If you haven’t guessed by now, I love holidays and all the fun traditions that come along with them. Thanksgiving is no exception. Thanksgiving to me is a combination of all my favorite things: counting our blessings, being together as a family, and eating yummy food.
While we may not do these traditions every year because sometimes the family we visit have their own traditions we enjoy, these are some of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions that we’ve established in our family and hope to continue to enjoy for many more years to come. We’re going to be on our own for the holidays, so there are a few new traditions we wanted to try out this year too.
My Family’s 11 Fun Thanksgiving Traditions
1. Thankful Tree:
At the beginning of November the kids help me make a Thankful tree for Family Home Evening. We have done it a few different ways, but generally I draw and tape up a tree trunk and branches, and then cut out a bunch of paper leaves. The family then writes down all the things we are thankful for on the leaves, and then we tape them up to the wall. I like to keep some leaves in a ziplock bag out on the counter with some pens & tape so whenever we remember something else we are grateful for we can write it down. I enjoy walking by and reading these helpful reminders of the many blessings our family has. Now that we have two kids that read, it has been really cute to see them read them and point out the things they wrote down on the tree. Our toddler also likes to look for his name and tell us he’s on there. It’s a fun, easy activity that I can add to whenever I wish.
2. Pie Tasting Contest:
This is something my family started doing once the kids started getting older and actually wanted to help out in the kitchen. One year my mom put my brothers in charge of making pies. Pretty soon my older brother made it a fun game, where everyone made a pie and we had a pie tasting contest. We have continued on with this tradition every time we get a good group together for Thanksgiving. I enjoy it because it means I will always get to enjoy my favorite pie (I have never enjoyed traditional pies – pumpkin, berry, apple) and I also like being able to enjoy a few different varieties. Another perk is we often have leftovers, which I sneak and hide to enjoy for breakfast. Shh.
3. Turkey Bowl:
Family football is a must during Thanksgiving. We usually just play in our backyard, but I know a few times they have gone to the park or a local elementary school. When we don’t have enough people around to do an actual game of football, we play 3 flies up. It is still a lot of fun. Rain or shine, the boys like to play a fun game of football before the big meal.
4. Thanksgiving Craft & Lesson:
A kitchen can only fit so many cooks. We like to help keep the kids happy by helping them do a Thanksgiving craft. My sister-in-law Jessica is an amazing teacher and likes to incorporate teaching with the craft, which I thought was really cool. There are a lot of fun lesson themes that can work together with the Thanksgiving theme.
5. Nature Walk After Dinner:
This honestly only works in places where the weather permits a walk. (IE – No way it will work for us here in Nebraska) After dinner is done, tables are cleared and a load of dishes is going, get the family out and about on a fun nature walk. Sometimes we get in the car and drive somewhere. Sometimes we just walk around the neighborhood. Getting out of the house and enjoying the beauty of the earth can keep your perspective grateful, and helps kids get their wiggles out from having to sit so politely during dinner.
6. Game Night:
Depending on how long everyone has together, we have also enjoy having the traditional game night together. The TV gets turned off and everyone gets together to play some group games. Our favorite is mafia or werewolves. We also enjoy Signs, Charades, and Big Booty. When we have a smaller group we enjoy board games and card games, like Nerts.
7. Thankful Dinner Conversation Starters:
There are a lot of fun ways to remember why we are grateful at Thanksgiving during the meal-time conversation. Traditionally my family went around the table and each person said one thing they were grateful for that year. There was no preparation or planning involved, no cutesy printables, and you know what? It worked. It was fun to hear what people said, it was quick and didn’t take ages, and we enjoyed it.
If you feel like being a little more creative there are a lot of other fun ways to get dinner conversations started on the topic of gratitude. A popular idea I have seen circulated around the web are “thankful rolls“. You write up a conversation starter (I am thankful for Aunt Julie because…), wrap it up in the roll, and then when you grab a roll you get to answer that gratitude question. You could also have people write up what they are grateful for and have family members try to guess who wrote what. (Like loaded questions. My family would love that.)
Or if you want an easier option simply cut up the strips and skip putting them in rolls all together. Have family members just grab a strip of paper to read out of a bowl or hat. My mom has done this a few times as well.
8. Family Photos:
Whether its silly prop photos or families asking for an updated shot of their crew, we tend to do a lot of mini family shoots during Thanksgiving break. It’s the perfect time to get an updated picture of the family while everyone is there, and also a quick way to get that perfect Christmas shot in for your Christmas cards.
9. Go to the Movies:
There always are great movies out around Thanksgiving. Growing up we didn’t go to the movies hardly ever, but once we went to college and came back it seemed like my parents were more-than-willing to take us all out to see the latest movie. Sometimes we simply choose a movie and go watch it, and other times we make it fun. One year when one of the Twilight movies came out all the ladies wrote down our favorite character on a card and pin it to our clothes. (Aka-no one chose team Edward or team Jacob). That was about as dressed up as we ever get, but its always fun to go to the movies and share that experience watching a movie for the first time in the theater.
And here are a few traditions I wanted to try out this year:
10. Gratitude Tablecloth:
I have wanted to do this project for a few years now and finally bought the materials to try it this year. There are a lot of great directions you can take this tradition, but the way I think I’m going to try is to trace my kid’s handprints on a tablecloth I bought and write their name and age underneath (where the wrist is). Then in all the fingers write something they are grateful for. I plan on also including any inside jokes that happen during Thanksgiving or funny quotes the kids or guests say.
I think it will be really fun to watch the tablecloth grow with handprints and memories through the years. I am not in a point in my life where I have fancy table settings and china plates, but I think this could work great later on down the road to work as a fun tablecloth for the kids table if I ever get concerned about having a fancier table setting for meals. I also think it will be fun for my kids to see their old handprints every year and remember what they were grateful for in years past.
11. Gratitude Devotional:
Thanksgiving would also be a great time to sit down and give a “gratitude lesson” to remind the kids that we are blessed in a lot of ways, and how we should give back to others when we have the chance. My kids call them mini devotionals, haha. I love the idea of doing an act of kindness along with the Thanksgiving craft. There are so many different ways to give back and be kind to others: put together charity packets to give to the needy, bring food over to a family you think could use a pick-me-up, or other fun random acts of kindness. If your kids are old enough you can even volunteer in your community. Thirtyhandmadedays.com has a ton of cute ideas (and even cute printables) for random acts of kindness and serving others.
I also think this is a good way to also remind and teach children how to be grateful during the holidays. Sometimes we need a reminder on how to graciously accept gifts as well as give gifts.
If you don’t have time (or if you are going to someone else’s home for Thanksgiving and don’t want to intrude on their time since you are a guest) this can easily be done for a family night before or after.
Traditions are fun because every family has different ones. What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving traditions? I would love to hear from you in the comments.