What are the best activities for kids’ entertainment during holiday dinners?

Spending time around the table with family and friends is the best part of the holidays. From appetizers to the main meal to after-dinner conversation, sometimes the fun can last for hours. If you have young children at your gathering, it’s not likely they’ll sit down for longer than it takes to scarf down a few bites of macaroni and cheese.

To help make your holiday dinner enjoyable for everyone, we asked BestReviews’ baby and child expert to share activities to keep the kids’ table entertained. Dr. Aimee Ketchum is a parent and pediatric occupational therapist with years of experience in early childhood development.  

Shop this article: Hedbanz Picture Guessing Board Game, Melissa & Doug Primary Lacing Beads and Crayola Ultra-Clean Washable Markers

How to make a holiday dinner kid-friendly

Get kids involved

Making kids feel like equal members of the party will help everyone enjoy their time around the table. For example, Ketchum recommended getting children involved in both the preparation and setup of big holiday meals. “There are so many little jobs they can do that are age appropriate,” she said.

“Involve children in the planning of the meal by telling them how many people will be at the meal and having them help plan how many place settings, chairs and food will be needed. This is good for early math and reasoning skills.” She also said, “Setting the table is a good skill for sorting and categorizing and also helps with spatial skills. Baking with adults is a great way to learn early math and science skills.” 

Make it fun for kids

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to seating arrangements. However, children often enjoy being with siblings, cousins and friends at a kid’s table, and it can be fun to make the table kid-friendly for the meal. Ketchum said, “The first thing to do is put butcher paper down on the table and spread some crayons or markers around so that children can draw and color right on the table. You can also draw some tic-tac-toe games or shapes to color in.” 

Ketchum also recommended preparing activities for kids ahead of time. For example, she suggested sensory bins with red and green colored rice or noodles for Christmas, blue and white for Hanukkah or red, green and black for Kwanza with measuring cups, spoons and sensory toys. The saran wrap game is another fun activity for kids. “Small presents can be wrapped up in a big ball of plastic wrap. Children sit in a circle to pass the saran wrap ball around, and each child unwraps a layer and takes out the prize that becomes exposed.”

Share the traditions

Help kids understand the “why” behind your holiday gathering. Including children in activities and traditions teaches them about their culture and racial identity. Explain why you do each tradition or prepare a particular dish and what they mean to your family.

Best products to keep the kids table entertained

Best Hedbanz Picture Guessing Board Game

Hedbanz Picture Guessing Board Game

Up to six kids or adults can get in on the fun of this exciting guessing game to play. Players get to choose their favorite headband design from a cat, unicorn, pirate, crown and more. This kids board game is ideal for dinnertime since kids can figure out what’s on their cards while sitting down. 

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Best Melissa & Doug Primary Lacing Beads

Melissa & Doug Primary Lacing Beads

Keep younger children entertained while helping them develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, cognitive skills and more. These educational lacing beads come in a wooden storage case with 30 beads of varying colors and shapes that are perfect for little hands to grasp. 

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Best Crayola Ultra Clean Washable Markers

Crayola Ultra-Clean Washable Markers

Coloring is one of the most simple yet entertaining activities for kids of all ages. Put down butcher paper, a fun coloring tablecloth, holiday placemats or plain paper and let children’s imagination keep them busy for hours. These Crayola washable markers come in 40 classic colors. 

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Best Stephen Joseph Lacing Cards

Stephen Joseph Lacing Cards

Lacing cards are an educational yet exciting activity for preschool and young elementary-aged children. This set comes with five double-sided cards and color-coordinating laces in a convenient carrying bag. Teach children about color matching, hand-eye coordination, how to tie and much more. 

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Best The Coloring Table Holiday Design Square Tablecloth

The Coloring Table Holiday Design Square Tablecloth

Kids shouldn’t have to worry about spilling or making a mess on their tablecloth, and this Christmas-designed option is great for letting kids express themselves. Plus, when used with washable markers, the poly-cotton blend tablecloth is machine-washable and doesn’t allow colors to bleed through to the table. 

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Best Christmas Fun Mad Libs

“Christmas Fun Mad Libs”

Those who want to see kids working together and giggling throughout the evening will love these Christmas “Mad Libs.” This activity book is filled with 21 silly fill-in-the-blank stories about visiting Santa and his reindeer at the North Pole and other festive holiday questions. Plus, kids will build reading and comprehension skills while having fun. 

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Best Regal Games Kids Classic Card Games

Regal Games Kids Classic Card Games

The set of kids card games includes six classic activities, including old maid, go fish, war, memory match and more. Since the cards are extra-large, they’re perfect for kids to hold, read or lose to each other. Plus, these card games teach about numbers, colors and other valuable skills.

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Best Melissa & Doug Playmats

Melissa & Doug Playmats

The dinner table has never been more fun than with this 24-page activity book. From coloring to finding matching pictures, there are activities for children of all ages. Each page is scored to tear away cleanly and use as a placemat. 

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Best Lovestown Kids Christmas Activities Stickers

Lovestown Kids Christmas Activities Stickers

Stickers are one of the top ways to keep kids entertained. Stick these holiday stickers on the tablecloth, each other or an ornament. This set comes with 40 easy-peel stickers in 10 Christmas designs. 

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Best Skillmatics Card Game-Guess in 10 Animal Planet

Skillmatics Card Game: Guess in 10 Animal Planet

Divide into teams or get kids to play individually while asking up to 10 questions to guess the animal on the game card. Kids can stay in their seats, and it’s fun for ages 6 to 99. Plus, the box is portable and travel-friendly.