Family Traditions,  Holidays

Thanksgiving Family Traditions

  Thanksgiving is such a wonderful family holiday. It is such a magical time of year, the leaves have changed and the holidays are right around the corner. While the food is arguably one of the best parts of Thanksgiving, spending time with family runs a close second.  I loved waking up and watching the parade as a kid and having a loud family dinner together.  Now I may sleep on the couch with one eye open watching the parade with my kids after working night shift – but it still is a part of our Thanksgiving family tradition!



Family is different for so many of us. Whether you have a huge extended family or it is just you and your kiddos, making memories is what matters most.  I have come up with a long list of fun family traditions. Try to pick a few that matter to you and your family – and have fun with it!  Pick a new one each year or do the same one year after year to make some great memories with your family.  


  • Plan and prep together.  Whether its a traditional turkey dinner or Chinese takeout- get the kids involved. Kids love to feel like they are part of the process.  Have them help you cook the turkey, make sides, and dessert.  They can even make homemade place cards, place mats with paper and stickers or help set the table.
  • Do the turkey dance.  This might sound crazy, but my mother used to do this and I have heard of a few different people doing it too. I actually had my mom send the video of her making the turkey dance this year to my kids because she started cooking it so early!! (I don’t know what was funnier, my dad trying to work the phone camera or the turkey dance itself). Just pick that sucker up and make it dance by the wings, sing a gobble, gobble song. Trust me – the kids will think its hilarious!
  • Thankful Turkey.  We do this every year and it doesn’t get old. It really helps the kids sit down and things about the things they thankful for. Get construction paper and cut out turkey feathers, writing down one thing they are thankful for on each feather. Cut out a big turkey body, head and googly eyes. Have the kids paste it all together and display it on the wall on Thanksgiving day.
  • Tablecloth Tradition. Get an inexpensive tablecloth or even an old sheet will do. Drape it on the family table and have family and guests write or draw on the tablecloth.  They can play games, write funny stories, draw pictures or have everyone sign and date it with permanent markers (if you want to reuse it year after year.)  Kids can even paint their hands and do a hand print with the date if they are to young to sign.
  • Get Outside. If the weather is semi decent, get the whole family outside while dinner is cooking. This isn’t just for Friends lovers, get the whole family outside and play a big football /kickball/ baseball/ or game of tag. If you aren’t the playing games type, go take a walk together after dinner.
  • Parade/ Dog Show.  I know a lot of people watch the parade every year and it really is a tradition for our family.  I’m not sure if it’s just me but we also watch the dog show every year after the parade. Everyone takes a guess on what breed will win the show.  You can do a fun bet or poll and have all your family guess. It is a lot of fun to have a prize or have winners in each category- if you and your family are really dog lovers.

  • Make cards.  Keep the kids entertained while doing something nice for someone.  Make a card for someone in your family, a neighbor, or someone in the military.  Thanksgiving is a great time to think about who you are thankful for and tell someone you love.
  • Get fancy (or not).  Use special china and fancy cutlery and have everyone dress up really nice and fancy OR go completely opposite and get disposable plates and cups and have dress really comfy for Thanksgiving dinner.  Either way it is fun for kids to do something out if the ordinary. 
  • Wishbone Book.  Have everyone write their wish for the upcoming year or a wish for their family. Keep the same book and have everyone write in it each year – it’s so nice to look back and see everyone’s wish for each year.  It is also a great memory to keep for older relatives and also  to see the kids handwriting year after year.
  • Family Cookbook.  Have everyone who cooks or has cooked write down their favorite Thanksgiving recipe in a family cookbook.  It is a great keepsake to have for years to come or to share between family members when they are old enough to get their own cookbook.
  • Family Games.  Have everyone bring their family games, or use whatever games your family loves. You can do a more elaborate minute to win it game night or just use a deck of playing cards and get everyone involved. Family bingo is a ton of fun for the whole family – especially with small prizes from the dollar store.  We would always get games, books, candy, and coloring books to wrap them up for the kids to pick as prizes.
  • Decorate for Christmas.  We usually wait until the day after Thanksgiving because we try to enjoy the holiday as much as possible.  Whether you have a huge family decorating the tree or its just you and your kids- the end of Thanksgiving is a great time to welcome the holiday season.
  • Family Movie.  If your kids are a little older or just prefer to veg out an relax after a big dinner, watch a family friendly movie together.  You can have family members pick the movie, or watch old home movies if you have them.  Our family will sometimes create a photo slideshow of the things we have done throughout the year and look back and remember fun times as well.

Either way, don’t stress about making your tradition perfect! Just make it fun for you and your family. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or involved. Enjoy some time together before the craziness of the holidays kicks in!

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