For many, Thanksgiving is one of the few times all year we specifically gather with our kids and out extended family and friends to share a delicious meal, give thanks for our blessings and soak up the joy of each other’s company.
Today, there are many different Thanksgiving traditions. Some of which you may already include in your Thanksgiving celebration and others that may be new to you and your family.
Thanksgiving should be made up of rituals and customs we’ll remember forever. Passing on family traditions to our children and sharing them with a table full of blended family is one of the most satisfying things a parent can do.
Here are 11 Thanksgiving Traditions you may want to add to your current list of activities you share with your kids on the fourth Thursday of November.
#1. Share Your Thanks with Your Kids
Simply pass a blank journal around the Thanksgiving table, ask your kids and guests to write at least one thing that they are thankful for. For kids too young to write, have an adult transcribe what the young children are thankful for. Over the years, fill the book with comments and enjoy reading them aloud at Thanksgiving celebrations to come. It is truly wonderful to read how gratitude reflections change over time.
Have a roundtable toast. Ask each guest to raise their glass — even if it’s a sippy cup full of milk — and make a toast about what they’re thankful for. This is a great way to start Thanksgiving dinner. While it’s touching, don’t be surprised if it elicits some big time laughs!
#2. Personalize the Table for Your Family
Some of the most beautiful Thanksgiving tables bring family stories to life by mixing and matching dishes, napkins and serving trays. Instead of the fancy china set, choose pieces with history — and be sure to tell stories about where you were when you collected it, who gave it to you and why it’s special.
Homemade place cards are something everyone can enjoy — and it makes the table that much more special. Have kids trace and cut out leaves or collect pine cones from the backyard and turn them into place cards. The act of collecting items for the table will make a myriad of memories to share.
#3. Go for a Family Walk with Your Children
A family walk with your children is both fun and good for you and is a nice way to connect with each other. Either a pre meal walk to work up an appetite or a post main course walk to get your blood pumping and to get ready for dessert.
A rosy-cheeked morning walk on a brisk day is good to work up an appetite for the much-anticipated meal, and it’s also a nice way to connect to nature and to each other. It’s the perfect way to begin a busy day.
If you’re in a cold climate bundle up and take a flashlight, or bring your phone along to light the way.
#4. Give Kids an Important Job
Serving Thanksgiving dessert? Making coffee? Setting the table? Help kids feel like an important part of the festivities by giving them an age-appropriate Thanksgiving job.
When I was younger, my mom would always let my brother and I set the table on Thanksgiving Day. I’m not sure how great it came out, but I remember feeling so proud when all the grownups would make a fuss over how nice the table looked.
#5. Leave Room for Unexpected Guests at the Table
For whatever reason, fact is, not everyone has a place to go for Thanksgiving. Do your part to change that, in whatever small way you can.
Extend an invitation to an elderly neighbor whose family can’t visit or a coworker who’s far from home — and if they opt to stay home, take them a plate. This teaches your children to think about others and be generous with what they have. Inviting an unexpected guest gives everyone something to be thankful for.
#6. Make a Craft Together with Your Children
To create a Thanksgiving craft is just as much fun for the kids as the kids-at-heart. Making a seasonal activity will keep the little ones busy while the cooks finish the meal or during clean-up. It’s also a great unplugged bonding activity.
#7. Break the Wishbone – With a Twist!
When you first carve the turkey, set aside the wishbone to dry while everyone eats. After you finish the dishes, draw names to determine who gets to break it. Make a wish — legend has it the winner will see theirs come true in the upcoming year.
#8. Get Everyone on the Phone
Technology can help you share Thanksgiving with faraway loved ones. Take some time out during your celebration to video call those who can’t make it to the table.
And while you’ve got the family and / or friends gathered ’round, take a group photo to commemorate the occasion.
#9. Volunteer / Donate
On Thanksgiving, pay your blessings forward. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen, food pantry or at an organization that serves a hot meal or gathers supplies for those who may otherwise go without.
Local charities are always looking for food after Thanksgiving. To help them help others, ask your guests to bring a non-perishable food item with them which you can donate later.
Don’t forget to get the kids involved in this activity too.
#10. Turn the Tablecloth Into a Keepsake
Draw your thanks on the tablecloth for a keepsake that doubles as a fun activity. Cover the table with a white fabric tablecloth and scatter cloth markers along the table. Ask your guests to draw what they’re thankful for or scribble down their favorite Thanksgiving memory. By the time the meal ends, you’ll have a reusable memento to dress up the Thanksgiving table for years to come.
#11. Write Out Your Thanks
After dinner or while waiting for the bird to rest, pass out thank you cards and pre-stamped envelopes and ask your guests to write a note to someone who made a difference in their lives over the last year. Collect them on the way out the door to send on Black Friday. It’s a lovely way to reflect on what really matters, and will serve as a touching reminder for the recipients too.
11 Thanksgiving Traditions for Your Kids on Long Island, NY
These great 11 Thanksgiving activities can really make your family’s Thanksgiving more memorable. And if you do them every year they can become traditions your children will pass on for generations to come.
Does your family already participate in any of these Thanksgiving traditions? Did you learn new ones you will incorporate into your next Thanksgiving celebration?
Your Local Kids.com offers an educational activity, party resources, summer camp guide and more for Long Island locals. It is a leading resource for parents of young children to help find a local community for their little ones. You can also check out the Family Events Calendar to locate something fun near you!