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Thanksgiving Activities for Kids (Keep Them Busy While You’re Cooking)

Thanksgiving activitiies

No matter how much time parents prepare in advance for cooking the Thanksgiving meal, there is always much to do in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day. This can be difficult with children underfoot, especially near hot stoves and sharp cooking instruments. The combination of these stressors can create an atmosphere among parents and kids that feels much less like a celebration than it should. However, it is possible to keep your kids busy, engaged, and productive so that you can focus on making a memorable Thanksgiving meal in relative peace.

Though it can be tempting to turn on digital devices for your kids to keep them entertained, quiet, and/or out of the way while you are cooking for Thanksgiving, there are many other alternatives that will benefit them far more than adding to their screen time. In fact, with a little preparation and creativity, you can provide some Thanksgiving activities for your children to not only keep them busy while you’re cooking, but to also add meaning to their holiday experience. Here are just a few ideas!

Set the Table

No matter whether you are expecting many guests, just a few, or simply your own family members for dinner, part of what makes Thanksgiving special is creating a lovely table setting. Your kids can add to the fun and beauty of your Thanksgiving table with different art activities—and this is a great way to keep them busy and productive while you are cooking and doing meal preparation. All you need to provide is a work space and various supplies, such as paper, crayons, markers, stickers, and anything else to make fun decorations.

Here are some activities for children to create Thanksgiving table art:

  • Place cards: No matter how many guests you will have at the table, place cards are always a nice touch. You can use an index card for individual guests and allow your children to make each one look artistically special. If they aren’t able to write the person’s name, you can do it for them or they can draw a picture. Your kids will feel included and proud as you help them place each card on the table.
  • Centerpieces: Your kids may enjoy working together on an artistic centerpiece for the table, or creating their own and then grouping them together. You can tie in nature’s fall decorations as well with this art project, such as colorful leaves and pinecones. Everyone will have the chance to appreciate your children’s artistic contribution to the Thanksgiving table.
  • Placemats: If your kids appreciate a bigger canvas for their art, they can make individual placemats for guests with larger pieces of white or construction paper. They can create scenes that portray the fall season, Thanksgiving holiday, or whatever their imagination allows—and they’ll feel included in the celebration by helping to set the table with their artwork.

Host a Mini-Thanksgiving

Nearly all kids are fascinated by what adults are doing, and many of them truly wish to help out and contribute to holidays such as Thanksgiving. One way to fulfill this wish for your children is to encourage them to host their own mini-Thanksgiving. You can help them select a few stuffed animals, dolls, or action figures to play the role of guests and then allow them to set up a small Thanksgiving table or picnic blanket for the pretend celebration. If you have play dishes or kitchen items for them to prepare the pretend meal, that is ideal. If not, consider providing some spare—and safe—items from your kitchen for them to use such as plastic mixing bowls, spoons, measuring cups, etc.

Be sure to allow your children the freedom to “host” their mini-Thanksgiving with imagination. Maybe they will decide to serve pie for dinner or cook a rainbow turkey. When it’s time for the actual Thanksgiving meal, ask them all about their mini-Thanksgiving adventure. They will surely enjoy telling you about the experience.

Toy Hunt

To reinforce the meaning of Thanksgiving and feelings of gratitude, you can set your children on a “toy hunt” to find toys, games, books, puzzles, and more that are gently used but no longer played with as much. These items can then be donated to charity so someone else can enjoy them. It’s important not to pressure your kids to part with anything that they aren’t sure about, but setting a goal of one or two donations each will allow them to consider carefully what they can give to add to another’s joy and happiness.

Once they have completed their toy hunt, your kids can ensure that all the pieces are together and they can even use a cloth to give each item a good clean. A toy hunt is also a good opportunity for children to appreciate and take care of what they have by placing the items they wish to keep in their proper places so that your home looks even more organized and neat for the holidays. Be sure to give lots of positive reinforcement to your children for their spirit of giving and gratitude.

Of course, one of the best ways to keep children of all ages engaged in fun, educational, and screen-free activities is to check out our Cognisprings products. We support parents and their kids with board games, books, puzzles, and more activities that are thoughtfully designed, unique, and intellectually challenging. Our products allow families to connect with each other, especially during the busy holiday season, and they enhance a child’s understanding of the world while building important memories. At Cognisprings, we are proud of the excellent options we provide for screen-free fun, healthy cognitive development, creativity, and family togetherness that can be celebrated the whole year through.