If you're hosting a family thanksgiving, you want to create a fun family environment that helps children understand the importance of thankfulness and reminds the adults of this as well.
Since Thanksgiving comes just before what many refer to as the "greedy" season, activities designed to remind people of the bounty in their lives are useful. For example, you might help children understand that while they don't have everything they want, they do have everything they need.
How do you do this? Several ways. One is to help children create a cornucopia, which will sit on the Thanksgiving table. There are a variety of ways to do this. You can make a papier-mâché cornucopia using a balloon as the base to help you get the shape started. You can simply take large piece of poster board and shape them into a cone and fill those with whatever you like. As an extra activity, you can have the children decorate the cornucopia before it gets filled.
Since the idea of the cornucopia is to celebrate a bounty and appreciate that bounty, you can fill it as is traditionally done with squash, corn and the like. You might also ask each member of the family to bring something that represents their personal bounty in life. A new mom might bring a baby blanket to put in the cornucopia while a newly retired grandpa might add a picture of his family, since that's what's most important to him. You can discuss the items in the cornucopia basket at the dinner table while enjoying your Thanksgiving feast.
Another family activity that kids like is the thankfulness jar. When each person arrives at dinner, they place a note with something they are thankful for in the jar. Ideally, each person will add more than one item to the jar. At dinner, someone (ideally, the matriarch of patriarch of the family) reads the notes. Everyone tries to figure out who wrote which note. The items can range from the serious (someone who struggled with an illness in the previous year might be thankful for life, quite simply) to the silly (the new mom might be thankful there's a Starbucks within 5 minutes of her home). Kids enjoy adding their own touches to the thankfulness jar and their responses are often a surprise to the adult family members.
Some families have several tables set about at Thanksgiving. Many people buy professional floral arrangements to decorate the tables. You can make a game out of it to figure out who's going to get to bring home the table arrangement to their home. You can do the old wedding thing and simply put a number on the bottom of the centerpiece and have someone's chair match that number or you can make a game and perhaps create a trivia game out of Thanksgiving facts. For example, questions might look like this:
*How many turkeys are cooked on Thanksgiving throughout the US?
*Why are turkeys called turkeys?
*Which president set aside the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving?
Be sure you research and know the answers and then quiz everyone. This is a great way to pass the time while everyone is waiting for the feast to be ready. Just tell the winners they can't take the centerpieces until dinner is over!
You can have a similar game before dessert. Create a family trivia game and quiz family members before dessert. Only the people who get the answers right get to have their dessert. Everyone else has to keep trying until they get their trivia question right. Questions can range from the silly to the sublime. They might look something like this:
*Who got popcorn stuck in her braces at 12?
*Which man here wore boots with big holes in them until he was 20 and could buy his own?
*Whose grandparents immigrated to the US from Ireland?
*Which boy here got suspended from school for riding his bike into the classroom?
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