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Help! – My In-Laws are Coming for Thanksgiving – My 3-year-old is Very Rowdy

In-Laws are Coming for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and the excitement is building up. Your in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving and you’re all set to welcome them for a delicious feast. However, there’s one little challenge – your 3-year-old is a bundle of energy. 

Don’t fret, we’ve got you covered with these tips to ensure a harmonious holiday celebration.

Create a Kid-Friendly Space

Your in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving and a hyperactive 3-year-old can cause chaos during this time. To minimize it, it’s vital to establish a designated kid-friendly space. Fill this area with age-appropriate toys and activities to keep your child engaged and occupied.

Having a special play zone, such as a free-standing baby gate, redirects their energy away from the dining area. It also helps prevent accidents and breakage of valuable Thanksgiving décor. Invest in a child-sized table and chairs, and consider setting up an arts and crafts station to promote creativity. This space should be safe and free from potential hazards. It will allow you to focus on entertaining your in-laws and savoring your Thanksgiving feast without constant interruptions.

Set Expectations Early

If your in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving, communicate with your 3-year-old in clear and simple terms about what’s expected of them on that day. You can say something like, “Today is a special day when we have guests, and we want to be on our best behavior.” Emphasize the importance of using polite words, sharing, and taking turns.

Use age-appropriate language and be patient as your child absorbs this information. Set these expectations early to provide your child with a framework for good behavior. It helps them understand what’s required and makes it easier for them to comply during the family gathering.

Plan Fun Activities

Keep a 3-year-old entertained and engaged on Thanksgiving. This can be a game-changer when it comes to managing their rowdiness, especially when your in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving. Plan a variety of age-appropriate activities to capture their interest. Simple coloring books, crayons, and puzzles can work wonders. Consider organizing a mini treasure hunt or scavenger hunt with small prizes.

Crafts like making Thanksgiving-themed drawings or handprint turkeys can be a hit. Have a repertoire of fun activities ready to ensure that your child remains occupied and less likely to disrupt the festivities. Plus, these activities can also serve as bonding opportunities with your child during the celebration.

Stick to a Routine

Children thrive on routine, and this holds true even during special occasions like Thanksgiving. Stick to your child’s regular schedule as closely as possible. This means keeping meal times and nap times consistent. Disrupting their routine can lead to crankiness and tantrums. Ensure that your child is well-rested and has eaten before the Thanksgiving meal. A well-rested and fed child is generally a happier and better-behaved child.

If naptime aligns with your Thanksgiving dinner, consider planning the meal around it or creating a comfortable napping area so your child can recharge. Routines provide predictability and comfort to your child, helping them feel secure in a potentially overwhelming environment.

Enlist Help

Family gatherings are a perfect time to enlist the help of relatives, especially grandparents. Often, grandparents are excited to spend time with their grandchildren, and this can be a win-win situation. Your child gets the attention and supervision they need, and you get a chance to relax and enjoy the celebration.

Inform the helping family member of your child’s routine, any specific rules or limitations you’d like to maintain, and any known triggers or sensitivities your child may have. Grandparents can be a valuable resource in keeping your child entertained and well-behaved. This allows you to have more quality time with your in-laws and a stress-free Thanksgiving.

Before the big Thanksgiving day, take a moment to assess your home’s childproofing. Your inquisitive 3-year-old is drawn to potential hazards, like sharp objects, choking hazards, or items that could easily break. Ensure that sharp or breakable items are out of reach and that dangerous substances are locked away. Cover electrical outlets, secure heavy furniture to prevent tipping, and install safety baby gates if necessary.

Childproofing creates a safe environment for your child to explore and play without you having to constantly intervene. A well-prepared childproofed home means you can focus on enjoying the Thanksgiving celebration without worrying about your child’s safety. It’s an essential step in minimizing chaos and ensuring a stress-free holiday.

Offer Healthy Snacks

During Thanksgiving celebrations, it’s easy for children to get caught up in the excitement and consume sugary treats. To prevent your 3-year-old from experiencing a sugar rush and becoming even more hyperactive, have a selection of healthy snacks readily available.

Fresh fruit slices, carrot sticks, yogurt, or whole-grain crackers can help maintain their energy levels and keep the sugar-fueled chaos at bay. Make these snacks easily accessible, so your child can grab a bite when hunger strikes. It will reduce the likelihood of tantrums or crankiness due to low blood sugar. This approach promotes good nutrition and ensures that your child remains content and less likely to disrupt the Thanksgiving festivities.

Use Positive Reinforcement

If your in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving, encourage good behavior in your child through positive reinforcement. This is an effective strategy for managing a rowdy 3-year-old during Thanksgiving. Offer praise and rewards for actions that align with your expectations. For instance, you can use a sticker chart where your child earns stickers for tasks like using polite words or sharing with others.

After a certain number of stickers, they could receive a small treat or engage in a fun activity they enjoy. This approach motivates your child to behave well and builds their self-esteem, reinforcing positive habits. Positive reinforcement allows you to create a positive atmosphere. This also encourages your child to actively participate in the Thanksgiving gathering while feeling appreciated for their good conduct.

Stay Calm

Maintain your composure when dealing with a spirited 3-year-old during Thanksgiving. Children can sense your emotions, and if they perceive stress or frustration, it can exacerbate their behavior. Take a deep breath and remember that kids will be kids. If your child becomes rowdy or throws a tantrum, respond with patience and empathy. Calmly address the situation by offering guidance and gentle redirection. Keep your tone reassuring and avoid getting into power struggles.

Staying composed so that you can model self-control and help de-escalate any potential disruptions. It’s essential to focus on the bigger picture – enjoying the holiday with your in-laws – rather than letting momentary challenges rattle your peace of mind.

Have a Backup Plan

Despite your best efforts, there may be moments when your 3-year-old’s energy gets the best of them during the holiday. In such cases, having a backup plan can be a lifesaver, especially if your in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving. Designate a quiet space where your child can retreat if they become overly rowdy or overwhelmed. This space should be cozy and comforting, with a favorite toy or cozy blanket. It serves as a sanctuary where your child can regain their composure and recharge.

Additionally, consider having a trusted family member on standby who can step in to supervise or entertain your child if needed. Have a contingency plan to ensure that you can swiftly address any disruptions without sacrificing the overall enjoyment of the Thanksgiving gathering. It’s a practical approach to managing your child’s behavior and ensuring a harmonious holiday celebration.


A holiday with a rambunctious 3-year-old doesn’t have to be a stressful affair, especially when in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving. With the right preparation and a positive attitude, you can enjoy a wonderful holiday celebration with your in-laws. Just remember, patience is key, and the more relaxed you are, the more enjoyable the day will be for everyone. Happy Thanksgiving!

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