Family Activities and Traditions for Celebrating Thanksgiving

Tree of Thanks – Take advantage of the fall leaves to build a Tree of Thanks. Send the kids to the back yard for a tree branch and some fallen leaves. Plant the branch in a pot filled with craft sand. As family members arrive for Thanksgiving dinner, let the kids give each person either a real leaf or a cut out leaf from paper and ask the guests to write something on the leaf for which they are thankful. Use either paperclips or Christmas tree ornament hangers to hand the leaves on the branch.

Give a Thanksgiving Dinner to Those Less Fortunate – Use the money you have been saving in your Giving Box to purchase a Thanksgiving dinner for those in need. Check with your local social service organizations, senior citizen center, or place of worship for names of families in need.

Spend the Day Volunteering – Nothing will remind us more of how much we have to be thankful for than spending your day at your local homeless shelter or food kitchen serving Thanksgiving dinner.

Share Thanks with Family – As dinner is served spend a few moments going around the dinner table and asking each person to name something they are thankful about for each person sitting to their left and right.

Blessing Book – Start a blessing book by buying a simple journal and have each family member write down one blessing from the past year. Keep the journal from year to year and have family members add new blessings every year. For those children that are not yet able to write, a simple picture will do.

Create a Family Cookbook– Create a family cookbook by asking family members to bring a favorite recipe to Thanksgiving dinner. After the family cookbooks have been completed, give them as gifts at Christmas.

Sharing Quotes and Words of Inspiration – “I usually put some kind of quote by everyone’s plate and have them read it. One year the quotes were from the Dalai Lama. Last year [my husband] read something from Carlos Castaneda. This year I plan to print out the Simple Gifts song – from the Quakers – and put it on everyone’s plate.” Saralee Sky

Make Thanksgiving Dinner Together – Give everyone small jobs like cleaning and peeling the potatoes, setting the table, and rolling out the crust for the pumpkin pie. Remember kids love to help, so use the opportunity to involve and enjoy them. The Thanksgiving meal may not end up meeting Martha Stewart’s standards, but the time spent as a family is definitely worth it!

Share and Read Stories – Read books together that inspire and reinforce the idea of thankfulness and giving to those less fortunate. Some suggestions you might want to try are Fly Away Home, The Lady in the Box, The Goodness Gorillas, The Giving Tree, and Kid’s Random Acts of Kindness.

Take Pictionary to a Whole New Level – Divide your families into two teams and play Pictionary as a family using flip charts and markers to draw your pictures. You can add extra fun with team t-shirts.

Tablecloth of Thanks – Create a family tradition by having everyone sign the dinner table cloth with their name and something for which they are thankful. Use the same table cloth every year and have family members add something new every year. Be sure to use fabric markers, so that the ink doesn’t come off in the wash.

A Mixed Up Family – Take a family photo and have it made into a jigsaw puzzle. Mail the puzzle to family members who couldn’t attend, elderly family members confined to a nursing home, or to family members overseas. You can have puzzles made from your digital photo’s at places like, or