Children love to get involved and help around the home, and especially during the holidays. Why not plan some Thanksgiving games and activities to keep the younger ones busy. They'll be proud of their contribution. You'll also benefit with fewer interruptions as you entertain guests and prepare the Thanksgiving feast.
While each child has different interests and abilities, the important thing here is to have several activities to pick from. All of them should require minimal or no setup by adults as you'll be too busy.
Ideally you can put project supplies into baskets or paper bags which the kids can unpack when they've decided which activity they want to do. For motivation, you might create a small chart on the refrigerator showing them their choices and checking off activities when complete.
Alternatively, as a busy grandmother I keep a craft drawer in my quilt room with all sorts of materials. My grandchildren have learned to go there without asking … and I'm always amazed at how creative they get without any prompting.
Thanksgiving Activities To Do in the Kitchen
- Paper turkeys are fun for kids big and small – Shape a large brown paper bag and stuff it full of popcorn, making sure you make enough for the kids to eat while they work. While I lost my directions, here are ones you can follow for one of my favorite Thanksgiving family activities.
- Cooking with children – After you've written down your menu, identify those dishes where children can help. Preparing the turkey stuffing might be great for children, where you can cut up ingredients for children too young to handle a knife. Let kids wash the cranberries or mash the potatoes. Consider which dishes can be done the day ahead so you don't have to worry about how messy the kitchen gets.
- Holiday cookies – are fun for everyone. You can bake the cookies ahead and let the kids decorate them while dinner is being prepared. Be sure to have a place to display their work so everyone can admire.
- Thanksgiving snack mix – We all nibble while cooking and the kids are sure to get hungry before dinner is ready. Invite 1 or 2 helpers to prepare a special snack mix for everyone to enjoy, plus small snack bags for guests to take home. Your children can also take thanksgiving snacks to neighbors and/or a nursing home in your area, along with little card. Each ingredient has a special meaning. Mix the following in a large bowl:
- Bugles Brand Corn Snacks – representing a horn of plenty.
- Pretzels – represent someone's arms folded in thanks and prayer.
- Candy Corn (or Corn Nuts) – to remind us the pilgrims only received 5 kernels of corn each day when food was scarce that first winter.
- Dried or Candy Fruits – to show that Thanksgiving is the celebration of the harvest.
- Peanuts and/or Sunflower Seeds – show that seeds offer the potential of a bounteous harvest next season.
Arts and Crafts To Let Kids Get Involved
Holidays usually involve company and decorating the dining room table. Here are ideas for ways your children (guests too) can help with table decorations.
- Napkin rings – might be perfect for older children. They can cut strips of colored paper and write things like ” I am grateful for …”. Wrap the strips around the napkins, glue them together (words on the outside) and have guests read them during dinner. Alternatively, the strips of paper can be looped to form a chain of messages.
- Name cards – are fun for almost any age. Decorate index cards (unlined) and make one for each person who will be joining the dinner festivities. If you don't have holders, you can make them from toilet paper cardboard, decorating them as pilgrim hats or Indian headresses.
- Thanksgiving tree – Pick one/multiple branches from the backyard and make colorful leaves to hang from the tree. Ask everyone to write something they're thankful for and share them during/after dinner. Guests can write their leaf as they arrive, almost like you would add your name to a guest book. The leaves can be placed in a scrapbook with a holiday photo to enjoy year after year.
Thanksgiving Games for Kids
- Thanksgiving bingo – is a game for the kids and adults, one that doesn't need much explaining. You can make your own Thanksgiving bingo game or use this free printable at Made with Happy.
- Simple Thanksgiving family game – focuses on gratitude in honor of this holiday. All you need is dice and this card with questions about gratitude you can buy on Etsy.
- Thanksgiving word scramble – offers a challenge for older kids. They'll love using their brain power to unscramble Thanksgiving related words. You can find ideas here or create your own game around family traditions.