If we’re being honest, Thanksgiving is definitely an adult’s idea of a holiday: watching football and parades, eating until we’re stuffed, reflecting on gratitude, and sneaking in an afternoon nap. Heaven, right? But with no presents, fireworks, or snowball fights, Thanksgiving for kids can be a little underwhelming.
Thankfully, all it takes to change that is a little imagination, and we’ve got ideas to make this Thanksgiving memorable and fun for your kids. Here are eight easy activities to get kids in the Thanksgiving spirit and keep them busy and engaged on the big day.
A little box and a few index cards are all you’ll need for this simple yet meaningful activity. Each day leading up to Thanksgiving, have kids name or write one thing they’re thankful for, and then read them together over Thanksgiving dinner. You’re bound to end up with a few silly answers that make for great keepsakes! Add to the fun by letting kids decorate the box.
Leaf rubbing is a classic kid activity that’s educational (hello, vascular system) and nearly free. Place a leaf under a blank piece of paper and have the kids rub over it with a fall-colored crayon until they can see the entire outline of the leaf on the paper. The only downside? It doesn’t last very long.
Stretch out the fun by letting kids collect their own leaves in the yard. After they’ve completed their leaf rubbings, they can carefully cut around each one and tape it to a streamer or ribbon. They’ll love hanging up their DIY fall decorations in their room.
When it comes to simple, engaging play for toddlers, sensory bins are where it’s at. Fill the bins with whatever Thanksgiving-related items you think your child will find interesting to touch, shake, or smell. Small pumpkins are cheap and fun to splash in bins of water; spice jars or freezer bags filled with popcorn kernels are great for shaking; and crunchy autumn leaves are always a hit. Sensory bins can get messy, so take this activity outside or keep it tidy in the bins of a kid-sized crafting table.
With a few tweaks, this one works well for toddlers as well as the older kids in your family. You’ll need some large crafting feathers and styrofoam crafting balls. The fine motor challenge of pushing the feather into the styrofoam will keep younger kiddos engaged while you work on the real turkey. For older kids, throw in a few extra crafting supplies so that they can create a centerpiece-worthy turkey (paint, googly eyes, construction paper for beaks and waddles, and pipe cleaners for feet).
If your tiny toddler doesn’t have the strength or dexterity to push feathers into styrofoam yet, swap out the balls for a toilet paper roll. Use a pencil or hole puncher to add holes for the feathers on one end and create your turkey face on the other.
Your kitchen will be going full steam Thanksgiving morning, so it’s only natural that the play kitchen will be too. Kids will love mimicking your special Thanksgiving meals, so in addition to their usual pretend cookware and pretend food, set them up with a few extra goodies to make their own pretend Thanksgiving meals.
If you have any turkey crafts lying around, repurpose them by putting them in the play oven. Provide a small baking sheet or bowl and some clean veggie scraps for them to add to the “pan.” Throw in the right playdough colors to make pumpkin pie, rolls, and some cranberry sauce, and they can “cook” up their own Thanksgiving spread.
No, we’re not crazy. We know the littles probably aren’t up to basting a turkey, but there are plenty of small tasks they can help with. From rinsing cranberries to measuring French onion straws to stirring green beans, let them get involved however they can – they just might be extra thankful for the dish they helped create.
The kids’ table will be looking fly this year (pun intended) with this spin on the classic paper plate turkeys. Help kids trace the outline of the plates they’ll use onto a placemat-sized piece of construction paper or poster board. Provide some crafting feathers and a glue stick to let them create a turkey tail around the outline of the plate. Come dinner time, their plate full of turkey will look like a turkey too.
When you’re too stuffed to move, a nice game of Pictionary is the perfect post-dinner activity for the family to do together. Write a list of Thanksgiving-themed words (or pictures for pre-readers) and throw them in a hat, tailoring the level of difficulty to your kids’ ages. Set up the kids’ art easel in the living room and have fun.