Parenting offers many blessings and joys, but few come close to bringing your kids into the fold of family traditions and creating some of your own.
We’ve compiled our favorite ideas for creating lasting memories on Thanksgiving. They’ll keep your tots busy from the minute you put the turkey in the oven to the instant you slip on your stretchy, expandable pants.
photo: Dion Hinchcliffe via flickr
Spruce Up the Joint
The idle hands of kids have the ability to turn an unsuspecting house upside-down in the matter of moments. Use their tireless energy to add a little homemade spice to your holiday decor.
- Hide gourds, mini pumpkins, apples, fall flowers, and Indian corn around the house or yard for kids to gather and assemble into a cornucopia centerpiece. Brace yourself for the randomness they’ll collect and deem cornucopia-appropriate — we can’t promise it’ll be pretty.
- Suggest kids fan out in the yard in search of leaves, pinecones, twigs and acorns to create a fall wreath using one side of a cereal box, cardstock or cardboard to make a form.
- Set up a small table with large sheets of paper, washable drawing utensils (unless you like the idea of something Thanksgiving-themed permanently drawn on your wall), glue, stickers and craft items that are either easily picked up from the floor or guaranteed to not jam your vacuum so kids can make placemats for guests.
- Once the dishes are cleared and the leftovers securely hidden from your dog’s far-reaching tongue, blast your favorite holiday music playlist, dust off the ornaments and lights and get a head start at decorating for Christmas.
photo: RubyDW via flickr
Focus on the Food
Since food is such a big focus of this holiday, get creative with your bird and its trimmings.
- Write meaningful scriptures, fun fortunes, cute sayings, silly jokes or faux proverbs for your family members (i.e.: “cleaning the garage will bring you much joy”) on small slips of parchment paper using food-safe markers. Place the slips inside crescent rolls or biscuits before baking and enjoy reading them at dinner.
- Not everyone’s born with natural culinary talents or a desire to excel in the kitchen so don’t be afraid to step away from the baster and order your turkey. Many local restaurants and grocery stores would be happy to cater and save your family from a potential deep-fried turkey disaster.
- The heaping portions of delicious leftovers taking up real estate in your refrigerator is arguably the best part of Thanksgiving, so why not share the wealth with friends by hosting a morning-after brunch? Make patties out of stuffing, fry in a skillet of butter until crispy and serve with eggs over easy; whip up turkey omelets with a side of cranberry; indulge your sweet tooth with a mid-day slice of pie; and compare stories of family holiday lunacy.
- Continue the centuries-old tradition of having two people take hold of opposite sides of your bird’s wishbone and breaking it to see who’s wish will come true. The person with the larger portion of the wishbone has their wish granted. This ritual dates back to when people believed turkeys were oracles. While we don’t suggest using your de-feathered friend as a modern-day ouija board, establishing the custom makes for lifelong memories.
- Give the kids a don’t-play-with-your-food reprieve for the day to test whether it’s true that ripened cranberries bounce. While the kids are distracted bouncing their fruit, you can focus on carefully removing the cranberry from the can while artfully preserving that desirable can shape.
photo: tiny froglet via flickr
Carve Out Time for Fun
Watching a turkey bake is the better-smelling equivalent to the fun of watching paint dry, so if pounding the pavement early in search of pre-Black Friday shopping deals isn’t on your family’s agenda, then you’ll need ways to keep the family entertained.
- Kick off the morning by introducing your kids to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, a time-honored tradition since 1924.
- Pass the afternoon yelling at the telly while watching professional football or assemble the family for a friendly game of flag or touch football, only tackling those that deserve it.
- Schedule snuggle time under a blanket and watch a fun kid-loved holiday movie like Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Elf.
- Host a board game tournament where you can impress with your Candyland skills.
- Send the kids to bed with a holiday-themed story time that will have sugarplums — or rascally elves — dancing in their heads. Crack open the Elf on the Shelf book and let the games begin.
- Engage the kids in a game of Tail Feather Tag. Start by giving each kid a clothespin to decorate as they please with markers and googly eyes. Attach the decorated clothespin to the back of their shirt and have them hightail it out of the house. The object of the game is to steal someone else’s clothespin without losing your own.
- The Easter Bunny better watch its back because the Thanksgiving Turkey (an animal that actually lays eggs) is getting in on the egg hunt action this year. Dig out those pastel-colored eggs usually reserved for Easter and fill them with sweet treats, trinkets, silly jokes and familial observations — like grandpa’s penchant for sticking his fingers in the food when he thinks no one’s looking. Send the kids on a wild turkey chase hunting the eggs outside while you take a minute to enjoy the moment of silence.
photo: meesh via flickr
Honor the Thanks and Giving in Thanksgiving
‘Tis the season to compel people within the same gene pool to admit they like one another by encouraging admissions of thankfulness and gratitude for each other before allowing them to eat. When hosting Thanksgiving, be sure to give guests ample outlets for communicating thankfulness for the gifts in their lives — which includes you, of course.
- Before the first forkful of stuffing is devoured, take turns expressing gratitude for a blessing or a positive that’s happened in the past year — the birth of a child (or not birthing a child), a new job, or consistently achieving a full eight hours of sleep void of diaper changes, middle of the night feedings or bedwetting.
- If your family isn’t so comfortable expressing feelings verbally and you think watching them squirm awaiting their turn would be unbearable, create non-verbal activities to eliminate that put-on-the-spot feeling. Purchase a plain table cloth and fabric pens and allow guests to write little notes. Reuse the table cloth every year and continue adding sentiments. This same activity can be accomplished by creating a family journal of thankfulness that can be added to and looked back on year after year.
- For a less permanent option to share thoughts, create a paper tree on the wall and supply construction paper leaves for guests to write on and add to the tree.
- Prior to Thanksgiving, volunteer with your family at a food kitchen or coordinate a food drive to donate items to a local pantry. You can find a local organization in need of volunteers by visiting The National Coalition for the Homeless.
- Combine the goal of good health with the desire to give back by finding a local turkey trot to participate in Thanksgiving morning. Not only do trots typically support local charities, but they have the added bonus of providing you a way to make room for the significant number of calories you’ll consume in the afternoon.
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