Everyone knows that the juicy, golden-brown bird and mouthwatering spread of sides are the main events on Turkey Day, but the meal itself only takes so long, and when things get slow and there’s a lull in the festivities, it’s easy for some drama to start. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have some activities planned in your back pocket, just in case someone wants to bring up some old family issues or start discussing politics. And we’ve got you covered—just pick from our roundup of family-friendly Thanksgiving activities and you can rest assured that the festivities will go off without a hitch. From evergreen classics like telephone and flag football to more seasonally appropriate games such as pumpkin tic tac toe, Thanksgiving bean bag toss and ice-breaking family trivia, there’s something for everyone to partake in.
38 Thanksgiving Activities to Keep the Whole Family Entertained (and Squabble-Free)
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1. Turkey Trivia Game
Turn Turkey Day into trivia night with this rousing, holiday-themed game. This activity provides ready-made fun for players of all ages with almost no work involved, since the Q and A is available for downloading and printing. File this one under ‘easy peasy Thanksgiving activities.’
Another beloved party game gets a Turkey Day twist. Kids and grown-ups alike will enjoy big laughs while watching one another fumble about blindfolded. Missed the mark? You’re just keeping the good times rolling. You could opt for a DIY version of this Thanksgiving game, but you probably have enough on your plate. Get the holiday party started with this game kit instead—you deserve the break.
4. DIY Confetti-Stuffed Turkey
Not only is this a fun craft to keep small hands occupied (grown-ups will have to help out with the hot glue gun), but it also makes an adorable centerpiece for the kids table, so it’s one of the more useful Thanksgiving activities if you’re hosting. Just don’t be surprised if they want to rip the bird open after dinner to see all the confetti inside.
6. Fall Harvest ‘I Spy’ Game
You know it as the game you frantically initiate every time you’re in the car and your child suddenly realizes he’s confined to his car seat. Well, it turns out this classic is just as effective a diversion in other contexts. This ‘I Spy’ printable, which boasts a fall harvest theme that’s oh-so fitting for the Thanksgiving holiday, is guaranteed to keep kids occupied.
7. Measuring Leaves Outdoor Activity
One thing we’re grateful for this Thanksgiving season? Nature. Celebrate the holiday by getting your family outside for a breath of fresh fall air and some leaf collecting. Best of all, the only thing you need for this educational activity is a ruler. The end result is an outdoor game that can engage kids for a significant length of time, as they search for the big, bigger and biggest autumn leaves.
8. M&M Gratitude Game
Color-matching skills get a boost from this gratitude activity, which requires more than one expression of thankfulness. (Good news: M&Ms can really bring out the best in your child.) Give the young ones a head start on the roundtable ceremony with a printable appetizer...you know, so they don’t botch the job at the dinner table.
9. Fine Motor Turkey Math
This math-based activity involves play dough and feathers, so it’s sure to excite the pre-K crowd. And of all the Thanksgiving activities, a project that keeps the young and restless occupied is something to be grateful for. In other words, turkey math might just be your lifeline when the little kid table is about to jump ship.
11. Colorful Corn Mosaics
Start dying your corn kernels in advance of Turkey Day so you can set the younger crowd up with this creative and stimulating Thanksgiving craft. Children of all ages (and crafty grown-ups) will enjoy this project, which involves pasting vibrantly colored pieces of (unpopped) corn onto paper to make an original mosaic. This art activity will spark the imaginations and hone the motor skills of the kids in attendance (and it’s engaging enough to keep them out of the kitchen, too).
12. The Name Game
This party favorite couldn’t be easier to play and is a great way to break the ice (in case your teen is feeling a little shy). All you need is a couple of sticky notes (Post-its) and a pen. Here’s how to play: Write the name of a famous person or character on a sticky note and give one to each player. Characters can be dead or alive, fictional or non-fictional. Making sure that the player can’t see their note, ask them to stick it to their forehead. Now the players have to walk around the room and ask “yes” or “no” questions to try to work out who they are. Expect lots of giggling to ensue.
13. Turkey Balloon Craft
You don’t need to be a balloon animal master to pull off this turkey craft—just score some helium balloons and a few other basic crafting supplies—googly eyes, feathers, cardstock, ribbon—and you have the makings of a craft that both kids and adults will get a kick out of. Once every tot has a bobbing turkey in tow, tune into the Thanksgiving Day Parade to see some more impressive floats.
Hang this bean bag toss banner at your Thanksgiving feast (or many yards away from it and preferably outside) to keep kids of all ages entertained. The height can be adjusted to suit pint-sized players, but we have it on good authority that even the grown-ups will be pretty keen on this game of hand-eye coordination.
When it comes to charades, you could always just wing it but the food coma that comes after the Turkey Day feast might make that difficult. Enter this Thanksgiving charades game, which comes complete with festive prompts—so the players only have to flail about to the best of their abilities and try to digest.
Get everyone off their feet with this tried-and-true classic that's sure to burn off some of that pumpkin pie. This family-friendly game requires considerable skill and is guaranteed to provide some stomach-clutching hilarity as grown-ups and kids alike try to race their way to the finish line.
This classic game is easy enough for a 3-year-old to play and entertaining for older kids, too. Print out these festive Thanksgiving-themed playing cards and enjoy a few rounds of bingo with the fam or just set the younger guests up with the game so you can focus on the feast.
20. Washi Tape Pinecone Turkeys
Set up a crafting station at your Thanksgiving feast and make this washi tape pinecone project the main event. A grown up will need to be on duty at all times, since this craft requires a hot glue gun (the X-Acto knife step can be done ahead of time), but other than that it’s easy enough to pull off. Plus, kids will love seeing their scavenger hunt treasure transformed into a googly-eyed Thanksgiving turkey.
Halloween might be in the past, but pumpkins can still make a comeback as Thanksgiving decor (and pie filling, of course). Just scoop up this crafting kit and score some pumpkins, and you’ll have everything you need for a family-friendly activity that produces gourd-geous turkey centerpieces. Bonus: Unlike pumpkin carving, this craft is virtually mess-free.
23. Metallic Pumpkin Painting
Yep, like we said, the pumpkin is still enjoying its day in the sun. Case in point: this kid-friendly pumpkin painting craft. The artsy activity will appeal to guests of all ages and it requires precious little in the way of art supplies (metallic craft paint and brushes) to execute. The finished product? An eye-catching, ombre work of art that will look lovely wherever it’s displayed.
24. Placemat Coloring
You just drizzled your plate with gravy and you’re about to dig in and that’s when the kid table reaches a unanimous decision: Dinner is over. Avoid this all too common scenario by providing coloring place mats for the under ten set. You might not have a leisurely meal but this activity for kids—designed to be done at the table—should, at the very least, give grown-up guests a chance to clean their plates.
25. DIY Family Gratitude Tree
Tape a brown craft paper trunk to the wall and set out a bowl of cardstock leaf cut-outs for a Thanksgiving activity that guests of all ages can participate in at their leisure. OK, a little prodding might be required to get the little kids to pay a visit to the gratitude tree—but by the end of the gathering, the barren branches will be lush with fall foliage and expressions of thankfulness. (Pro tip: If you’re looking for a crafting shortcut, check out these ready-made color scratch leaves.)
If you’re looking for a low-key Thanksgiving activity, a jigsaw puzzle will be right up your alley. Wrap up the holiday gathering with this Thanksgiving jigsaw—or simply set it out from the start for a more casual, collaborative activity that can be completed throughout the day. Either way, this family-friendly activity will be a welcome addition to the festivities...and all you have to do is open the box.
27. Thanksgiving Pictionary
A holiday take on the classic game of Pictionary, this activity calls for very few materials—craft sticks, tape, chalk, chalkboard—and includes a printable with prompts that most budding artists can pull off regardless of skill level. (Note: If you don’t have a chalkboard, poster boards and markers will do the trick.) Like the original game night staple, Thanksgiving Pictionary is engaging, silly and guaranteed to make everyone laugh.
29. Gratitude Jar
Set up one of these jars for a simple and thoughtful Thanksgiving activity that requires no maintenance whatsoever. The crafting part is made exceptionally easy, thanks to a free printable, but the best part is the grand finale: Once enough expressions of gratitude have been collected, they are arranged into a paper chain that’s as aesthetically pleasing as it is poignant.
31. Thankful Alphabet Game
It's not Thanksgiving unless you run down the list of all the things you're thankful for, but this year , why not put a fun spin on the tradition? With this game, everyone still gets to share what they're most thankful for, they just have to do it alphabetically. So, the first person's object of gratitude starts with the letter 'A' (“I’m thankful for Aunt Mary’s green bean casserole!”) then the next person has to start with the letter 'B' and so on.
32. Thanksgiving Telephone
This one is sure to keep everyone nice and alert in between courses. It's like a regular game of telephone, but with a Thanksgiving theme. Think: This is the perfect opportunity to reveal the secret ingredient to grandma’s renowned mac and cheese.
33. Corn Husk Dolls
Wind the evening down with this relaxing, almost therapeutic craft for the family. All you need is some corn husk from the grocery store (or you can ask to pick some from your local pumpkin patch if you don't want to spend the extra money) and some string. They'll make the perfect gift for your nonna and nonno to take home with.
34. Rice Krispie Turkey Treats
The only thing better than a craft that keeps the kiddos busy is a craft that does double duty and also serves as their dessert. This cute little sugary delight puts a twist to the conventional Rice Krispie Treat. You'll need the usual ingredients—Rice Krispies, marshmallows and butter—but also some candy corn, Reese's pieces and M&Ms to give your treats that additional Turkey Day look.
35. Fingerprint Turkey Napkins
This is a great go-to for families that are keeping things nice and small this year. Let your kids play interior decorator for the day by creating fingerprint turkey napkin rings for the entire family. Add a personal touch by letting each family member put their own fingerprint on the napkin ring. P.S. This craft involves paint, so your best bet is to make it a couple of days prior to Thanksgiving.
36. Start a Thanksgiving Scrapbook
A picture is worth a thousand words, so why not express your gratitude by compiling a scrapbook of happy memories with those you hold near and dear? Be sure to include pics taken on vacations and fun day trips, along with baby photos and mementos from family gatherings. The crafting process is an engaging and creative way to get everyone involved and conversation is sure to follow as you all reminisce. Best of all, the finished product is a treasured keepsake you can return to whenever you’re in need of a reminder to feel thankful.
Up the stakes a little bit with a Thanksgiving lottery of sorts, which features scratch-off cards for the whole crowd and only two winners. As for the prize, that’s for you to decide—just be sure to reserve this activity for an extra large holiday gathering unless you’re OK with a no-win scenario, since there are 30 cards in the pack.
Ahhh, Thanksgiving—that special holiday when extended family comes together to make merry over a mouth-watering feast. But your kids only see Aunt Suzy once a year, barely know the third cousin who RSVP’d ‘yes’ for the first time in ages and it’s possible the whole thing will be pretty awkward. The solution? An ice breaker that gets every family member to open up, swap stories and, well, get to know each other better. This award-winning card game for ages 8 and up boasts silly challenges and trivia-style questions that promise big laughs, lively conversation and more than a few surprising revelations about your family members, including the ones you think you really know.