When the family gathers for a large celebration and lots of kids are crowding up the space, it can be tempting to send them all into the back room to play video games so the grown-ups can
argue about politics chat about grown-up things. And maybe you will want to do that later on in the evening, but when everyone is fresh and happy to see each other, why not have a few screen-free Thanksgiving activity ideas?
(Note: This post contains affiliate links)
Here are a few easy to set up and easy to clean up (if there is any clean up at all!) Thanksgiving ideas for kids and adults who are still kids at heart. After all, I still have a hard time walking past play dough without trying my hand at it for a little bit. And anyone will benefit from jotting down a few things for which they are grateful! But remember, take it easy and no pressure! And if the weather is fine, send the kids outdoors for a rousing game of turkey tag! (I just made that up! Maybe when you get tagged you have to act like a turkey????)
Thanksgiving Art & Craft Ideas
Thanksgiving Play Dough
Gather together pots of play dough in red, green, orange, brown and yellow. You can keep it simple by purchasing your play dough, or you can make it with this easy no-cook play dough recipe. Set kids up at a table with some cookie cutters in fall shapes like leaves, pumpkins and turkeys. Give them objects that they can use to create Thanksgiving icons like colorful feathers, googlie eyes, and green pipe cleaners.
Fantastic Fun & Learning has great ideas for play dough trays if you like to be really organized. Here's her turkey play dough tray. Very cute!
Optional: add some Thanksgiving-themed printable play dough mats. I like these fall play dough mats from This Reading Mama.
Keep it mess-free: Place a large cloth under on the table under the play dough supplies. When it's time to eat, simply pick up the cloth and gather it all up at once.
Thanksgiving Table Cloth
Ideas to try if anyone needs guidance to get started:
- Draw outlines of where the dishes will be placed
- Label each person's place with their name
- Mark out a grid and assign each person their own area to draw a picture (this is a good idea if your children are feeling territorial)
Make Gratitude Cards. Our free, printable thankful cards can be turned into place cards or used to write down thoughtful notes or gratitudes. Find them here: gratitude cards.
Quiet Thanksgiving Activity Ideas
Not every child or adult wants to join in group activities. Be sensitive to the introverts at Thanksgiving gatherings. Here are some ideas for those who need a little downtime.
What about a Thanksgiving themed printable activity? You can find lots of these free with a little Google search, but here are a few I like.
- Creative Family Fun has a free printable Thanksgiving word search.
- Simple Play Ideas has Thanksgiving and fall-themed I Spy printables.
- We have tons of themed coloring pages here, all created for us by children's book illustrator, Melanie Hope Greenberg. This fall leaf design, or the soup kitchen coloring page are particularly appropriate. You can browse the coloring page archives here.
Reading stations encourage thoughtful reflection. Set out several baskets of books appropriate for all ages in easily-accessible spots throughout your gathering area. I have some book lists that will help you choose seasonal reading selections:
- Native American folk tales
- Multicultural Thanksgiving picture books
- Thanksgiving chapter books
- Gratitude picture books
- Native American picture books
- Native American middle grade novels
Thanksgiving Game Ideas
I recommend everyone spend time outside if the weather is cooperating! Try one of these tag game variations to tire your kids out. But it can be cold or windy so the following ideas will help if you are stuck indoors.
Thanksgiving word puzzles and riddles. Print out our free, printable Thanksgiving rebus puzzles, scrambled words and riddles. As a bonus, you'll get words for a rousing game of Thanksgiving charades!
Thanksgiving "Would You Rather?" is adaptable for large or small groups. You can either come up with your own questions ahead of time or print out these ones. Place individual questions in a jar. Thanksgiving attendees pull out the questions one by one and the laughs will follow.
Mad Libs. Long time readers of this site probably predicted I would mention Mad Libs, as I am obsessed with them and consider them the greatest gift to family dinner time, ever. And YES, there is a Thanksgiving version!
Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt. If you are an ambitious person, set up a Thanksgiving scavenger hunt for the kids. Play Party Plan has a free one to print out so you don't have to figure it out all on your own.
Try an active game like turkey bowling. Do you have a large space? (We don't) Try turkey bowling. Decorate pins like turkeys and hurl an pumpkin-orange ball at them. This idea from Make and Takes is cute and you could use water bottles instead of buying plastic bowling pins.
What about setting up a series of indoor games? If you are really ambitious, plan for several rounds of Thanksgiving minute to win it games. This site has some good ideas.
Happy Thanksgiving and don't let the turkeys get you down!