How to Make Thanksgiving Exciting for Kids
I love the holidays. And when I say that, I don’t just mean Halloween and Christmas. I hate that I even have to ask this, but when did we forget about Thanksgiving? It is clearly important to many of us–after all, it is the most traveled holiday–but it seems that as a culture we have started overlooking it. I was at the store not even a week into November and could find absolutely nothing related to Thanksgiving other than the two or three straggler items left on mostly empty end-caps. How are we supposed to make Thanksgiving exciting for kids when it is so tightly squeezed between two holidays that are becoming more based on greed, gluttony, and consumerism than ever? Don’t get me wrong, I love Halloween and Christmas. I think that there are really great lessons, activities, morals, and traditions for us and our children tied to each. But it seems that the media and big business are taking a lot of that out and shoving “stuff” in our face. Buy more, eat more, spend more, etc. This is definitely not what I want my child to learn about the holidays and carry into his life year round.
Enter: Thanksgiving. This is the perfect opportunity for us to take a break from the call for more candy, more expensive costumes, and more elaborate and extravagant decorations, and allow our children to focus on appreciating what we already have and bonding as a family and with those around us. Before the rush of Christmas chaos begging more money, more toys, bigger and better things to replace what we have, we can take this chance to get our little ones in tune with what is really important about the holidays. But how can Thanksgiving compete with the other two commercial holidays surrounding it?
Make Thanksgiving Exciting for Kids
Think of what you loved about the holidays as a child: the stories, the crafts & activities, the family parties, the music, the community events. The things you remember most aren’t the money that was spent or whether or not you got more stuff than your siblings or friends. The precious memories come from the time spent with your loved ones and the fun you had together.
Now, think about why kids love Halloween and Christmas so much — they get stuff. I know that there are many children who appreciate what they have and don’t ask for much around the holidays, but children are going to get excited when they are receiving candy and presents for no reason. Adults respond the same way!
So, how can Thanksgiving compete? How can we make Thanksgiving exciting for kids? Jump back to the first paragraph under this heading: our time. More than anything, our children need our time and attention. This helps them feel loved, important, confident, and cherished. There is nothing that they will rely on more as they grow than the love we give them and the values we instill in them. Lets use this holiday as an opportunity to capitalize on both!
One great way to make Thanksgiving exciting for kids is by helping them create those timeless family memories. There are so many ways to incorporate family time and bonding into this holiday:
- Host Thanksgiving dinner in your home, and invite the whole family!
- Let your children help you cook (whether you are doing dinner or just bringing a dish where you go)
- Create conversation starters together to discuss at Thanksgiving dinner
- Start a new family Thanksgiving tradition — get creative!
- Talk about what you are thankful for in a way that opens the conversation to learning more about each other
Make Learning Fun
Another way to make Thanksgiving exciting for kids is to help them learn new things about the holiday and themselves in new and fun ways. Some things to focus on:
- Talk about what it looks like to appreciate what you have and how you can can practice gratitude
- Talk about donating old toys to children who won’t be getting any for Christmas — this helps your child learn to feel good about giving as opposed to just accumulating more stuff
- Teach them about the first Thanksgiving — You can dress up and act it out, or make a presentation or project to show the family at dinner!
- Talk to your children about race in an age-appropriate way. Incorporate the well-loved “Pilgrims and Indians” stories along with more current events in your country or community.
- Volunteer and learn more about how you can make a difference in your community; There are tons of opportunities that pop up around the holidays!
- Take a trip to a local farm to visit and learn about turkeys
- Make up your own Thanksgiving-themed activities tailored to your child’s current stage of development (Pictured above is our “matching leaves” game. My 2 year old loved finding the matches while I was making one of his favorite fall meals: Pumpkin Pasta! We love this recipe from Frugal Nutrition! That is NOT her picture btw, her’s are way better)
Don’t Forget to Play
Finally, if you want to make Thanksgiving exciting for kids you have to make time to play!
- Make Thanksgiving themed crafts
- Play football
- Team up and play family games after dinner (charades, anyone?)
- Make costumes and put on a Thanksgiving play
- Enjoy the last of the warm weather by taking a nature walk, going on a hike, or taking a trip to the park
How Do You Make Thanksgiving Exciting for Kids?
Does your family have any fun Thanksgiving traditions? Do you like to celebrate Thanksgiving but it seems to get lost in the chaos of surrounding holidays? I’d like to challenge you to use this time to connect and to reinforce your family values. Spend time together and use the holiday as an excuse to talk to your children about the important life lessons like appreciating what we have and treating all people with love and respect.
BONUS: Check out these 15 amazing conversation starters to get your children excited or to discuss with your family over Thanksgiving dinner!
Get them here: