Thanksgiving Activities for Older Kids

Fun Ideas for Tweens and Preteens

Two generations of women cooking together in kitchen

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Thanksgiving is a fun time for families to get together, bond, and enjoy a few days off from school and work. Now that your child is older—a tween or preteen—she probably wants to be a part of all the fuss preparing for the big meal and time with friends and family. These Thanksgiving activities will help you include your older child while passing on some priceless lessons that will stay with her long after the holiday has passed.

Fun Thanksgiving Activities for Preteens

No matter what the activities you choose, they need to be fun. Once an activity is truly enjoyable, only then can it be used as a vehicle for teaching healthy living. From the importance of healthy foods to conveying a sense of gratitude, check out these ideas.

  • Make a cornucopia. A cornucopia makes a great centerpiece for the Thanksgiving dinner table. Ask your tween to assemble the cornucopia this year. But beforehand, shop for the items you'll need while you're picking up the ingredients for that yummy Thanksgiving dinner. You might even consider spending an afternoon the weekend before finding mini pumpkins, dried wheat stalks, apples, pears, squashes and other items at a local farmer's market or roadside produce table.
  • Make a batch of Thanksgiving snack mix. Your family and your guests will need a Thanksgiving snack to hold them until the Thanksgiving meal is ready. This project is ideal to delegate to your tween, and he will be able to taste-test his efforts right away. There's no limit on what to add but check with your guests to see if anyone has any dietary issue—like a peanut allergy or a tree nut allergy—ahead of time. In addition to nuts, add dried fruits and seeds such as sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, or anything else which comes to mind. Any leftovers can be stored in an air-tight container to send off to school with your tween.​
  • Volunteer with your tween. No plans for the Thanksgiving holiday? You and your tween could volunteer together. Volunteering is a great way to share your values with your child and to show her that sometimes the best way to celebrate a holiday is to make it special for someone else. Ask your local churches or food bank if they need volunteers on Thanksgiving day. You could also volunteer to visit an elderly neighbor who might be alone over the holiday weekend or consider inviting a college student who might have nowhere to go for the holiday.
  • Give them a Thanksgiving task. Tweens love to show what they can do, and they enjoy learning new things. Give your tween a Thanksgiving Day task such as taking the photos, saying the grace, or decorating the Thanksgiving table in a kid-friendly or other pretty style.
  • Enjoy your family holiday traditions. Many families have holiday traditions they look forward to year after year. But you probably didn't know just how much those traditions mean to your tweens. If you don't have any regular Thanksgiving day traditions, this might be the perfect year to begin.
  • Make a turkey craft. Thanksgiving activities are all about having fun with the harvest bounty. Turkeys are the mascot for the Thanksgiving feast, and they make for some really cute crafts. These can be used as place card settings or decorations for the Thanksgiving table.

Gratitude Journals: A Fun and Lasting Gift for Tweens

Thanksgiving is about family time, being thankful for all we have and helping others. What it all comes down to is having a sense of gratitude. Gratitude leads to thankfulness and in turn, developing compassion for others. If you are thinking of a fun little gift to give your tween, consider giving her a gratitude journal. Let your child fill this in however she wishes, but if she isn't sure how to begin, have her write down any three things for which she is grateful.

To be an example for your child, you may wish to begin your gratitude journal at the same time. Some days will be easy, but on those challenging days, most people can still come up with a few things for which to be grateful. Perhaps your entry will be: "We didn't run out of toilet paper." Even funny entries can help grow a sense of gratitude. When you are feeling grateful it is much more difficult to feel anger, resentment, and other negative feelings that can easily arise when families join together over the holidays.

Bottom Line on Activities for Preteens

Try out some of the great ideas for older children at Thanksgiving. If you have younger children at your table as well, check out these fun and easy preschool Thanksgiving crafts.

As we get older, it's easy to forget the importance of traditions to children. Taking a few moments today to plan for (or create) traditions is well worth your time. It's also easy to forget that what may seem like chores to adults can be tremendous teachable moments for children. Whether it's helping prepare for the day, volunteering, or making a conscious effort to express thankfulness, the memories will last far beyond the last leftovers in your fridge.

It's easy to curl up on the couch after a big Thanksgiving meal. Instead, this might be a good year to brainstorm ideas on how to make your Thanksgiving day fun and active for kids and the adults in your life as well.