Thanksgiving as least partially means needing ideas for keeping the little ones entertained. 

Start building the excitement early. Make or buy a countdown calendar and the kids can get a little treat or read a note about something that makes the family grateful each day in November. Leave a pile of paper and pens for family members to write down what they’re grateful for and then put them in a box or jar. Or cut out paper in leaf shapes and add them daily to a gratitude tree that can be your Thanksgiving centerpiece.

Set a festive table by creating place cards or let the kids make their own. Painted rocks, goofy gourds with googly eyes, and turkey handprints all are great choices. Turn plain plastic cups into turkeys by gluing on a few construction paper or “real” feathers (you can get these at craft stores). Use a Sharpie pen to add eyes, a triangular beak, and the child’s name to prevent whose-glass-is-whose confusion. Use brown butcher paper for the “table cloth” and put out crayons and stickers so the kids can decorate it. Tie balloons to chairs for a festive touch, and you can even transform them into turkeys by adding a few feathers and drawing on a face (don’t forget the waddle!).

Busy kids are happy kids, so have a “from your seat” scavenger hunt; just print a sheet with a list of things for the kids to find and check off.  Provide small prizes for completion.

Go online and search for “Thanksgiving printables,” and print-out word searches, crossword puzzles, mazes and other activities to keep older kids entertained, and coloring pages for the younger ones. 

Ask kids to write down five things they are grateful for and to illustrate them, too. Then they can share their writing and drawings with everyone in the lull between dinner and dessert. If your family already wrote down things you were thankful for all month, now is the perfect time to share those, too. Let each kid pick a few to read. Provide mini colored pencils and tiny books, a perfect choice if there isn’t much room.

At dessert time, find something DIY for the kids so they can stay busy while the adults linger over coffee.  For example, kids can decorate their own slice of pie. Their table just needs whipped cream, sprinkles, and small candies like candy corn and M&Ms to use for decoration. f


Anna Sandler has never met a holiday she doesn’t want to celebrate.