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Last Updated: Nov 15th, 2012 - 22:28:18 

Activities



Begin a Thanksgiving Tradition
By Sandy Wallace, Care.com Contributor
Nov 15, 2012, 21:13 PST

10 Great Ways to Start a New Thanksgiving Tradition in Your Family

Yes, some of the highlights of Thanksgiving Day include watching the parade (or the football game) and eating turkey, but this special holiday isn't just about the entertainment and the food. This year, start a new tradition that brings out the importance and symbolism of the holiday regarding your family.

Photo courtesy of Care.com

Begin by asking yourself what Thanksgiving means to you. Is it about faith? Family? Giving back to the community? Incorporate these ideals into new traditions in fun, creative ways. Ask your friends, or your nanny, for advice -they can help you brainstorm new Thanksgiving customs.

And the concept of Thanksgiving isn't always easy for little ones to grasp, so involve your kids and give them a taste of the importance of Thanksgiving.

  1. Construct a Family Tablecloth

    Use a plain white tablecloth and fabric markers to personalize your Thanksgiving table before you lay out the turkey and stuffing. Have each person sign their signature, the date, and what they are thankful for on the cloth before the meal begins. Use the same tablecloth each year, and read old memories before each person adds new ones.

  2. Create a Gratitude Tree

    A gratitude tree is a fun way to share what Thanksgiving means to each person. Use a die cut machine or freehand the shape of a tree with lots of branches from a brown 12"x12" sheet of paper, then tape it to your dining room wall, or attach it to the refrigerator. Cut out leaf shapes from various fall shades of paper.

    Let each family member write something for which they are thankful on a leaf and attach to the tree with tape. Your tree will quickly take shape as the thankful leaves are added. You can add leaves daily during the month of November, or do it as a one day project with your family on Thanksgiving.

  3. Design a Family Cookbook

    Does your family have some favorite traditional Thanksgiving foods? Type the recipes into the computer and print out copies to give out to your extended family. Have your kids help by decorating the recipes with drawings or photos of each recipe, and then scan them onto the document. This works especially well with old family recipes that have been handed down. Older kids can help type the recipes on the computer, too. Or get fancy and make up a recipe photo book using a program like Shutterfly.

  4. Make Placemats

    Create handprint placemats for the kids by tracing each child's hand onto a plain white paper placemat. Let each child use markers to decorate their hand print to look like a turkey and write their names on the placemat. Stickers and glitter can add fun for younger kids. This can also be a fun project for the kids to work on with your babysitter or nanny before the big day.

  5. Pin the Feather on the Turkey

    This game will keep the kids entertained while dinner is cooking. Make the turkey's body by cutting a circle out of sturdy, brown construction paper, and then a smaller circle for his head. Get creative by gluing on googly eyes, a beak and a top hat. Let the kids come up with a name for Mr. Turkey before taping him to the wall in the dining room or living room. Make papers feathers in fall colors and have each child write their name on a feather. Attach tape to each feather and have the child close their eyes tightly and try to tape their feather onto Mr. Turkey.

  6. Assemble a Gratitude Chain

    Make a gratitude chain by cutting 6"x1" slips of colored construction paper in reds, oranges and browns to incorporate a Thanksgiving theme. Let each person at your Thanksgiving dinner write one blessing they have received this past year or one thing for which they are thankful. Connect the ends on the first strip of paper with tape or glue and then connect each link to the chain. This is fun to work on all month with the family, too.

  7. Volunteer

    Start a new family tradition by giving back to the community. Check with your local community center or homeless shelter to see if they serve a Thanksgiving dinner. If so, volunteer as a family to work in the center's kitchen for the day. This will teach your kids the value of giving back and show the importance of helping those who are less fortunate.

    If you're looking for a way to give back while getting some fresh air, look into participating in a local Turkey Trot. These races can be are a great way to burn off that pumpkin pie and most Turkey Trots benefit local charities.

  8. Donate to Charity

    Thanksgiving is also a great time to sort through the kids' toys and clothing and donate what they no longer need to a local homeless shelter, preschool, church or nursery. Christmas is just around the corner, so you're going to need some extra room anyway!

    Let the children choose some toys to donate -- just be mindful that little ones might have a difficult time letting go of things they've grown attached to, even if they haven't played with them in a while. Explain that there are other little boys and girls don't have many toys, if any, and this is a way to share with other families.

  9. Visit the Elderly

    Do you live too far away from extended family to go home for Thanksgiving? Many local nursing homes or assisted living facilities run Adopt-a-Grandparent programs that strive to forge lasting relationships between seniors and members of the local community. You and the kids can visit with an elderly resident who doesn't have family nearby with whom to celebrate the holidays. Check with senior housing options near you to see if this program is available.

  10. Have a History Lesson

    Help the kids make pilgrim hats and read the story of the first Thanksgiving. Gather items to decorate the table like the pilgrims may have had for the first Thanksgiving, like leaves,pine cones and a cornucopia filled with fruit. Talk together about how different life was for kids in 1621 compared to today.

    If you have older kids, let them do some research on ClassBrain.com and share what they learned with guests before Thanksgiving dinner. Make it a game to find a new, unusual fact or idea about Thanksgiving. Give a prize to the best answer.

However your family spends Thanksgiving, remember that giving thanks for the blessings in your life is what the day is all about, and family is one of the best blessings of all.


Sandy Wallace is a Contributor for Care.com, the largest online care destination in the world, and freelance writer covering all things Virginia.

© Copyright 2012 by Classbrain.com

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