Keeping the kids occupied while the adults cook, eat, and watch football!

Kids' Activities for Thanksgiving Gatherings

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors

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Kids' Activities for Thanksgiving Gatherings

We have a big family get-together at Thanksgiving. It's one of the highlights of the year for our whole family. Everyone helps with the food and we all like to watch the football games. Each year, our biggest challenge is keeping the pre-teen kids occupied. The teenagers pretty much take care of themselves, but the littler ones need to be entertained. Can anyone suggest some ways to keep them occupied while the adults enjoy the day?

Get Them Outdoors

Have an activity table for them that includes board games, crafting materials, paints, etc. I started doing this at any family event to keep the kids of all ages engaged and it allows the adults good quality time together. It does not have to be new expensive stuff. Go into your crafting room and start gathering items that you do not use often and don't mind using. Also, any discount store has crafting supplies, sales, and coupons!

If you have children that would rather be outdoors, get a big bucket and fill it with a football, soccer ball, and baseball equipment (even bases). Have them play organized games and make teams. This is also a crowd pleaser.

5 Ways to Keep Them Entertained

Here are some ways to keep the pre-teens occupied:

  1. Find "color your own" placemats and beverage coasters at the craft or dollar store. Let the kids color them while you're getting the food organized.
  2. Set up a card table with an age-appropriate jigsaw puzzle on it.
  3. Get a copy of Miracle on 34th Street for them to watch. The story begins on Thanksgiving Day, so it is perfectly timed. Either the old black and white version or the color one from the 1990s will do. Another choice could be Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving.
  4. Save some helpful chores for the kids, such as setting the table with the knives and forks, writing names on homemade place cards, or carrying easy items to the table.
  5. Depending on their ages and the weather, they could play a board game or Bingo (with small prizes) or play outside. You could assign or bribe an older teen to supervise any of these activities.


Related: Make-Ahead Turkey for the Holidays

Hide the Turkey Leg

Somewhere I found an idea we used last year. We played "hide the turkey leg." For the turkey leg, we used a brown paper lunch bag that we formed around our fist to get a rounded shape on the end and then stuffed with some crumpled newspaper. We then squished the open end of the bag to look like the bone end and rubber banded a piece of white paper napkin to that end. The result looked like a turkey leg, and the kids took turns hiding it from each other.


Make a Gift Craft

When we had young ones to entertain at Thanksgiving, we did a Christmas decoration or gift craft. It got both the kids and some of the adults involved, but the younger teens liked it, too. We've made decorations from individual kits and from gathered natural items, recyclables, and craft store supplies. Some of the gifts were chocolate covered stirring spoons, potpourri candle jars, and chocolate bark. The possibilities are endless. Family and friends can help out with collecting the supplies.
Lorraine in NH

Make a Thanksgiving Tree

My family one year found a many branched stick in the yard. We stuck it in a decorative bucket of sand. We traced paper leaves out of construction paper. Then we punched a small hole in the top of each leaf and made a loop in the hole with yarn. We then wrote "What am I thankful for..." on each leaf. Guests filled them out and hung them on the tree. It was beautiful and very touching.

Related: Holiday Stuffing Recipes

Sending Holiday Greetings

Set up a table filled with card making supplies and let them make Christmas cards for whomever they wish.

Get the Kids Crafting

Set up a craft table for them. They can make turkeys out of pine cones and construction paper or feathers. Or they can make Christmas crafts. Have them go for a walk to gather pine cones, acorns, sticks, and other natural materials to make wreaths or ornaments.

Reviewed November 2017

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  • Hosting Thanksgiving this year? The TDS Guide to a Frugal Thanksgiving Feast can help you be the "hostess with the most-ess" while spending the least.
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