While Thanksgiving is known for plentiful cooking and exceptional eating, we know those duties do not shape the true meaning of this special holiday. More than just about any other day of the year. Thanksgiving is designed to bring families together and that often requires finding activities to keep the kids busy. Mom and dad may be busy entertaining visitors, or working hard to cook up a feast in the kitchen, but it is equally important to ensure children experience a rich day.
Here is a look at five meaningful Thanksgiving Day activities for kids.
Turkey Arts & Crafts (Coffee Filter Turkeys, Turkey T-Shirts)
There are a wealth of fun craft activities to do with kids on Thanksgiving and these are two of my favorites. Not only do such ideas help families get in the spirit of the holiday, but they are great time killers while waiting for cooking to be done. Of all common household items, coffee filters make great materials for creating turkey-themed cards and table-toppers due to their circular shape mirroring the bird’s round plume of feathers. After that, all that is needed is watercolor paints and a bit of creativity to make some pretty cool looking turkeys.
Another smart idea to keep the kids busy is making turkey t-shirts with acrylic paints designed for permanent fabric application. Just pick up some plain white shirts and apply the paint directly onto the children’s hands. The resulting hand-print on the shirt can be as colorful as you like and makes a great outline for the bird of honor. These activities are especially fun if young visitors are at the house, as it allows kids to enjoy some quality time with friends and relatives.
Help Cook Dinner and Dessert
This suggestion obviously offers more appeal for older kids, but children of all ages can pitch in to help cook on Thanksgiving. While perfecting the turkey inevitably gets most of the glory, there are many smaller jobs in which kids can make a real contribution. I trained my children from a fairly early age to skin potatoes and they actually enjoy creating competing mounds of peels while working their way through a five or ten pound bag. Now that is a tedious task for which extra help is particularly useful.
Children are likely to be additionally motivated to make a real difference when it comes to preparing dessert. If making homemade apple or pumpkin pie, kids can easily help by peeling apples or scooping the inside of a pumpkin. Both jobs are hands on and they will surely enjoy working with mushy ingredients. The reward comes later when hungry children can assist by putting a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream atop the finished product before eating.
Attend a Thanksgiving Parade
Along with Independence Day and New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving is one of the signature holidays closely associated with parades. And I have yet to meet a child that did not love a good parade. While this is a great activity for kids, many people will be limited by geography, since not every community organizes a Thanksgiving parade. In fact, whereas Fourth of July often sees smaller towns come together to celebrate, these parades tend to be limited to bigger cities.
The most famous Turkey Day celebration is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. If you live within a reasonable drive of the Big Apple, be sure to let your kids join its three million attendees at least once, as the festive floats are stunning. Other worthy parades include the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Chicago, America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Parade in Plymouth, Mass., America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit, Carolina’s Carrousel Parade in Charlotte, and the H-E-B Holiday Parade in Houston. If attending any of these events, make sure to cook in advance, as traffic will likely make it a long day.
Play Backyard Football
Few things compliment Thanksgiving in America better than football. While much of that enjoyment comes from sitting on the couch for NFL action, football need not be confined to watching on television. Thanksgiving is a great day to break out the pigskin and get a game going in the backyard or on the street in front of your house. There is no need to play rough, as pads, helmets, and hard tackles are not required.
Instead, pick sides and let the kids play “two hand touch” or just practice airing out the arm with a game of catch. With a chill in the air and no shortage of friends and family nearby to serve as potential teammates, I have fond memories of throwing the ball outside while waiting for the turkey to be ready. Kids will enjoy this annual tradition, even if they later join their generation by choosing video games in their rooms over football on the couch.
Put up Christmas Lights and Tree
Many people have a “one holiday at a time” attitude and it is understandable that celebrating Thanksgiving leaves little time to look ahead to Christmas. A good-sized turkey dinner typically involves a lot of clean-up and hardly feels like the time to create an even bigger mess. Indeed, in our family, Christmas decorations remain put up until mid-December, when we gradually break out the decorations and head out in search of a real tree.
However, I have encountered many families who enjoy the tradition of getting an early start on these duties on Thanksgiving. Many Christmas trees are already up and lights shining brightly outside of houses by the day’s end. Kids inevitably love to be involved in this annual decorating and can accomplish much of the work on their own with proper supervision. And if ready to start playing Christmas music, these tasks can be a perfect way to unwind from a Thanksgiving Day filled with bountiful eating.
Jeff Briscoe is a radio host and writer from Port Charlotte, Fla.