It’s the time of year when the sun rises later and sets sooner, with winter hiding just around the corner. But with so much of the year in our rearview mirror, it's also a perfect time to reflect on the good things we've experienced and the blessings we’ve enjoyed. 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. Here are some ideas for how you can make the day about more than just a (very delicious) turkey.
Family Table Cloth
Make a special tablecloth with your kids that shows your family's Thanksgiving tradition. Start by laying a plain fabric tablecloth over the table that you will use for Thanksgiving. Using non-toxic, washable fabric paint, draw some Thanksgiving decorations, like food and family, right in the middle. Then have each child create a hand turkey along the edge of the table by tracing their hand and coloring it in to resemble the festive bird. Each year, have the kids add another hand turkey next to their previous one(s). This fun tradition allows your family to have the same great activity every year, and you can watch the way your children grow and develop their creativity as time goes by.
The Kids' Dish
Involving kids in the Thanksgiving meal is another way to make the day special. Set aside one dish that will be considered "their" contribution. This can be as simple or challenging as your child can handle, depending on age and ability, with a grown-up nearby to help them with things like cutting or oven use. A dish on the table, like rolls or mashed potatoes, that a child can point to as their own will help them feel connected to the meal (and may be the first step down the road of cooking when they're older!).
Chronicle of Thankfulness
In a spirit similar to the Thanksgiving tablecloth activity, 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). 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. After all, you can never be too thankful for the good things in your life!
There's more to Thanksgiving than just eating a large, delicious meal. But since most families do eat a large, delicious meal, it's important to incorporate 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 an appetite before eating or help settle a very full stomach afterward. If your family is even more physically inclined, play a friendly game of touch football or soccer instead. The important thing is that it is physical and an activity that all can enjoy!
Family traditions don't have to exclusively involve the family. Thanksgiving is a time to remember all the ways your family is blessed, but it is also an opportunity to serve your community. Volunteering at a soup kitchen, collecting and donating to a food shelf, and assisting with a winter clothing drive are just a few ways to make a big difference, especially if the whole family helps. Look online or in community newsletters for local opportunities to serve in your community this Thanksgiving.
Read a Holiday Book
Books are the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit. Grab one or two of your favorites, like Thanksgiving in the Woods or Porcupine's Pie, and curl up for a festive, fall storytime. No matter when or where you choose to read, the most important thing is to do it together.
Hopefully these suggestions will inspire your family to be even closer this Thanksgiving. Annual traditions are a great way to bring people together for any holiday. No matter how you celebrate, we wish you and your family and friends a blessed Thanksgiving Day!
Photo Credit: Michael and Christa Richert
Originally Published 11/22/2016