A Kid Friendly, Thanks Filled Thanksgiving

Hands down, my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I now look forward to a kid friendly, thanks filled Thanksgiving each year. I reached this conclusion at some point in my mid-twenties. That’s when I realized the beautiful simplicity of just taking the time to share a meal with family and friends was much more precious than the shopping madness prior to Christmas, the candy indulgence of Easter (which clearly has had the market on the best candy for many years) or the pressure of finding the right costume for Halloween to impress that perfect guy. It should be noted that in that season of my life, Thanksgiving was also at my cousin’s house, so the bonus was a delicious giant free meal with take home leftovers.

Fast forward 20 years and I still love Thanksgiving. As a mom, it is a time for me to pause the madness of weeks filled with homework, piano lessons and birthday parties to be still for half a minute. During our kid friendly, thanks filled Thanksgiving, I get to revel in the depth of gratitude for the time I have with these precious children. My deepest desire for my kids is for them to be in the practice of recognizing what they are grateful for and making the time to see the less tangible gifts that life has given them. In hopes of doing that, here are 5 ways to make a kid friendly, thanks filled Thanksgiving, a favorite holiday for all.

Make old school hand-turkeys

Ever since my girls were little I have traced their hands every Thanksgiving and turned them into turkeys. Once I trace them on the same sheet of paper, I make copies on our printer and have them decorate them. Each year, it shows how much they have grown, since their tiny prints get bigger and bigger. We usually give the decorated art to grandparents, who love getting them and the kids love making them.

Create a wreath or a tree of “thankful leaves”

There are several kits that you can purchase for this. This year things were so nuts at work that I picked this wreath up for my kids. In the past, I have used this  cute tree option. However, I have also used scrap paper or construction paper cut out leaf looking pieces and used a glue stick to attach them to a paper plate ring, clearly the project itself is less important than the process of making it.

When my two girls were littler, I would have them sit around the coffee table and we would talk about what it meant to be thankful. I asked them to come up with some ideas and I would write them, then they would color. As they have gotten older, they take more time to think and they write 5-6 leaves. For me, it has worked better to set aside a little time and do this as a family. Nevertheless, this would work great to do as a gratitude practice each day of the month too.

Cook or Bake together

My kids love to help in the kitchen. I have one particularly picky eater and I am always amazed that she will make anything with joy and precision but she still will not eat it. My theory is that her love of cooking will eventually translate into courageous curiosity to try new foods. I will report as soon as this happens. For the last 5 years, we have hosted Thanksgiving dinner. I love doing it. For some folks, this is filled with stress and panic and ends with exhaustion. For me, I love the idea of an old-school feast.  Starting about 10 days before this feast, I start talking to the kids about how special it is to have two sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends together. Part of my explanation includes how breaking bread together is a symbol of caring and sharing with the people we love.

One of things that we love to make and has been a huge success is a pumpkin dump cake. It is super easy because you literally dump it all in the same pan and bake. It is delicious. This is the recipe I use. The kids got many compliments on this dessert last year and they felt very proud.

Everyone loves a good cookie, especially little kids that may still be skeptical about the pumpkin desserts. Making a chocolate chip cookie has enough great steps for kids. I tend to do the measuring let them do the pouring in and mixing. You can always mix in fall colored M&Ms or sprinkles.

Collect Cans for Local Food Pantry

In our practice of giving thanks, it is also essential to me that my kids understand that we need to think of the “giving” part of Thanksgiving. For the last couple of years, we talk to our girls about how some families do not have enough of many things including food. We take the girls to our local grocery store and ask them to pick out nonperishable foods and then take them to a local food pantry.

Participate in a local Thanksgiving Themed Family Fun

There also many ways to plug into community activities to celebrate Thanksgiving. The Glazer Museum is having a Campsgiving where kids will create their own mini floats for a mini Macy’s Parade (this is one of my favorite things to do the morning of Thanksgiving.)  

The Southwest Recreation Center and Pool in Largo is offering a Lunch with Tom Turkey with activities and games themed for the big feast.

There are a few Turkey Trots happening which offer fun runs for younger kids both in Tampa and St. Pete.

Enjoy Your Thanksgiving!

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