Thanksgiving is about SO much more than a (tasty) turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie. While I am a BIG fan of those things, the holiday is really about being thankful for your people and good things in your life. While it’s good to be thankful EVERY day, I feel like the holiday is a great day to reiterate what being thankful and gracious means to my kids.
If your Thanksgiving Day tends to be one that bogs down half of the family with meal prep and clean up and the other half lands on the couch, you may appreciate these ideas for stepping outside of your traditional Thanksgiving box. Your entire family will enjoy the day and the new memories you make with these fun ideas.
Here are some ways to get kids outside and about and make some non-food, non-TV related memories.
Take a family photo.
Thanksgiving is often a frenzy of activities and is over before you realize you just had the opportunity to snap some pretty great group photos with relatives you don’t see that often. If the weather permits, get outside before your day gets too busy and make the most of the natural light. If you really want to make the day fun, use props. You can download them online and print them or make your own. Think along the lines of paper pilgrim hats, turkey legs, and pumpkin pie. Only one of my three kids tends to work it for the camera, so it helps to make taking pictures more fun!
Participate in a turkey trot.
Many communities throughout the country hold Turkey Trots on Thanksgiving Day. I’m in Noblesville, IN and our family is participating in the local event this year! They’re a fun (and smart) way to get active and burn off some of the calories you’re about to put down (pass…me…the green bean casserole – and the wine please)! Make sure your family is prepared with some good walking shoes and a stroller for the little ones who may want to rest (or it could be a disaster!). Our local family walk is a 3K, so it’s doable with children. If the whole organized Turkey Trot isn’t going to happen, have your own. Stroll around your block a few times. Exercise on Thanksgiving Day is a great way to get moving and feel less sluggish — and the kids can always burn off some of their energy! Mine are usually pretty restless on Thanksgiving and I am always crossing my fingers the weather behaves so we can get outside for awhile.
Hold your own parade.
There is nothing quite like the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade! If you think about Thanksgiving’s past, watching the amazing floats is just as much a part of the holiday and enjoying Grandma’s amazing sweet potato casserole recipe. My kids love checking out the huge floats and seeing cartoon characters they know and love! If you want to break away from seeing the floats for a bit, help your kids put on a parade of their own. Use some boxes and art supplies to create floats. Pull out some egg shakers to act as the marching band. They’ll love it! March up and down the driveway and have your camera ready!
Play indoor games.
Think Charades, Candy Land, card games, and so on. One of my favorite activities to do with my children is playing games and my two oldest (5 and 7) are at the point they often suggest playing Guess Who and other games of the like. A good thing about games is that they’re the perfect way to disconnect (put your phone away!) and really enjoy your family.
Talk with older relatives.
The hectic day can often be overwhelming for older people. Sit with grandpa and ask him about family stories. Let him chat about the old days and his life. Interview him for posterity. Older adults in the family will love the time with you and enjoy getting to share their stories. I don’t have any grandparents left, but my husband has two left that are in their nineties! We always make it a point to ensure they feel included and aren’t overwhelmed by the day. Make sure your kids take a minute to give them a hug too!
Get Kids Involved in the Meal Prep
What better way to appreciate the meal in front of them than by helping prepare it? There are some easy ways your kids can help in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day, like…
Tear bread for the stuffing.
If homemade stuffing is on the menu, let your kids help make it! Mine always jump at the chance to help me in the kitchen – they love cracking eggs and usually don’t get any shells in what we are making either (luckily!). When you make stuffing, tearing the bread into one-inch squares is the perfect task for little helping hands. Encourage your kids to get involved in making the Thanksgiving meal! Mine love to help and it makes them so proud!
Homemade butter is heaven on Earth. There is nothing more tasty and creamy than buttered rolls on Thanksgiving Day! Making butter is the perfect activity for kids because it involves multiple children AND shaking – my kids aren’t good at sitting still so this task is right up their alley. You can always turn to a mixer if the kids bail halfway through their job!
Incorporate More Fun and Games
Have some fun with Thanksgiving and make it about the kids, not JUST the menu.
Make pumpkin play dough.
It’s not edible, but it sure will smell like it! Make your house smell heavenly AND give your kids a fun way to keep busy and have something to play with afterwards too. While I have a love/hate relationship with Play dough (MESSY), I usually take one of the team we make this. Take a look at this recipe for pumpkin play dough at Ebb & Flow. It’ll keep your kids busy for hours if they’re anything like mine!
Create a scavenger hunt.
This doesn’t have to be fancy folks! A great activity my kids love (that I can organize in 2.2 seconds) is a scavenger hunt. Give the kids bags or a basket and write a list of things they need to find. Based where you live in the country, the items to find may vary. In Indiana, scavenger hunts consist of pine corns, acorns, an orange leaf, a red leaf, and so on. We do this every fall and the kids think its the coolest thing ever!
If the kids are stuck indoors due to the weather, have another indoor idea to fall back on such as coloring pages. Buy some new markers (my kids go crazy over new boxes) and let them color turkeys and make lists of the things they’re thankful for. Check out Spoonful for some great (FREE!) printable pages.
Another important part of the day is to encourage the kids to rest! We ALL know that well-rested kids (and adults!) are happier and behave better.
Thanksgiving is a really great holiday when you stop and smell the pumpkin pie. We all have SO much to be thankful for; our health, our family, and, well, too many things to list. I love spending the time with my family, eating turkey and all of the other awesome side dishes, and watching the Macy’s parade. I hope you enjoy your day too. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
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Photo credit: Babble.com