My favorite holiday is almost upon us! Thanksgiving is just around the corner – are you ready? This week many hosts and hostesses are busy ordering turkeys, planning menus, and designing table tops (for some interesting tablescape ideas, check out this Entertaining Family post). As you consider the final details of your Thanksgiving event, don’t forget to think beyond the dinner itself. Make sure you incorporate some fun family activities that will make your holiday truly memorable.
Here are some ideas to help you create a family friendly event that will build Thanksgiving traditions for years to come:
Set up a crafting table with fun activities for children and grownups alike. On Thanksgiving, we use our kitchen island to double as an art station. We wrap it in butcher paper and then set out tins and glass containers filled with colorful markers, glue sticks, glitter paint, yarn balls, and stamps! Some years I invite guests to make holiday cards that can be sent out in December, and other years I have guests decorate Christmas ornaments. Whatever the activity, the best part is watching kids, grandparents, aunts and uncles get involved in the fun.
Make pinecone bird feeders to set in the yard. In Milwaukee the winters are cold! For those birds that don’t migrate to warmer climates, we like to set out homemade feeders – it is fun and easy to do! Simply put peanut butter on the outside of a pinecone and then roll it in an assortment of bird seeds – the seeds will quickly stick to the peanut butter. Use strings to tie your little feeders to low hanging branches outside.
Invite your guest to participate in a lip-syncing talent show. Get little ones and grownups to mouth the words to their favorite iTunes hits. The more emotional and committed the performance, the better! In our house, kids love to lip sync to “Let It Go”, “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and “Doe a Deer”. The grownups prefer songs like “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Sexy Back”. This can be a truly hysterical, belly-laughing activity.
Take an autumn hike. There is nothing more refreshing and invigorating after a big meal than a hike in the woods. Get the whole family to go along! Walk or drive to your favorite trail and as you hike, have family members search for “natural treasures” like maple leaves, oak leaves, birch bark, acorns and pinecones. The first person to find all five wins a prize!
Hold a screening of your favorite holiday movie. Sweet, nostalgic, or funny….go with what you love. My brother and I started this Thanksgiving tradition when we were kids. Every year after dinner was over, we’d sit down to watch “Home Alone” (what can I say, we were kids of a certain time). There is something really sweet about watching the same film every year – it is definitely an activity to look forward to.
Light the fireplace and read a holiday classic. Our family loves to share heartwarming stories of love and generosity like “Little Women” and “A Christmas Carol”. Reading aloud gives everyone the opportunity to listen and participate. If you don’t have a fireplace, don’t worry! These days, anyone can download a fireplace apps that can run on your TV or computer screen.
Get family and friends to share their favorite memories. In a canister or bowl, place a series of questions that guests can ask one another. This is a great way to get people sharing and reflecting on the beauty of life. Questions like, what are you most thankful for this year, or what is your favorite holiday tradition, can get everyone focused on the theme of giving thanks.
Set up a hot chocolate bar. For me, nothing feels cozier than snuggling up with a delicious mug of cocoa. To create a holiday hot chocolate bar, set out bowls of marshmallows, whip cream, sprinkles, and crushed candy canes. For the grown ups, go ahead and add Bailey’s, Amaretto, and Kaluah.
Have guests share old family stories around a fire. As the years pass on, we lose beloved family members along the way. Thanksgiving is a great time of year to ensure we’re remembering the people who have had an important impact on our lives and to make sure we are keeping their memories alive for the next generation. On Thanksgiving, I like to tell my daughter about my dad, grandma, and grandpa, who have all passed on. Through family stories I can share some of the important lessons they imparted on me. My daughter will never know them, but their spirits will live on through her.
Volunteer time as a family. Before enjoying your own Thanksgiving dinner, take time to serve those in need. In cities and towns throughout the United States, you can find free meal locations where you can donate your time and talents. My dad started this important tradition for our family when I was a kid. In my opinion, nothing feels better than helping others and asking for nothing in return.
Creating family traditions is part of the fun of holiday entertaining. Sometimes we think of Thanksgiving exclusively as the dinner itself, but it is so much more! We hope this Entertaining Family post gives you some new ideas for creating rich family memories.