With its emphasis on gratitude and gathering together with family and friends to enjoy beautiful fall scents and flavors, Thanksgiving is a much-anticipated holiday. But, as a parent, keeping your children occupied while you spend most of the day cooking a meal can be quite the challenge. We’ve gathered together 9 creative ideas to help kids enjoy Thanksgiving. These Thanksgiving traditions for kids will keep them involved in the festivities as you prepare your Thanksgiving celebration and create memories for years to come.
My 8-year-old daughter loves holidays. Not just the big ones like Christmas and Easter—she gets excited about every single holiday. When she first learned about Groundhog Day, she asked how we were going to celebrate! While this makes our lives exceptionally fun, it also creates quite a bit of pressure for this mama.
I adore Thanksgiving with its emphasis on gratitude, mashed potatoes, and beautiful fall tablescapes. But spending most of the day cooking a meal that takes just moments to devour doesn’t quite fit the bill for my holiday enthusiast.
While a lot of families enjoy watching the parade or playing football after dinner, those miss the mark for my holiday-loving girl. So, I began to rack my brain for ways I could help her grow in appreciation for my beloved holiday. Perhaps these ideas will help create some memory-making magic for your kids too as you prepare your Thanksgiving celebration.
“GRATEFUL FOR YOU” TURKEYS
Before the big day, cut out pieces of construction paper to make a turkey for each guest at the table. Brown circles can serve as bodies with different colors of paper cut to resemble feathers. Leave the pieces on a table and encourage everyone to help create the turkeys throughout the day. Ask them to write one reason they are grateful for each person on a feather then use a glue stick to attach it to the turkey. Kids who can’t write will need some help, of course. By the end, each person has their own turkey revealing how loved they are by all at the table.
THANKSGIVING PARADE BINGO
Watching the parade together can be fun but adding a game makes it even better! Make quick bingo cards with things to watch out for in the parade. Use candy corn, M&M’s, or candy pumpkins as markers. The first one to fill their card gets bragging rights—or a simple prize.
KIDS CREATE THEIR OWN PARADE
Once the televised parade is over, encourage your kids to put together their own parade. They can use a toy car or a shoebox to make a little float, or put on colorful costumes. Even stuffed animals can take part! Give them a time frame to work on their parade and tell them you want to be surprised so you can’t help! Once all of your guests arrive, the kids can showcase their procession for all to see.
THANKFUL SCAVENGER HUNT
Ask your kids to find small items around the house that represent things they are grateful for. To make it easy, prepare a short list ahead of time with different categories, then tape it to a cabinet so it’s easy to see no matter how messy your hands are when you need to find the list. Here are a few ideas:
Find something you’re thankful for because of . . .
- The way it tastes
- The way it makes you feel safe
- How it feels to the touch
- The way it reminds you of someone you love
- The way it makes you laugh
- The meaning behind it—gifted from someone you love
Have them collect the items in a bag or box without sharing with anyone until the game is over. When you find some space in your day (maybe during dessert), the kids can “show and tell’ about each item they found.
THANKSGIVING MOVIE TRADITION
Choose a traditional movie to watch every Thanksgiving. It can be holiday-themed or a classic your family loves watching together. Set up a cozy area for the kids to watch the movie where perhaps you can see it from the kitchen too! Include a special snack or two and enjoy a couple hours of prep time.
SNACK CHARCUTERIE BOARD
Curbing the hunger of your always-ravenous kids in the midst of cooking several dishes at a time is no one’s idea of fun. With a little planning, you can prepare a snack charcuterie board for the kids. Fill it with traditional charcuterie items like cheese, crackers, and fruit. Then throw in some of your kids’ favorites like goldfish, pretzels, or animal crackers. Don’t forget to sprinkle in a few treats. If all goes as planned, their hunger will be satisfied until the big meal!
KIDS PREP AREA
Kids love to help in the kitchen, but let’s be honest, it isn’t usually all that helpful. Create a prep area just for them where they can help with simple tasks. Use a small card table where kids can mix dips, arrange a veggie tray, or assemble fruit salad in a bowl. Giving little jobs to your kids can go a long way in helping them feel grown-up and part of the holiday. And keeping their ‘help’ out of the kitchen is even better!
DON’T SAY IT GAME
Choose a word or phrase that is likely to be said a lot throughout the day such as, “potatoes,” “hot,” or “time,” then declare it off-limits. Kids will enjoy catching the adults saying the word all day!
Add the simple prospect of a prize to any kiddo activity and you’ll instantly crank up the fun and motivation. Prizes don’t have to be something you buy—they can be something as easy as an extra scoop of ice cream on their pie, getting a ‘pass’ from after-dinner chores, or determining who gets to go first when you play games that evening. There’s no need to complicate things. Remember, the idea is fun for everyone (including mom)!
Planning ahead for this prep-heavy celebration can make all the difference in maintaining sanity and joy. With a few extra touches, Thanksgiving can be a holiday the whole family looks forward to—all year long.
Do you have any additional ideas to add to our list? Share with us in the comments.
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