9 Fun Ideas for Kids at Thanksgiving

In the headlong rush toward Christmas, children often slide right past the less exciting holiday of Thanksgiving. The prospect of Christmas gifts, Santa, and parties overshadows the national holiday set aside to give thanks for our many blessings.

The fourth Thursday of November reminds us of the importance of gratitude every day. God’s Word also repeatedly tells us to give thanks.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT)

God gives parents the responsibility to develop the quality of gratitude in their children. We must teach them to understand and give thanks for all they receive from others and God. One way we do this is to develop traditions around celebrations.

Fun and meaningful opportunities for gratitude abound in the month of November. Below are nine categories with lots of ideas for kids at Thanksgiving.

1. Appreciation

Thank-you notes: Encourage children to write a note each week to someone who has contributed positively to their lives. Consider writing to grandparents, siblings, or other special relatives and friends.

Neighbor gifts: Sometime during the month of Thanksgiving, bake cookies or another special treat for your neighbors. Deliver them together as a family and express your gratitude for them.

Teacher appreciation: Using blank index cards, children can make specially lettered Bible verse cards for teachers or Sunday school leaders. Write Colossians 1:3 or a similar verse that expresses gratitude for these individuals.

2. Crafts

Kids playing game on thanksgiving

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Zulfiska

Leaf Placemats:

-Gather several colorful leaves for each child.

-Place between waxed paper and seal with a warm iron.

-Glue on a construction paper frame, or trim it in colorful duct tape.

Handprint turkey:

-Trace your child’s hand on white construction paper.

-Color the palm area brown and the fingers various colors.

-Add eyes, legs, beak, and wattle.

-Write something you’re thankful for on each finger feather.

Fingerprint turkey name cards: Use any washable paint and blank index cards. Fold the cards in half to make a tent. Using brown paint, make the body of the turkey with a thumbprint. Using various paint colors, make a semicircle of fingerprint feathers over the top of the body. Use a marker to add eyes, a beak, and a wattle. Write a name of a dinner guest on each tent card.

Thanksgiving collage: Cut pictures out of a magazine of things you’re thankful for and glue them to a poster board. No magazines on hand? Print black and white clip art from the internet and color with markers before cutting out and making the collage.

Dollar store wood crafts: If creative prep time is short, dollar stores sell inexpensive themed wood crafts and paint. For younger kids, buy foam craft kits with stick-on parts rather than glue.

Origami turkey table favors: Buy a pad of colorful origami paper and look up directions for an origami turkey on the internet. Make a turkey for each dinner guest.

3. Food

Food preparation: Involve children in cooking the Thanksgiving dinner. You can divide the tasks of a particular recipe among your children. When I was young, we always made fresh fruit salad for Thanksgiving. All the kids pitched in to peel, dice, and juice the various fruits. If working with several children at once seems overwhelming, prepare food ahead of time, working one on one with each child.

Thanksgiving food crafts: Recipes for Thanksgiving turkeys made from various candies abound on the internet. Not only are they delicious desserts, but they also double as table decorations.

Recipe cards: Holidays are an excellent time to start a collection of traditional family recipes for each child. Each child may copy a favorite recipe on an index card or create a recipe card on the computer. Add to the collection each year. When your kids grow up and start their own families, they will appreciate receiving a set of recipe cards they created when they were young.

Mom and daughter making a Thanksgiving turkey together, How to be thankful when times are tough

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Filadendron

4. Creativity

Thanksgiving poem: Task children with working together to make a group poem for a dramatic reading on Thanksgiving. For another option, ask each child to write a Thanksgiving limerick or an acrostic using the word Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving tablecloth: Spread the dinner table with butcher block paper. Provide kids with markers and ask them to draw things they’re thankful for. Adult guests enjoy this activity also.

Thanksgiving scrapbook: Take pictures throughout the Thanksgiving season and make a scrapbook. Assign older kids photography duties and involve everyone in journaling the memories. Add new pictures every year and make reviewing the scrapbook an annual family tradition.

5. Performance

Thanksgiving skit: Give children several books about the first Thanksgiving. After reading the books, they can work together to create a reenactment of the historical event. Be sure they learn about the Pilgrims, Squanto, and other native people. Provide kids with simple materials and props to make their own costumes. Don’t jump in to direct the skit yourself. Allow them to make the performance their own. Schedule a time on Thanksgiving for their performance. Don’t forget to video the event.

Thanksgiving talent show: Ask children to prepare a performance for a talent show after dinner on Thanksgiving. They could sing, dance, do illusions, recite a poem, tell jokes, or perform a skill they enjoy. Add to the fun by giving a unique award to each child (e.g., most creative, funniest, most musical, etc.).

6. Hospitality

thanksgiving prayer before meal, thanksgiving prayers

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/monkeybusinessimages

Table setting: Teach children how to make a beautiful table setting using your best dishes or special paper plates.

Folded napkins: Research on the internet how to fold cloth napkins. Task children to create a napkin for each guest and place them at each setting.

Table favors: Use the origami turkeys and turkey name cards to decorate the dinner table.

Greeting guests: Teach children how to greet guests and make them feel welcome in your home by providing for their needs. Allow them to take charge of guest hospitality on Thanksgiving.

Flower centerpiece: Purchase a bunch of flowers and ask the children to create a table centerpiece.

7. Service

Serve the family: Deep cleaning is often part of Thanksgiving preparation. Assign an extra chore or two to each child until the house is ready for guests.

Serve others: Ask children to think of someone to bless without any expectation of payment in November. Make a pie and deliver a slice to several widows you know. Rake leaves for an elderly neighbor. Offer to babysit for a busy mom. Wash and groom a friend’s dog. The possibilities are endless.

8. Family Time

Audio stories: Listen to Focus on the Family’s Squanto: A Thanksgiving Drama.

Games: Play board games or charades together.

Sports: Start an annual Thanksgiving family football game.

Books: Read aloud books about the origins of Thanksgiving. One of my favorites is Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas.

Scavenger hunt: Create a Thanksgiving/fall-themed scavenger hunt to occupy children on a day off school.

Outdoor time: Encourage plenty of outdoor play to stay unplugged from phones and videos.

9. Prayer

Thanksgiving jar: On Thanksgiving, invite your family and guests to write things they’re thankful for on slips of paper and put them in a jar. Before eating the Thanksgiving feast, spend time in prayer, allowing everyone to choose a paper from the jar and thank God for it.

Thankful board: In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, post a dry-erase board or chalkboard in a prominent place where it is accessible to everyone in the family. Encourage all family members to write on the board whenever they feel grateful. Then take time to express thanks to God at mealtime each day. Take a picture of the board at the end of the month and add it to the annual scrapbook.

Choose What Works for Your Family

As you consider adding several of these activities to your annual Thanksgiving celebration, don’t stress yourself by trying to do too much. I’ve included many ideas for kids at Thanksgiving so that each family may find a few that fit their needs.

I pray that you and your children are blessed with Thanksgiving traditions that extend throughout the year and carry forward into the next generation.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/ Drazen Zigic

Writer Annie YortyAnnie Yorty writes and speaks to encourage others to perceive God’s person, presence, provision, and purpose in the unexpected twists and turns of life. Married to her high school sweetheart and living in Pennsylvania, she mothers a teen, two adult children (one with intellectual disabilities), and a furry beast labradoodle. She has written From Ignorance to Bliss: God’s Heart Revealed through Down SyndromePlease connect with her at http://annieyorty.com/, Facebook, and Instagram.

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