November is a time when the sun rises later, set sooner and winter is just around the corner. But with so much of the year in our rearview mirror, it’s also a time to reflect on the good things we’ve experienced and the blessings we enjoy. Thanksgiving is a holiday for celebrating just that. But when sharing Thanksgiving with young ones, it can seem daunting to make it special every year. Traditions that your family brings out “only for Thanksgiving” are a great way to make the holiday stand out for your kids. With that in mind, here are some thoughts for how to make the day about more than just a (very delicious) turkey.
- Family Table Cloth
Make a special table cloth with your kids that shows your family’s Thanksgiving tradition. Start with a plain fabric table cloth and add some Thanksgiving decorations right in the middle. (Use a non-toxic washable fabric paint for best results.) Pictures of food, family, and things that you’re all grateful for is a good way to start. Then have each child make a hand turkey along the edge, by tracing their hand and coloring them to resemble the festive bird. Each year, have the kids add another hand turkey to the table cloth. This fun tradition allows your family to have the same great activity every year, with more being added as time goes by!
- The Kids’ Dish
Involving kids in the Thanksgiving meal is another way to mark the day out as special for them. Set aside one dish that will be considered “their” contribution. This can be a dish as simple or challenging as your child can handle, depending on age and ability. And they can certainly have a grown up with them to “assist” with things like cutting or oven use. Having there be a dish on the table (like rolls or mashed potatoes) that they can point to as their own will help your child feel connected to the meal (and may be the first steps down the road of cooking when they’re older!).
- Chronicle of Thankfulness
In a similar spirit to the special table cloth, start a book that tracks what everyone is thankful for each year. Every family member writes and/or draws what they are thankful for on a separate piece of paper (be sure each contributor signs and dates their work). Then put all the pages into a three ring binder (with appropriately decorated cover). Then read the book together as a family. Each year, have everyone add another page to the book. Entries can be as long or as short as you want, and can repeat from previous years too. After all, you can never be too thankful for the good things in your life!
- Thanksgiving Walk
There’s more Thanksgiving than just eating a large, delicious meal. But since most families do eat a large, delicious meal, it’s important to get some physical activity into the mix. Make that easy, healthy activity into a family tradition! Either before or after the meal, go on a walk as a family. Fresh air and light exercise will help work up a hunger before eating, or help settle a very full stomach after eating. If your family is even more physically inclined, the walk could instead be a game of touch football, or a friendly soccer game. The important thing is that it is physical and for the whole family!
Remember that family traditions don’t have to exclusively involve the family. Thanksgiving is a time to remember all the ways your family is blessed, but is also an opportunity to help others. Volunteering at a soup kitchen, collecting and donating to a food shelf, or assisting with a winter clothing drive are just a few things that can make a big difference, especially if the whole family helps. You can look online or in community newsletters for local opportunities to make a difference in your community this Thanksgiving.
Hopefully these suggestions inspire your family to be even closer this Thanksgiving. Annual traditions are a great way to bring your family together for any holiday. Just remember that anything can be a tradition! If it’s positive and can be enjoyed by the whole family, you’re already well on your way to making a new, cherished Thanksgiving tradition!
Photo Credit: Michael and Christa Richert
Originally Published 11/22/2016