Let no one be bored or sad on Thanksgiving Day! Make your young guests feel special by planning some Thanksgiving activities for kids. You don’t need to do much, but if things feel a bit awkward for the kiddos, pull out a few tricks to help break the ice.
Whether you’re doing all the turkey things, like Cinnamon Roll Turkeys or Thanksgiving Crossword Puzzles or getting ready for Christmas with a Gingerbread House competition or a Holiday movie marathon, planning just a few activities can make the day more memorable for everyone.
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays if not the one at the top of the list. There’s plenty of good food, a chance to catch up with folks you haven’t seen in awhile, and — for kids — there’s loads of fun to be had while the turkey cooks.
Playing and eating are the order of the day when you’re a kid on Thanksgiving.
While spontaneous play is definitely the best, planning a few Thanksgiving Activities never hurt, either. Have some backup entertainment for the young people in your midst when the holiday roll around.
Here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving Activities for Kids:
Make a Gratitude Journal
One of the best Thanksgiving Activities is to get the kids in the spirit of the holiday by asking them to record what they are thankful for this year. Yes, this can be totally awk-ward!
The journals are great for filling in with the group or provide supplies for each to make his own to take home for private use. You can also give it as a fun Gift You Can Make For Your Secret Santa Gift Exchange.
Dig into Thanksgiving Read Alouds.
There are so many good Thanksgiving Read Alouds, ranging from simple picture books to early reader chapter books to full fledged bios of the folks who participated in the first Thanksgiving.
Set out a pile of books and let kids and adults browse at their leisure. If you’re planning to get a haul from the library, do it early as selections will be limited. Reading is one of the best Thanksgiving Activities for folks who like quieter pursuits.
Provide a crafts table for kids.
In an out-of-the-way corner, set up a crafts table and stock it with Thanksgiving activities that require little to no parental supervision.
- Homemade Playdough – Make up a few batches of different colored playdough. It’s easy and inexpensive to make. Then, put out a plastic tablecloth or placemats and some fall themed cookie cutters and let the kids play.
- Activities from a Simpler Season – The Thanksgiving section of my ebook includes activity sheets, place cards to decorate, and instructions on how you can create a felt busy bag in advance.
- Thanksgiving Coloring Pages – Try ColoringPages.net or Crayola.com for Thanksgiving coloring pages.
- Set up a coloring station – Provide some drawing paper, crayons, and a work space. Paper table covers work great for this! Find a place to display their works of art if they don’t already cover the tables.
Let them make Apple Turkeys.
This is one of those Thanksgiving activities that my nieces started doing every fall. Decorate apples with dried fruit and marshmallows? How fun!
Since toothpicks and children work best with some parental supervision, delegate the supervision to another adult if you’re busy in the kitchen.
You can find more detailed instructions and a printable turkey’s head in A Simpler Season.
Plan a Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt.
Let the kids do a scavenger hunt for Thanksgiving-related items. If you can, take them outdoors and let them burn off some energy. If that doesn’t work, we’ve got an indoor scavenger hunt printable as well.
Be sure to read the tips for success in the linked post so your competing teams don’t come to blows. Those aren’t the kind of Thanksgiving activities you were looking for, I’m sure.
Bake Cinnamon Roll Turkeys.
Top on the list of Thanksgiving Activities at our house are Cinnamon Roll Turkeys!
In a postpartum haze of 2006, I got creative with canned cinnamon roll dough. I know the internet has a bacon version but have you seen the price of bacon lately? These are super fun and can be made with refrigerated dough or homemade.
Have a snowball fight.
We all need Thanksgiving activities that provide a little post-Turkey exercise. If you’ve got snow at your house, bundle up and get outside for a snowball fight.
If you live somewhere without the white stuff (or if it’s just too cold outside), have an indoor snowball fight with homemade fabric snowballs.
If you’ve got bigger kids, you could even have them make the play snowballs at the aforementioned crafts table.
Quiet it down with a movie.
One of the easiest and most iconic of Thanksgiving activities to settle down with a holiday film. We’ve got a list of some of our favorite holiday flicks here.
ELF is a must-watch at our house every season, with the Grinch and Charlie Brown backing him up as vintage classics.
If you’re traveling for the holiday, be sure to pack a few movies or make sure that the digital versions are loaded on your devices.
Need more inspiration? Be sure to check out these Fall Bucket List activities.
More Holiday Fun
What Thanksgiving activities have you planned?
What’s worked for you in the past? Please leave a comment and let us know what your kids have enjoyed doing on Thanksgiving.
This post was originally published on November 24, 2014. It has been updated for content and clarity.