Make Thanksgiving extra special with these family-friendly ideas.
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Whether you're hosting your first big family Thanksgiving or having a small celebration at home, there are plenty of ways to connect with your family and enjoy the day. After missing out on many of our favorite turkey day traditions last year, we're going all-out with fun Thanksgiving activities to make this holiday extra special. 

Even if the traditions — such as roasting a huge turkey or hosting a gathering of extended family and friends — aren't in the cards due to the ongoing pandemic, it might just be the perfect time to start a few new traditions.  These family-friendly ideas are perfect for all ages and family sizes. Whether you're cooking dinner for two or twenty, consider picking up one (or two) of these sweet family Thanksgiving traditions.

thanksgiving place setting with wood that says grateful
Credit: Courtesy of Etsy / ReeceDesignWorks

Personalize the Table

Going all-out on table decorations will make each guest feel welcome and special. For a large group, make your personalized place settings, or buy a set of matching place card holders for a smaller group if you have the budget for it. We’ve rounded up 6 of our favorite Thanksgiving table decorations to help make your small celebration feel even more special, including this grateful place setting card ($4, Etsy).

Watch the Macy’s Parade 

For the first time, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was virtual last year, and we missed a lot of the live performances. Luckily, the organizers have announced the parade is back to normal this year, so you can see the sky-high balloons, the Radio City Rockettes, and Santa himself from the comfort of your couch. Before the event starts, brush up on fun trivia about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

family thankful jar with colorful cards
Credit: Courtesy of Alice and Lois

Start a Gratitude Jar

A gratitude jar is one of our favorite family Thanksgiving traditions that can easily last the whole month of November. This DIY gratitude jar is easy to make, and even easier to fill. Use our free printable to decorate your jar, then set out pens and paper so your family can write down the things they’re grateful for all month long. At Thanksgiving dinner, remove the papers and read them out loud together. 

Get the free printable

Volunteer with Family

Some families embrace Thanksgiving as a time to practice gratitude and incorporate volunteering into their holiday celebrations. Volunteering at soup kitchens is a time-honored way to express our thanks and give back to the community. If safety restrictions have affected such programs in your community, find out whether local organizations are holding no-contact food drives. You can also choose one of these 7 easy ways to volunteer from home.

colorful turkey-themed Thanksgiving cards designed by Laura Palmer
Credit: Carson Downing

Send Thanksgiving Cards

Last year, our Thanksgiving cards were a popular way to send love to those who couldn't be at the big meal, and it's quickly turned into a favorite new tradition. Use our free printable Thanksgiving cards to write heartfelt notes to family members and friends who can't be with you this year. Or write a note to each person who will be attending dinner, leaving it at their place setting to read before the meal begins. 

Pull the Wishbone 

Since the days of the Etruscan civilization in ancient Italy, people have been pulling apart the forked bone from a turkey, chicken, or other fowl and making a wish. The Romans brought the tradition with them when they conquered England, and the English brought it to America. Even if you’re not preparing a whole turkey this year (or you just want everyone to get in on the fun), you can still participate in the Thanksgiving activity: Find an artificial set of wishbones ($16 for a set of six, Etsy) and let everyone in on the fun. 

finished gratitude tree in vase with hanging paper leaves thanksgiving
Credit: Courtesy of Alice and Lois

Make a Gratitude Tree

This holiday tradition doubles as a fun Thanksgiving craft for the kids. Cut out leaf shapes from colorful cardstock, then punch a hole and tie string through each one. Have each family member write something they’re grateful for on a leaf before hanging it on the tree (we made ours by adding a few sticks and branches to a plain vase). This DIY gratitude tree is a fun way to teach kids about the spirit of the season. 

Try a New Recipe

It's not Thanksgiving without the classics (stuffing, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie) but it's always a good time to try out that new recipe you’ve been eyeing. This year, start a tradition of bringing a new side dish to the annual festivities. Or mix things up completely with a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu!


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