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Thanksgiving and Kids


Thanksgiving may not be a kid’s favorite holiday, especially since it is bookended by Halloween and the anticipation of Christmas/Hanukah. However, there are plenty of ways to involve children in the celebration that will give them a sense of belonging and gratitude not only on this special November day, but throughout the year.

Include the Kids’ Table

For parents who are hosting Thanksgiving, the preparation can feel stressful. Whether it’s cleaning the house, doing the shopping, or making the large meal, it can be difficult to resist plunking small children in front of a screen to keep them busy and/or out of the way. To avoid complete reliance on digital entertainment, parents can switch their strategy to including their children in some of the preparations. This will foster a sense of belonging to the family and a connection with the importance of this holiday and traditions.

Here are some ideas for including those who will be seated at the Thanksgiving kids’ table:

  • Provide opportunities to create Thanksgiving art such as pictures to decorate the refrigerator or unique place cards for the table
  • Allow kids to help safely in the kitchen; even little ones can proudly lend a hand by drying plastic dishes or sprinkling a bit of seasoning on a dish
  • Play a “relatives” game (if you are having company that you don’t see often) by telling your kids about the expected guest list (such as names, where they are from, etc.) and see how much they remember before everyone attends
  • Set up a “manners” poster or board and ask everyone to contribute positive behaviors to display in front of Thanksgiving company; kids can even decorate the poster and/or create little stories to illustrate suggested manners before the big day
  • Take a family break from the preparations to put together a puzzle, read a book, or play a board game; this will ensue your children know that they are an important part of the holiday

If your family will be guests at another home for Thanksgiving, you can host a “practice” session beforehand during one of your regular family meals. This will allow you to address any concerns your children may have about different foods, feeling shy around others, or expected manners. In addition, your children can help select a host/hostess gift and decorate a thank-you card to go along with it.

It’s important for children to feel included and integral when connecting to Thanksgiving traditions and family members. No matter how big or small your celebration, this connection will provide them with fond memories and traditions they can carry on as they grow.

Year-Round Gratitude Attitudes

Of course, during the Thanksgiving holiday, many people are more aware than usual of blessings for which they are thankful and those who may be less fortunate. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to encourage children to learn and express gratitude. This might mean instituting a family tradition of volunteering or even choosing a few people in your child’s life to thank with a note or picture. This expression of gratitude can be heartwarming to people such as mail carriers, bus drivers, teachers, babysitters, nurses, or anyone else who contributes to your child’s well-being.

In addition, this attitude of gratitude doesn’t have to come along just once a year—especially for children. Kids frequently outgrow their clothes, toys, and other items that are still in good condition for use. Often, these things are stowed away in the home rather than regularly donated to charitable agencies. One way to express gratitude at Thanksgiving, and throughout the year, is to set up a “giving” box in the house where family members can place items to give to others. When the box is full, the items can be donated to the charity organization of your choice, and a new box can be set up. Kids may have fun decorating each giving box and the family can keep track of how many donations are made throughout the year to celebrate each new Thanksgiving.

Overall, it’s essential that parents maintain realistic expectations of their kids during this holiday. We are inundated with media images of perfectly dressed families, sitting at perfectly set tables in front of gourmet-looking foods—but these images aren’t memorable. Being in the moment with your kids as they are, even if it’s chaotic or imperfect, is what you will end up feeling thankful for the most. And don’t forget to express your gratitude for your children, so they feel included and know that they are just where they belong.

One of the best ways to foster a sense of belonging and learning in children of all ages is offering activities that are both fun and challenging, such as strategic board games and interesting puzzles. At Cognisprings, we support parents and their children with games, books, and puzzles that are thoughtfully designed, educational, and unique. Our products allow families to connect with each other and enhance a child’s understanding of the world while building fond memories. They are also excellent options for screen-free fun, healthy cognitive development, creativity, and literacy skills—especially during the busy Thanksgiving holiday.