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Quick and Easy Games to Keep Kids Busy on Thanksgiving

Six ideas to give yourself plenty of time to prep the feast

Published on: October 24, 2023

Child doing a Thanksgiving activity while parents cook

When you’re a parent, Thanksgiving is about taking the day off, gathering with friends and family, watching the big game and, of course, cooking everyone’s favorite dishes and taking hours to do it. It’s a time to luxuriate in the comforts of home and having the time to actually cook things. If you’re a kid … let’s just say there’s a lot of downtime. But there doesn’t have to be. Pull out these easy activities and give the kids something to do while they’re waiting for the turkey to be served.

Pumpkin ring toss: Give a seasonal twist to this classic carnival game. Set up a grid or pattern using small hula hoops or connected glow sticks, each with a different point value. Then have kids toss small decorative pumpkins through the hoops to see how many points they can rack up. Highest score wins something special, like extra whipped cream on their pumpkin pie.

Grateful interviews: For many folks, gathering for Thanksgiving means hosting lots and lots of family members and friends, many of whom you only see a few times a year, if you’re lucky. This game gives kids the chance to get to know guests by sending them around to ask everyone what they’re grateful for this year. Record answers using pen and paper or bring it into the digital age by using a tablet or smartphone to take a video. Share everyone’s thoughts via a cute video or on a hand-drawn poster before dinner.

Pin the feather on the turkey: Always a classic, it’s hard to go wrong with a pin-the-tail-on-anything game when you need to occupy kids. You know the drill on this one. Hang a large turkey on a door or wall and give kids colorful feather cutouts with double-sided tape. Blindfold each player, give them a spin and set them off to see if they can put the feather anywhere near the right spot.

Harvest craft station: Mini cornucopias are at the heart of this easy art project, which kids of any age can do. Set out construction paper precut in the shape of cornucopias and an assortment of small, colorful craft materials: beads, feathers, stickers, googly eyes and anything else that suits the season. Kids will have a blast decorating their cornucopias with autumn-themed flair, and their artwork may come in handy if extra table decorations are needed.

Pumpkin hunt: The genius of this game is that kids can set it up themselves and play it over and over again. Decorative pumpkins are hidden — in the yard, in the cupboards, pretty much anywhere parents deem is within the boundaries. Then the kids head out to find them. The kid who collects the most pumpkins then sets out to hide them all over again. See how many rounds they can play before the first course is served.

Thankful story station: What’s better than sitting down with a good book while everyone else is busy watching the game or cooking? Set out books focused on the theme of “thanks,” such as Todd Parr’s “The Thankful Book” or “Gratitude Is My Superpower” by Alicia Ortego, and give kids a comfy space in which to read them. This activity will definitely give kids something to talk about at the dinner table.

More Thanksgiving fun

8 Irresistible Kid-Friendly Snacks and Starters for Thanksgiving

14 Thanksgiving Crafts and Activities for Kids

12 Thanksgiving Decorations That Kids Can Make

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