Savor the Season of Gratitude: 12 Family Activities To Do This Thanksgiving

thanksgiving family activities"
thanksgiving family activities
Source: @stripesandwhimsy, Alaina Kaz & Shutterstock
Source: @stripesandwhimsy, Alaina Kaz & Shutterstock

Growing up, Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays, especially because there was so much excitement leading up to the big day. It was one of the few times throughout the year that everyone in my family would gather together aT my grandparents’ house. All the aunts, uncles, and cousins were able to take time out of their busy schedules to spend an afternoon together eating the massive meal and one too many pies my grandma made. 

The days leading up to the holiday were somewhat of a tradition themselves. They would involve helping my grandma clear off her dining room table—which, throughout the rest of the year, was basically a catchall for everyone’s things—and baking for our get-together. When Thanksgiving finally came around, we were all ready to spend the day swapping stories and reminiscing about years past. Despite the inevitable argument (or two) about who had to sit at the kids’ table, everyone was in good spirits and loved celebrating together.

It’s these traditions and family activities that I still look back on fondly even 20 years later, and plan to bring into my household with my own kids one day. If you’re looking for some new traditions to start this year, or just some ways to savor the season of gratitude, we’ve got you covered. Read on for 12 Thanksgiving family activities to try this year on Thanksgiving Day or during the days leading up to the holiday.

1. Host a meal with family and friends

We had to start with the obvious, but there’s a reason this is a tradition for so many families. Thanksgiving is all about gathering together and spending quality time with those who mean the most to you. Whether you have a big extended family, or your “family” involves people not related by blood, hosting a gathering can make this the most special occasion of the year. Go all-out by spending the morning cooking, or go pot luck style so the prep doesn’t all fall on a handful of people. We know this is something you’ll want to incorporate into your Thanksgiving season celebrations year after year.

2. Share what you’re grateful for

While feasting on your Thanksgiving meal, turn the conversation to gratitude—aka the reason for the season—by asking everyone to go around the table and share something they’re thankful for. Take it a step further by posing a follow-up question about what everyone is excited for in the year to come. This simple activity offers a reminder of why we’re gathering in the first place.

3. Watch the Thanksgiving Day parade

Many of us probably have memories of waking up on Thanksgiving morning and watching the Macy’s parade to see if our favorite character made it into balloon line-up. Pass the magic onto the little ones in your life by having the parade on TV while prepping for the day’s festivities.

thanksgiving activities
Source: @luckyandi

4. Do festive crafts

There are tons of crafting opportunities this time of year. From making turkeys out of paper plates to tasty Thanksgiving-themed treats, there are plenty of fun ways to keep little hands entertained—which is especially helpful when parents are prepping for the day ahead!

5. Make a gratitude jar

Speaking of crafts, why not make one you can use as a Thanksgiving family activity but then come back to throughout the year? To make a family gratitude jar, all you need is a glass (or plastic) jar or vase, paper, something to write with, and art supplies for decorating the jar. First, have the kiddos decorate the jar however they’d like—with ribbons, paint, stickers, or anything that brings them joy. Then have them write down things they’re thankful for on pieces of paper and add them to the jar. Either do this on Thanksgiving Day or make it a habit to put something new in the jar each week or each month for the next year. By the time next Thanksgiving comes around, you’ll have lots of things to look back on and can start all over again for the new year.

6. Write ‘Thank You’ cards

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the holiday it is without gratitude. Encourage your little ones (and yourself!) to reflect on the people they’re thankful for and show that appreciation with a handwritten card. Whether they write to a family member, teacher, or friend, they’ll be excited to create a card with that special person in mind. Sending out a “just because” token of our gratitude to someone in our lives is also a great tradition for us to incorporate for ourselves.

7. Do a Turkey Trot

While I used to live in fear that I would one day marry into a family that runs 5k races on holidays, a couple of years ago, my family became that family. My mom signed us all up for a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, and I’m happy to report that it’s actually pretty fun—and no running is required! While plenty of participants will run, we blissfully walk the 3.1 miles together with a group of other locals and bundle up in our cool weather gear with dog leashes in hand. As it turns out, it feels pretty good to start the day with a nice walk before indulging in some well-deserved pumpkin pie.

8. Volunteer as a family

Getting involved in your community and volunteering as a family is a great way to give back and teach kids about the power of helping others. This is also a great way to connect with different people and put into perspective all of the blessings we have in our lives. Whether collecting canned goods, offering to work at a soup kitchen, or finding another opportunity in your community, giving back this time of year will feel especially rewarding and benefit others in need.

thanksgiving family activities
Source: @sopharush

9. Watch an NFL game

Whether you’re a fan of football or not, NFL games on Thanksgiving Day are quite the tradition. Both the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys have been playing on the holiday for decades—only breaking tradition a handful of times—with a number of other teams playing any given year. This year, get in the fall spirit by throwing on the game while munching on some pre-dinner tailgate snacks.

10. Break the wishbone

Simple but festive traditions are some of the most exciting for kids. After cooking a traditional Thanksgiving turkey, take out the wishbone and have two family members break it while making a wish. Whoever comes out with the bigger end is said to have their wish come true. Even the holder of the shorter end still gets pie, though, so everyone ends up a winner.

11. Have a movie marathon

Everyone knows Thanksgiving is a gateway into the holiday season. When everyone’s filled to the brim with turkey, stuffing, and pie, cozy up on the couch and watch holiday movies together as a family.

12. Play games

We can’t think of a better way to spend quality time with our loved ones than with games. This could come in the form of favorite board and card games, classics like charades, or fun sports activities like flag football. Whatever gets the competitive juices flowing for your bunch is the name of the game this Thanksgiving.

brett nicole hayden

Brett Nicole Hayden, Editorial Assistant

As the Editorial Assistant, Brett works with the editors of The Everymom on the content creation process by updating stories, sourcing images and graphics, and pitching and contributing her own articles. Her favorite topics to write about are culture, relationships, and living. She’s also The Everymom’s resident baby names and family movies expert!