Thanksgiving isn’t just about pumpkin pie and football. It’s also a great opportunity to turn that Thanksgiving fun into a memorable lesson in practicing kindness and spending quality time with family members. Try one of these fun Thanksgiving activities for kids that help kids get creative, spread kindness, and build amazing family memories.
20+ Thoughtful Thanksgiving Activities for Kids
Thanksgiving is always the perfect time to learn how to practice gratitude. One of our favorite thanksgiving activities is creating a thankful tree. This is a thoughtful activity that kids of all ages can have fun with. On a large sheet of paper draw a tree trunk. Cut out leaves from construction paper in fall colors. Have everyone attending your Thanksgiving feast write or draw (for young children) something they are thankful for and glue the leaf onto the trunk to build a tree full of gratitude.
Similar to the tree, you can create a banner by hanging a sheet of fabric or butcher paper in a communal spot during your family gathering. Set out a cup with fabric or permanent markers and invite all your guests to write down something that they feel thankful for.
Thanksgiving Sensory Bin
Sensory bins are great activities for young kids to work on fine motor skills and explore different colors, textures, and shapes in their own way. Fill a plastic tub with items inspired by the season, like faux fall leaves, pinecones, dried corn, or whatever you can think of.
Decorate the Thanksgiving Table
Getting crafty is always a fun way to keep kids entertained. There are dozens of Thanksgiving crafts for kids on Pinterest, from handprint trees to popsicle stick turkeys to adorn the dinner table. For a simple project, the entire family can get involved in, purchase a cotton tablecloth and a pack of fabric markers, and let them go to town decorating the cloth with drawings and designs. Once the big event is over, you can save the tablecloth for next Thanksgiving, making it a fun family heirloom to use year after year for a new Thanksgiving tradition.
Check out our guide to fall crafts for kids for more great ideas for fun table decorations.
Write Some Cards
Spread some joy and give others something to be thankful for this holiday season by spending time writing letters to seniors, soldiers, or even your neighbors. Check out some letter-writing campaigns through organizations like Love for Our Elders and Operation Gratitude for ideas and directions. You can also simply decorate some cards to deliver around your neighborhood.
Make a Mindful Breathing Stick
For some kids the holidays can be overwhelming with all the noises and crowds and upheavel from their regular schedule. Try making these Mindful Breathing Sticks to help them stay calm and focused during the month of November and December.
If you spend a big part of your Thanksgiving Day in the kitchen, why not enlist the help of some tiny chefs to make that Thanksgiving meal. Give kids age-appropriate tasks to help with, like washing apples for a pie or mixing the batter for pumpkin bread. Your budding culinary artists will take pride in assisting and will be more likely to try what they’ve helped to cook.
Design a Parade Float
When you have a house full of guests to cook for, it’s tempting to break out the screens to keep the kids busy. A little screentime doesn’t have to be totally mind-numbing though. Have the kids watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and then encourage them to get creative and draw a design for their own parade float. What would the theme be? What would the float look like? Who would ride on it? You can even turn it into a STEM project and have them use recyclables to actually build a float model. The possibilities are endless!
Play the Thankful Game
Make sharing what you’re thankful for a little more exciting by turning it into a game. Before you sit down to eat, have everyone write down one thing they are grateful for on a slip of paper and put them in a hat or jar. As you enjoy Thanksgiving dinner take turns pulling the notes, reading them out loud, and then guessing who wrote what.
Host a Talent Show
Pull out that dress-up box and have the kids organize a talent show. They can sing, dance, tell jokes, do magic tricks, whatever they can think of! They’ll keep busy planning and practicing, and then you’ll have entertainment after dinner. It’s a win-win!
No, not the turkey. Instead, stuff some bags to donate to those in need. You can stuff bags with toiletries and socks to contribute to a local shelter or check out an organization like the Oscar Litwak Foundation and stuff backpacks for kids in the hospital. This is a great way to give back and give the kids a fun project to keep them busy.
Have a LEGO Challenge
Put those STEM skills to work and have a LEGO building challenge. Decide on a theme for the build and set the kids to work. You can appoint judges and decide on the best creation built.
Set Up a Scavenger Hunt
Get the kids up and moving with an exciting scavenger hunt. Print or draw some turkeys and hide them all over the house or make it an outdoor game and hide them in your backyard for the kids to find. Whoever finds the most turkeys gets to hide them, and the fun starts all over again!
Rock the Day
Kindness rocks are an easy way to spread some cheer in your neighborhood and a creative way to kill some time while you wait for that turkey to cook. Set the kids up with rocks and paint and let them get artistic with their messages.
Take a Walk
Getting outdoors is always the perfect solution to burning some of that kid energy. Bring your painted rocks or decorated cards along to distribute in your neighborhood. You can also make a game out of it and ask the kids to find ten things they are thankful for on their walk, for example, trees that provide shade.
On your walk look for fallen pinecones to collect and transform into a fun craft. All you need is some colorful feathers, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes. Have the kids glue the items on to create a festive Turkey Day decoration.
Plant a Seed
Preparing for a feast is a great learning opportunity to discuss where food comes from and how it grows. Weather permitting, have the kids plant a seed that will grow into something edible, like snow peas. If you’re short on outdoor space or the climate is too cold, you can always start an indoor herb plant.
Board Game Tournament
Turn family game night into a Turkey Tournament of Thanksgiving games! Have each family member pick their favorite board game and take turns playing each one. You can keep score of who wins which game and see who the tournament champion is at the end of the night.
Finding common ground topics to discuss at the dinner table isn’t always easy with kids. Still, if Thanksgiving is one of the rare times the family sits down together, it’s the perfect opportunity to have a fun conversation. Try discussion prompt cards, like Talking Point or Connection Cards for Kids.
Turkey Time Capsule
Thanksgiving is always a great time for reflection and thinking about meaningful things in our lives. Have the kids decorate a shoebox or small container and then have each family member contribute something meaningful to the box—for example, a list of their favorite books or a drawing of their favorite activity. Seal the box up and put it away until next Thanksgiving. This is a wonderful way keep the whole family entertained this holiday and next year!
Organize a Food Drive
This is an excellent idea for the big kids who might have outgrown the crafts and games. Have the kids plan a neighborhood food drive. They can make fliers to pass out to neighbors asking for donations. To keep things contactless, they can distribute bags with their fliers and simply set a date to come back and collect items from the neighbors’ porches.
Puzzles and Challenges
A crossword puzzle, photo hunt and coloring pages always make for fun activities to help pass the time. These are also a great option for long car rides to visit family. Look for free Thanksgiving printables to keep with the Thanksgiving theme.
Pay a visit to the library ahead of time to find some fun Thanksgiving books or kid-friendly stories about the history of Thanksgiving. Have your older kids put on a reader’s theater as they read the books aloud while acting out the story. Throw in costumes and props to really make it fun as they discover some interesting facts!
Looking for more creative Thanksgiving activities? Check out our Kindness Projects for different ways to keep kids entertained in a meaningful way.