Tips for Planning a Family-Friendly Thanksgiving

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One of the most important aspects of the holiday season often gets lost in the shuffle—quality family bonding. Kids are pushed off to the side for the sake of a delicious meal. Arguments result from frayed nerves and stress. This Thanksgiving, make family time a priority. Here are some tips to make your upcoming holiday more family-friendly.

1. Written Gratitude

Vocalizing your appreciation for one another is a wonderful thing. But putting those thoughts, opinions, and thanks in writing is very powerful.

Encourage your kids to write thank you notes to each other. If you are on the ball, schedule this as a Thanksgiving Eve activity. Then, put the notes at each child’s place setting at the breakfast table. This helps your youngsters start the day in an attitude of gratitude.

If you don’t get notes written ahead of time, put them on each child’s pillow on Thanksgiving night.

While your kids are penning notes to each other, don’t forget to write your own encouraging letters to your kids.

If the extended family will be gathering on Thanksgiving Day, encourage them to participate too. Write notes to each other—like a Christmas gift exchange, only better!

2. Kid-Friendly Preparations

When faced with the dinner deadline, many cooks get a little frazzled. It is easy to shoo the kids out of the kitchen.

Rather than try to fly solo—and get super crabby in the process—let your children help. Schedule in some extra time because your helping hands will definitely slow things down.

Look for simple tasks the kids can help with. Sure, the table won’t be set just right if they help, but the confidence boost they receive after being allowed to help will be worth it.

3. Set an Artistic Table

If you do it right, your Thanksgiving dinner should last longer than a typical meal. And young kids might get bored before the older crowd is ready to call it quits. Here is an idea to keep the youngsters entertained while the adults chat.

Turn your Thanksgiving tablecloth into a giant coloring book. Use craft paper (or wrapping paper or butcher paper) to cover the table. Then, draw Thanksgiving-themed images across the surface. Here are some coloring pages you could use as inspiration or to trace.

4. Go Play!

Most people are in a food-induced coma after the big meal. Combine that with excessive amounts of football and you have the makings of a very lazy afternoon.

However, not everyone will enjoy such a mellow environment. For those who like to get up and move, here are a few activities to try.

  • Play Cornhole: Cornhole is a simple bean bag toss game. One of its appeals is that cornhole is great for players of all ages–both your toddler and grandpa can have fun playing. Here are more details on the game and here is where you can get cornhole supplies. You could even score a game set that has a custom Thanksgiving-themed design.
  • Play Tail Feather Tag: Place a clothes pin on the back of each players’ shirt. At the sound of the whistle, everyone tries to steal someone else’s clothes pin. However, don’t let anyone take your own! If a clothes pin is stolen, that player is out of the game. The last player with a tail feather wins!
  • Go on a Nature Walk: Depending on what the weather decides to do, Thanksgiving Day might be the perfect opportunity for a family nature walk. Alternately, you could plan a nature scavenger hunt. Check out some of the local walking trails.
  • Write Thanksgiving Theater: Does your family gathering include a lot of children? Get the children to write and preform a Thanksgiving play. That should keep them occupied for a while!
5. Share Your Thankful Spirit

There are lots of local organizations that help those in need during the holiday season—Thanksgiving is no exception.

Consider doing a little family oriented community service. Here are some local organizations that could use your help:

  • Hope Ministries has plenty of volunteers for on-site work. However, they are still looking for volunteers to deliver meals on Thanksgiving Day. Check their volunteer signup page.
  • The Food Bank of Iowa has a list of local organizations that are serving meals and looking for volunteers. CFUM-Des Moines needs help on Thanksgiving Eve (Wednesday, November 26). Freedom for Youth, Hope Ankeny, and Salvation Army of Fort Dodge are all looking for volunteers for their Thanksgiving dinners.
  • Two local restaurants are hosting Thanksgiving meals for those in need and looking for volunteers. Check this Des Moines Register article for more details.

Remember Thanksgiving is its own holiday. Don’t let this much-needed moment of gratitude get lost in the Christmas frenzy.

Take the time to make Thanksgiving special. Bond with your family and remember all the things you’ve been blessed with this year.

How do you make your family gatherings special? Do you have any Thanksgiving tips we left off the list?

Guest post provided by: Jessica Velasco.  Jessica is a Des Moines native, mother of two boys, and lover of ice cream. When she isn’t writing, she is probably cleaning crayon off the walls, chasing the escaped dog around the neighborhood or feigning deafness in the bathtub.

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