Special Ways to Celebrate Baby's First Thanksgiving

Newborn baby wearing a Thanksgiving pilgrim hat

Baby's first Thanksgiving is a great opportunity for parents and the extended family to commemorate a child's first experience with annual traditions. Babies of all ages can take part in Thanksgiving festivities which will be rewarding for the whole family.

Seasonal Style Suggestions

While extravagant outfits are too cute for words, the most important thing to remember when dressing baby this Thanksgiving is comfort. For younger babies, be prepared for any temperature. It may be a cold day in November, but 20 people in a small house can really get stuffy. In general for colder months:

  • Dress baby in the same number of layers you are wearing to keep baby warm and make it easier to add or subtract items of clothing as the temperature changes.
  • Opt for clothing in natural, breathable fabrics like cotton.
  • Avoid anything with tags inside, scratchy appliques, rough-edged velcro, and tight headbands.

Themed Outfits

Thanksgiving is a special occasion that only comes once a year so a themed outfit or articles of clothing are certainly fitting for the day. Whether you are a minimalist mom or a costume-crazy dad, there are plenty of trendy turkey day duds to choose from.

What to Do

Starting a Family Tradition

Family holiday traditions can easily be introduced to your child when celebrating a first Thanksgiving with relatives. If you already have long-standing traditions, find a way to incorporate them in a way baby can be involved. If you don't have many traditions, having a new baby is the perfect time to strengthen the family bond and start a tradition that everyone will enjoy for years to come. There are countless traditions that may be established, here are a few that are sure to be memorable:

  • Spend some time going around the Thanksgiving dinner table sharing favorite childhood memories. Grandparents will have compelling stories to share about holiday events from their childhood, while young children may remember something from a year or two prior that is close to their hearts. You, as a new parent, can share a great memory from your child's first year so far - furthering the chain of thankfulness and blazing the trail for baby's future contributions to the reminiscing as he/she grows.
  • Start an heirloom tablecloth. Purchase a quality white or earth-toned cloth as well as some iron-on fabric squares from your local fabric store. Have each family member decorate a square and continue to do so year after year until the "quilt" is complete. For baby's first Thanksgiving, contribute a hospital photo or little handprint to your baby's square.
  • Donate to a local charity or non-profit organization. Since this is baby's first Thanksgiving, make the monetary gift in his/her name, and then pick a different family member for each subsequent year. As your child grows, he/she will love hearing how such a helpful and giving tradition was started in his/her honor.

Holiday Entertainment

Although this is baby's first Thanksgiving, it is also a time for mom and dad to connect with extended family. Keeping baby entertained during the festivities can go a long way in helping the new parents enjoy their holiday as well.

Thebump.com offers us several general tips for keeping baby playful on Thanksgiving day:

  • Get on baby's level, either the floor or face-to-face.
  • Stimulate her mind in different ways throughout the day.
  • Encourage exploration.

Soft toys, touch and feel books, or a pillow obstacle course might be a few of the tricks in your holiday bag. Stimulate baby's mind in different ways by changing rooms or seats every half hour or handing baby off to a relative if she's comfortable with it. PBS.org offers up these age-appropriate options:

Newborn - 3 Months

Newborn babies spend most of the day eating and sleeping. Investing in a good baby sling or wrap can help keep baby close to you and comfortable during all his naps. At this age, babies can see up to 13 inches clearly, follow objects, and prefer short interactions. High contrast colors and geometric shapes garner their attention more than pale solids. Try a game of mimic by showing baby different body parts you can move to see if she will copy. Bring along some infant books to look at while you're sitting at the table.

3 -6 Months

As baby moves out of the newborn phase, her play time will increase. Younger babies are able to roll over and reach for objects so floor time is invaluable toward keeping her entertained. Babies at this age can also recognize faces so a game of peek-a-boo with each family member could keep him entertained for hours.

6-9 Months

This is the age where babies begin to crawl and pull things toward themselves. Setting up a designated play area using a playard will give baby space to move without getting into trouble. Older babies also tend to be awestruck by impossible events, so let Uncle Joe put on his best magic show for baby while you finish your dinner.

9-12 Months

By this age babies can sit on their own, begin to stand and walk with aid, and like to experiment with the physical properties of objects. A few laps around the house holding onto the hands of different family members would be a fun game for babies in this age group. Rolling a ball back and forth, dropping objects into a bucket, and throwing games are great ways to keep this crowd entertained.

Baby's First Feast

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as the only source of food for babies under 6 months old. After that, the AAP suggests introducing only one new food at a time to watch for allergic reactions like rashes and vomiting. These guidelines can make it difficult for baby to truly enjoy their first Thanksgiving dinner.

HealthyChildren.org offers these tips to help you decide when your baby is ready to start solid foods:

  • She can hold her own head up
  • He has doubled his birth weight
  • She opens her mouth when food comes her way
  • He is able to move food from a spoon to the back of his mouth

If your baby is ready for solid foods, she may be able to enjoy a few Thanksgiving staples if they are made specially for her. You want to avoid salt and other seasonings in baby's mashed foods so this first feast requires a bit of pre-planning. Set aside part of a sweet potato that is unseasoned and mashed for baby to try at dinner with the family, peas are another great option.

The experts at healthychildren.org suggest steering clear of spinach, beets, green beans, squash, and carrots for baby at the dinner table because they can cause anemia in young babies. Parenting.com recommends these other foods to avoid:

  • Corn
  • Casseroles
  • Stuffing
  • Raw veggies
  • Desserts with nuts

Babies who are approaching their first birthday have more options to choose from at their first Thanksgiving feast. Table foods that are well-done, or soft, and diced small - about 1/4 of an inch can be enjoyed by this age group. A few good choices to start would be:

  • Turkey
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Peas
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Bread
  • Pumpkin Pie

Traveling On Baby's First Thanksgiving

Traveling with a baby can be a lot of work, especially when a pair of new parents find themselves struggling through a crowded airport or grasping for infant-appropriate entertainment on a congested freeway. Here are a few ways to keep your sanity while cruising toward your final holiday destination, no matter how you choose to travel:

  • Always carry baby's essentials in a tote or diaper bag. If you are flying, do not check this bag. Keep it with you at all times in case your luggage happens to get lost so you will still have the things you need to maintain your little one's health and comfort.
  • Bring along some special items from home. Babies thrive off of the familiar, so don't forget that special binkie or blanket when traveling away from home. It will make all the difference when your baby is feeling overstimulated from all the attention and change in routine.
  • Try to keep a schedule. Babies don't understand special occasions, so bring a positive bonus day into their world, rather than a chaotic negative. By keeping up baby's usual napping and feeding schedule as much as possible, you are providing them with the security they need to get through an unpredictable day.
  • Know when enough is enough. Celebrating baby's first Thanksgiving with plenty of photos and videos is all good fun, but be sure to know your infant's boundaries. Babies can only handle so much, even if the paparazzi is composed of grandma, grandpa and other well-meaning relatives

Be Thankful for Family

Baby's first Thanksgiving should be a fun and rewarding occasion, so don't be afraid to spice up the day with fun little quirks like turkey-print pajamas or a cornucopia of favorite baby toys for the road. Welcoming your baby into your family's fold is the most important part of the holiday, and something your child will be forever thankful for.

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Special Ways to Celebrate Baby's First Thanksgiving