Family Thanksgiving Traditions For Kids To Start This Year
When you have kids, you start to view holidays differently than before and want to start fun traditions with your family.
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.
However, besides Thanksgiving dinner with my family, I never had any real Thanksgiving traditions growing up.
Year after year, I get swept up in the Christmas frenzy and forget to really celebrate Thanksgiving.
It comes and goes in a blur of cranberry sauce and pecan pie.
Although the story of the first Thanksgiving many of us learned in elementary school may not be entirely accurate, the holiday can still be something to celebrate.
It’s a great time to appreciate the things we’re thankful for.
When my daughter was a toddler, I wanted to think of something to do with her (and her future siblings) every year in an effort not to let the Thanksgiving holiday pass by thoughtlessly.
There are many different ways to appreciate and celebrate Thanksgiving by creating family traditions with our children.
Here are the best Thanksgiving traditions for families with young kids.
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Traditions To Prepare For Thanksgiving
1. Start A Thanksgiving Countdown
My family counts down to Christmas every year.
We have a cute wall hanging that starts the countdown 30 days before Christmas. When I take out my Christmas decorations—right after Halloween, of course—it’s too early to even hang it up and start the 30-day countdown.
Do you start your Christmas countdown early, like me?
Why not have a Thanksgiving countdown instead?
Since my daughter was two years old, we’ve made a Thanksgiving countdown paper chain (inspired by this post from Mom It Forward).
Every morning, my daughter gets to tear off another chain on our Thanksgiving turkey countdown, which she gets excited about.
I get excited about the fact that a four-day weekend is coming up soon!
Plus, we can still have our Christmas countdown once Thanksgiving is over.
2. Thankful Tree
Creating a Thankful Tree is a great way to encourage everyone in the family to think about what they’re thankful for. I plan to do something like this when my kids are a little older and better able to understand the concept of being thankful.
Related Post: How To Teach Toddlers & Preschoolers To Be Thankful
3. Gratitude Jar
As an alternative to a gratitude tree, start a gratitude jar or thankful jar.
This is something you could do just for the month of November OR keep it going all year long (we start ours in October).
Follow these instructions to make your own Thankful Jar for a fun DIY activity you can do with your toddler or young kids.
4. Thankful Pumpkin
This is another excellent activity to help families practice gratitude throughout the month of November.
Simply get a pumpkin at beginning of the month and write something that your family is thankful for each day on it.
By Thanksgiving, your pumpkin will be filled with everything you’re grateful for. And, you can use it as a centerpiece for your Thanksgiving meal!
Read more about celebrating thanksgiving with a gratitude pumpkin.
5. Make Blessing Bags for Homeless Shelters
Creating a blessing bag or care package to donate to homeless shelters is a perfect tradition to start with your young kids near Thanksgiving.
This can help teach them about kindness and being grateful for what they have.
Check with your local homeless shelter about what kind of goods they accept. They may even have a wish list available online. Most homeless shelters are in need of toiletries and personal care items, bed linens, blankets, towels, etc.
6. Volunteer Or Donate
I love the idea of helping our children learn to be grateful for what they have by volunteering with them.
My kids are a little young to understand this concept right now, but I hope we can add this to our Thanksgiving traditions in the future.
If you’re not sure where to start, try Googling places that serve free Thanksgiving dinner in your area — they usually look for volunteers to help out on Thanksgiving Day.
If you aren’t able to donate your time, many places are looking for food or monetary donations this time of year. Find a cause you feel passionate about or look up your local food bank.
7. Do A Thanksgiving Craft
Make a fall or Thanksgiving-themed craft (or several crafts) each year with your kids. This helps everyone get into the holiday spirit and is also a great bonding activity.
Pinterest has a ton of ideas for all different age groups.
Handprint turkeys are one of my favorite Thanksgiving crafts because you can do them each year to see how much your children have grown!
For an easy Thanksgiving activity to do with young kids, try this paper plate and tissue paper turkey.
8. Start A Thanksgiving Book Collection To Read With Your Kids
To help your children understand the meaning behind Thanksgiving, pick a book to read with them each year.
Here are some great ideas for young children:
- Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes. This is a cute story about things to be thankful for with nice illustrations.
- Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson. Bear’s friends all come over with food for a feast and bear realizes he has nothing to contribute. His friends help him see how thankful they are for him anyway.
- Llama Llama Gives Thanks by Anna Dewdney. A short, easy read about things to be thankful for from the Llama Llama series.
- 123s of Thankfulness by Patricia Hegarty. A cute book about thankfulness.
- Thankful Thanksgiving by Deb Adamson. A sweet rhyming book about all the things we can be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day.
9. Watch A Family Movie The Night Before Thanksgiving
Snuggle on the couch with the kids and a bowl of popcorn and start a family movie night tradition on Thanksgiving Eve.
Thanksgiving Day Traditions For Kids
10. Cook Thanksgiving Breakfast
For most people, Thanksgiving is centered around a late afternoon dinner.
But even on Thanksgiving, breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
If you’re sharing turkey and stuffing with extended family and friends later, make a special breakfast for just you, your spouse, and your kids in the morning.
11. Run A Turkey Trot
Sign up to run a 5K on Thanksgiving morning!
Look up Thanksgiving runs in your area. A lot are open to runners (and walkers) of all ages (or check if strollers are allowed).
12. Take A Thanksgiving Morning Hike
If you want to do something active but less structured than a community race, try going on a family hike on Thanksgiving morning.
The weather might be a little chilly but the fresh air and exercise will get you ready to handle the craziness of Thanksgiving Day.
13. Watch The Macy’s Day Parade
Watch the parade with your kids while you prep for Thanksgiving dinner.
This is probably a tradition for most Americans on Thanksgiving. I’m including it here in case you’re like me and forget about the parade every year until it’s almost over.
14. Tune In To The Dog Show
If you are like me and actually forget to turn on the parade, just settle in for The National Dog Show.
The dog show airs on NBC every year after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
When I was growing up, this was always on the TV when we arrived at my grandparents’ house on Thanksgiving and brings back great memories.
15. Let The Kids Help Bake Something Special
Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving or eating at someone else’s house, you probably have a standard dish you bring with you each year.
Let your kids help make it with you!
I always bring Chocolate Pudding Pie (it’s easy and it always gets eaten).
Every year, I let my daughter help make it with me by giving her age-appropriate tasks. It’s a fun tradition for the two of us to share.
16. Decorate Gingerbread Turkeys
Trader Joe’s sells fun gingerbread turkey decorating kits. Or, you could make your own gingerbread turkey cookies.
Kids will love decorating them with frosting, candies, and sprinkles.
17. Make Apple Turkeys
Another fun activity kids can do on Thanksgiving is decorating apple turkeys.
This is a great project, especially if you need to keep them entertained while you get things ready. I love that it’s a craft they can eat!
18. Turkey On The Table
Turkey On The Table is an activity kit that helps teach children how to understand and express gratitude.
As a bonus, when you purchase a kit, meals are donated to those in need through a partnership with Feeding America.
19. Put Out An Activity Tablecloth
An activity tablecloth is a great idea to keep kids occupied while they’re waiting for dinner.
Alternatively, have them color the tablecloth in advance so you can use it to cover the table on Thanksgiving Day.
These fabric ones can be washed and used multiple times so you can continue this tradition each year.
20. Play The ABCs Of Gratitude
Gratitude ABCs can be a fun game for your family to play each year at Thanksgiving.
Each person can play individually or divide everyone into different teams. Set a timer and see who can come up with the most things to be thankful for using each letter of the alphabet.
Use a Gratitude ABC printable like the one found here.
21. Start A Flag Football Game
Flag football is a fun way to add some friendly competition to the day. Help everyone burn off calories from dinner by running around outside.
Little kids can join in and run around, even if they don’t really understand the rules yet.
Other fun options to play are Capture The Flag or just plain old tag.
22. Have A Family Cornhole Tournament
If you want to do something outside but don’t want a game with lot of running involved, hold a family cornhole tournament each year.
Even the youngest kids can participate by trying to score points for their team.
21. Play Board Games After Dinner
For a quieter activity after finishing Thanksgiving dinner, start a tradition of playing board games as a family.
Here’s a list of some great games for families with kids.
22. Take An After Dinner Walk
If the weather is nice, taking a walk after Thanksgiving dinner is a great way to add in a little activity.
Walking will also help the kids burn off some of their dessert-fueled energy.
23. Write A List Of What You’re Thankful For This Year
Have everyone in the family write a list of the people, things, and events they were thankful for this year.
Save the lists to read them again next year.
24. Secret Santa drawing
If you celebrate Christmas and spend Thanksgiving with the same people you’ll be celebrating Christmas with, this is the perfect time to pull names for your family’s Secret Santa or gift exchange.
25. Take A Yearly Family Photo
Take a family photo every year on Thanksgiving!
This is a great way to see how your family has changed and the kids are growing over the years.
Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity for a family photo for these reasons:
- Everyone is usually dressed up (or at least decent looking)!
- There are other people around to snap a picture whether you’re hosting or traveling to someone else’s home for dinner.
Thanksgiving Night Traditions For Kids
26. Wear Christmas Pajamas on Thanksgiving Night
Many people view Thanksgiving as the official start of the Christmas season.
Give your kids new Christmas pajamas every Thanksgiving Night. Now they have all month to wear their cozy holiday PJs.
27. Write Letters to Santa on Thanksgiving Night
Another fun activity to get in the Christmas spirit right after Thanksgiving is to have your kids write letters to Santa on Thanksgiving night.
This is especially helpful if you’re planning to do any Black Friday shopping!
Thanksgiving Weekend Traditions For Kids
28. Have A Lazy Day After Thanksgiving
Spend the day after Thanksgiving being lazy! Lounge around the house in pajamas, watch movies and play board games with the kids, and eat leftovers all day long.
29. Host A “Cousin Sleepover”
Have an annual cousin sleepover on Thanksgiving weekend.
Every year, rotate which family will host the sleepover (so all the parents can take turns getting a night off)!
I love this idea for a fun Thanksgiving weekend tradition for the kids.
30. Black Friday Shopping
I used to look forward to Black Friday all month. My sister and I would get up at 4 am and head to the mall on Black Friday.
We’d drink coffee and eat mall pretzels for breakfast and snag a couple of things on sale (usually clothes for ourselves). It was more about the experience and the bonding time than the actual shopping.
With the rise of online shopping and Cyber Monday, Black Friday shopping isn’t what it used to be.
However, you can still start a special Black Friday shopping tradition with your kids.
Pick a specific store and let your little one pick out a couple of gifts for family members. If you go early, it might not be too crowded and the kids will love the special mommy and me time.
31. Christmas Tree Farm
One of my favorite Thanksgiving weekend traditions is visiting a Christmas Tree farm to cut down our own Christmas tree. Kids will love being able to pick out the tree and help cut it down.
There is something magical about having a fresh-cut Christmas tree in your living room this time of year (plus, the fresh-cut trees usually don’t shed as many pine needles)!
Spend the rest of the weekend decorating the tree and drinking hot chocolate while watching Christmas movies.
Thanksgiving Traditions For Families With Young Kids Wrap Up
Having Thanksgiving traditions can help make the holiday memorable for your family. It’s a great time to stop and think about all the things we’re truly thankful for.
Next year, you can add all your new Thanksgiving traditions to your list of things you’re thankful for!
What are your favorite family Thanksgiving traditions to do with your kids? Comment below!