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Don’t you just love Thanksgiving? The leaves start to change color, and the air gets a bit of a chill in the evenings. The pace is good – it’s that super sweet spot between and the hecticness of September and the chaos of the Christmas season. It’s a perfect time to start to focus on gratitude and instilling some wonderful family thanksgiving traditions to capture the moment and make memories that last forever.
There are lots of articles about Christmas traditions, but family thanksgiving traditions are big in our house. Kicking off the holiday season with an attitude of gratitude is so important!
Most of these things take very little time and cost very little money, but both my young children and older family members look forward to these moments and activities alike.
Pre-Thanksgiving Family Traditions
Things you can do in the days leading up to Thanksgiving
Day Before Thanksgiving Prep with the Kids
Many dishes can be prepared in advance. This is especially true for most baked goods and my favorite sweet potato casseroles in the whole wide world. Even for very young kids who have not spent much time in the kitchen, this is the perfect time to start.
I bought my kids two cheap aprons and this amazing learning tower (or save version here) so they can safely reach the countertops and they absolutely love helping.
The best part is seeing how proud they are to tell the other guests that they made a dessert or bread. It’s wonderful to see them be happy for making others happy.
Announce your Potluck and Give Guests Time to Prep
One very hard and fast
rule tradition at my house is that every person who is joining for Thanksgiving dinner must bring at least one thing!
My husband and I take on the turkey, stuffing, casseroles and most of the big items, but I’ve learned that people feel much more connected when they are contributing.
This has not been an easy task for some of my guests like my husband’s bachelor friends and (especially my father in law who can barely boil water!) but they have all gotten on board and you wouldn’t believe the amazing dishes they have come up with.
My husband has one friend who is Italian and combed through his mother’s recipe book to create the most authentic Pistachio Budino. It was amazing and his dish got rave reviews.
Create a Menu
Even if hosting Thanksgiving for a small group, I ask what everyone is making in advance and create a cute a festive menu giving each person credit for their dish.
It’s super easy to create a menu (or print the freebie below) and it really brings the whole Potluck concept together and makes everyone feel good about their contribution. (Added bonus – Toddlers and preschoolers have something to color and/or use to work on spelling when at the table!)
Download a free sample menu with kids coloring activities here!
Paint Rocks to Prepare for the Post-Dinner Rock Walk
One of my kids’ favorite activities is collecting rocks we find around the neighborhood or at the beach and bringing them home to clean and paint.
Once done, we add them to random gardens of homes in our area to help brighten our neighbor’s days! The painting process take a bit of time as the rocks need to be cleaned and the paint needs to dry.
Also, be sure to buy the right paint and paint brushes for easy coloring! We were gifted a set of paint brushes from Kid Made Modern and I am in love. They are exactly the right size for chubby little hands. My kids also love to add some glitter (on everything)!
This is a great activity to help kids learn about selflessness and caring for others!
Day Of Family Thanksgiving Traditions
Morning of Gratitude
Oxford defines gratitude as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. It’s something we try to practice in our house every morning, but it can be hard to practice on busy work and school days.
However, on Thanksgiving morning there are a million things to prep, clean, decorate and organize, but we start our mornings with a 5-minute conversation about gratitude.
This is important because it allows the kids time to prepare for what they want to share at the Thanksgiving table later that day. Sometimes the kids say they are grateful for very silly things – like their teeth – but there are no bad answers and through the process they are learning!
What Are you Thankful For?
It’s long been a tradition in our house to go around the Thanksgiving table and say one thing we are thankful for. This exercise generates some fanatic conversations and gives everyone a a chance to have the floor and share something that is on their mind.
As soon as the kids are old enough to speak they are able to participate and they get super excited as we go around the table and their turn approaches.
Post-Thanksgiving Dinner Rock Walk
After dinner we venture out for a walk around the neighborhood with a large a group as possible. If the kids have decorated rocks they bring a basket and chose which gardens to place their rocks in.
The goal is to get some fresh air and burn off some of the Thanksgiving calories, but also share our gratitude and love with neighbors in the area. You can even bring a camera and create a rock walk journal with your kids to help remember all of the places you sprinkled joy over the years!
Some of the rocks we placed years ago are still standing and we get to “search” for them whenever we are walking in the neighborhood!
Whether you are a new parent of just starting to add some Thanksgiving traditions to your schedule, I hope you find these ideas helpful.
Maybe they will even spark you to create some of your own Thanksgiving traditions. If you have any special family Thanksgiving traditions you love, please share in the comments below!