reaction is to cause mischief.

Plan now to have a scavenger hunt. Items children can “hunt” for might include: pine cones, acorns, rocks, sticks, flowers, leaves, etc. 

If there will be older children present, consider naming them as “team captains” so they can supervise the younger children on the scavenger hunt. Don’t forget to have prizes for the winning team and perhaps some candy for all who participate.

Home movies are always fun to watch — especially if you have videos (likely converted), from when everybody was growing up. Grandparents especially appreciate these movies, but even children like to see what they were like as babies and/or toddlers.

Encourage the children to put on a play or sing Christmas carols. Again, if there are older children present, they might enjoy writing and directing a performance by younger children. While they are practicing, you can be cooking the meal and the other adults can visit.

If you don’t have toys on hand, consider visiting a thrift store and stocking up on some. 

If you have a crafty friend or family member, young children love making crafts. Perhaps set up a table in an out of the way spot and have supplies on hand for the children to make a Christmas ornament. Craft stores usually have lots of ideas or you can look online.

One more thing about entertaining children — they tend to eat fast. As in, before you or your guests finish the salad fast. That means it behooves you to plan ahead for the actual dinner hour as well. 

When our family used to come for Thanksgiving dinner, there might be 10 adults and 11 children — those were some crazy years. I used to cover the children’s table in white butcher paper and set out crayons, markers and colored pencils. They loved drawing and coloring and that helped prolong our somewhat peaceful dinner.

If older grandparents are present, consider having someone “interview” them. I remember “interviewing” my dad one year. I picked his brain about his childhood, memories of his parents, holiday memories and the like. 

I still tear up when I read those notes when he reflected on so many things. We lost my dad in 2010, but reading “his” words still makes me smile. You will never regret penning the words of your loved ones.

Lastly, once all are seated for dinner, go around the table and let everybody say what they are most thankful for. Another fun thing to do is to go around the table and talk about goals for the upcoming year. Perhaps somebody can take notes. How fun to bring those notes out for the next Thanksgiving Day and see who was successful at following through with their goals.

Of course, no matter how great your plans are, no family gathering is perfect. Children cry, adults disagree, siblings argue, someone complains the turkey is dry. 

It’s always best to plan ahead, but remember the day is about being with family and friends and counting our blessings. 

Check out my column on Friday for some fabulous dessert recipes! 

South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” Email her at