The politics of the kids' table: Why some parents don't like leaving children out

Holiday gatherings typically include a kids' table — but not all families love the tradition. (Photo: Getty Creative)
Holiday gatherings typically include a kids' table — but not all families love the tradition. (Photo: Getty Creative)

If you grew up celebrating big holiday gatherings, at one point or another you probably found yourself relegated to the kids' table, the small sidelined area where youths not deemed old or mature enough for the main event were banished, away from the adults. But while traditional, some parents are pushing back against the practice of separating kids and grown-ups during meals, arguing that it teaches children that they’re not an equal part of the family.

Nicole Booz of Gettysburg, Pa., has two kids under the age of 4 and feels that children should absolutely be included at the table during holiday meals.

“They are part of the family and therefore the celebration," the founder tells Yahoo Life. "Not only does it set the tone for you as a family to include them, but it shows that you respect them as people."

Booz says that her family will pair an adult with a child at the table.

“Holiday meals can be overwhelming, especially for small children who are not used to the different cadence of the day and meal,” Booz explains. “Pairing an adult and a child together allows them to have guidance when they need it and also allows for a smoother meal experience overall.”

Michelle C. McKnight of Holden, Mass., is another mom who doesn't believe in having a kids table at the holidays.

“Thanksgiving is a family holiday where we share a meal with those we love the most while giving thanks for our blessings. Our two greatest blessings are our children," McKnight, who has daughters aged 3 and 6, says. "We all eat dinner together every other night. Why would we change what we love?"

She adds, "There is no one I would want to spend Thanksgiving with more than my two little girls and husband. Family and friends with their kids come to our house each year, and we set up an additional long table to accommodate everyone. Kids sit with their parents to eat. We don't even offer a kids' table. It's ridiculous to have children removed from the rest of the family during a family holiday.”

Many parents says it's important that kids feel included at holiday meals. (Photo: Getty Images)
Many parents says it's important that kids feel included at holiday meals. (Photo: Getty Images)

While dining together is certainly important, some families leave it up to the kids to decide what feels most comfortable for them each year.

“The kids self-organize at our home for Thanksgiving,” shares Dennis Shirshikov, a strategist at and a father of three boys aged 5 and under.

“All the kids from [ages] 3 through 15 self-organize," he says. "The smaller ones just hang out in the high chair and follow their own schedule. They know they can choose to sit separately, sit at the table with us or even sit in the kitchen by themselves,”

Shirshikov notes that the kids' seating preferences almost never stay the same from year to year.

“This changes every year depending on the kids and what they are doing," he says. "Sometimes they don’t even come to dinner, opting instead to play. We believe it’s more important they enjoy their time on Thanksgiving than forcing them to sit at the table. It makes them sitting at the table all the more enjoyable.”

And of course, some families still love the time-honored tradition of the kids’ table.

Portland, Ore.-based mom of three Jenna Carson says that she looks forward to hosting the Thanksgiving dinner with her extended family each year, and that they always have a kids’ table.

“Our family always sets up a special kids' table at one end of our dining room so they get a chance to catch up with their cousins and just have fun," Carson, who works in PR for Music Grotto, says. "Having relatives who are spread out across the country, the kids often haven't seen each other since last Thanksgiving.”

Carson shares that although the children have their own space, they’re never too far from the rest of the family.

“Of course, a couple of us parents help dish out the younger kids' plates and are just a few feet away at the adults' table,” Carson says.

Mo Mulla, a parenting expert and the founder of Parental Questions, says he's seen some families adopt a hybrid approach.

“Traditionally, the kids sit at the family table during Thanksgiving dinner,” Mulla says. “However, due to the amount of food consumed and messes made, some parents now opt to have a chaperone who sits with the kids at their own table. This allows for more one-on-one time between the children and the chaperone.”

Ultimately, however, he says there's no one right or wrong way to do it.

“As a parenting expert, I recommend that parents discuss which option is best for their family and go with what will make everyone feel most comfortable," Mulla says.

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