For many of us, Thanksgiving doesn’t feel the same without family time and visiting extended relatives. But with CDC guidelines discouraging large family gatherings, we all may need to find different ways to make the holiday feel special this year.
To maintain Thanksgiving flavors alongside a whole helping of holiday fun for your little ones this year, check out our tips below! However you’re celebrating Thanksgiving during this unusual holiday season, we’ve got creative Thanksgiving ideas for kids of all ages—from meal planning to table setting and more.
1. Plan the Meal
You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving Day to start sharing the fun of this holiday. A couple of weeks before Turkey Day, sit down for a family meeting to talk about what you’ll be preparing and how everyone will participate.
Here are some fun ideas to consider:
- Turn your “meeting” into an imaginative brainstorming session by giving your kids fall-themed colors and having them list all of the fruits or veggies that fit. Then use these lists to help inspire your Thanksgiving menu and to look for recipes as a family.
- Have each of your children choose one dish to be “theirs.” When Thanksgiving Day comes, give them more responsibility for this dish, whether it’s preparing the ingredients, mixing it all together or dishing it out. You could even ask your kids to show off their special dish by presenting it to the family and explaining how it was made.
- Instead of grocery shopping alone, why not take a little road trip to pick out the ingredients as a family? You can talk about all the traditional Thanksgiving foods on the way and let your kids pick out their own sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin or other produce.
Picky eater tip: As you’re planning the meal, take this opportunity to talk about the vegetables you’ll be eating on Thanksgiving, including the ones that your kids don’t like. Setting expectations early, without making a big deal out of it, can prevent mealtime surprises and help your kids build a healthier Thanksgiving plate.
2. Make the Decorations
No need to buy expensive decorations to get those warm Thanksgiving vibes! Homemade crafts are a fun way to teach your kids how to recycle and fill your home with adorable fall-themed decor.
Spice up your Thanksgiving kids table with these cute yet simple holiday crafts:
- Leaf centerpieces: Send your kids outside to gather sticks and branches and then have them color large leaf shapes out of paper. Paint the branches, glue the leaves on and then arrange your little trees in vases.
- Table runners: Buy a roll of craft paper, spread it down the center of your table and set out crayons or pencils. When your kids start getting antsy in the middle of the meal, they’ll have a ready-made activity to keep them busy.
- Toilet paper roll turkeys: With some paint, googly eyes and construction paper feathers, you can turn everyday recyclables into cute turkeys to set up around the house. You could even hide them around the yard and have a post-meal game to find all the turkeys!
- Thankful placemats: On a piece of construction paper, write, “I am thankful for _________.” Let your little one jazz it up with crayons, ribbons or glitter and then use it as their Thanksgiving placemat. Before you start eating, work on filling in the blank together!
3. Prepare the Meal
You’ve already worked together to plan the meal, so keep your kids involved by giving them age-appropriate tasks in the kitchen! Younger kids can fetch ingredients or wash them, and older kids can help with cutting, mixing and cooking. The more involved your kids are, the more excited they’ll be about contributing to the Thanksgiving feast.
To make your Thanksgiving kids table even more fun, take all those traditional foods and incorporate an extra touch of holiday creativity:
- Use fall-themed molds of leaves, turkeys or pumpkins to chill mini no-bake pumpkin pies that are perfectly bite-sized and not too rich.
- Cut ridges into the edges of unbaked rolls so they’ll rise into a perfect little pumpkin while baking.
- Instead of tossing your fruit salad, let your kids arrange the pieces into an adorable fruit turkey! Pair it with cute food picks for a nutritious snack station.
If you don’t have any meal prep tasks to share, your kids can work on last-minute decorations or go ahead and set the table.
4. Set the Table
Once the food’s cooking, it’s time to get the table ready:
- Gather up the decorations your kids made and spread them across your tables, snack stations and self-serve areas.
- Put some extra fun on the table with Thanksgiving-themed silverware, table cloths or these precious folded napkin turkeys.
- For the finishing touch, have your kids cut out turkey feathers and feet from construction paper. Then arrange them at each place setting so that the plate will create an adorable turkey shape.
Now all that’s left to do is dig in!
5. Play Games
To ward off that post-turkey sleepiness and give your kids an active way to end the day, finish your Thanksgiving celebration with fun outdoor or virtual games. Games can be a fun way for your kids to burn off their holiday energy or to check in with relatives who couldn’t make it this year.
- Play a game of touch football or Capture the Flag.
- Go on a treasure hunt down your street for the most unique fall leaves.
- Host a game of virtual Thanksgiving Bingo or Family Feud over video chat
- Have a “pumpkin-pushing” race, where your kids use sticks to roll little pumpkins across the yard.
- Play “find the turkey” with the toilet paper roll turkeys your kids made.
If you want something to do indoors, try playing a kid-friendly party game like charades or a homemade version of Pictionary. Bonus points for making your own Thanksgiving-themed charade cards to get your kids to act like a turkey!
With these easy tips and a spirit of adventure, you can engage your kids’ interest and build family memories that last a lifetime. After all, the best Thanksgiving for kids isn’t about getting every single recipe exactly right; it’s about having fun together and sharing gratitude—even when the turkey gets burned. Happy Thanksgiving!