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6 new traditions to celebrate Thanksgiving with kids

slice on pumpkin pie flat lay on orange pumpkin background
Photo credit: SEE D JAN/Getty Images

Did you have any Thanksgiving traditions you celebrated as a child? While my family was all about Christmas traditions, Thanksgiving ones tended to get overlooked.

However, now that I have a family of my own, I want to start Thanksgiving traditions with my children — and hopefully, they will be passed down for generations to come.

These Thanksgiving traditions will inspire you to create a memorable Thanksgiving with your kids, and help teach them what the holiday is really about.

Thanksgiving traditions to celebrate with kids

Show thanks every day of November

Growing up, we went around the table on Thanksgiving Day and every person listed a few things they were thankful for that year. While that tradition is a good one (and probably a common one), why not kick it up a notch and share what you’re thankful for every day of November?

You can do this creatively by having your kids write down one thing they’re thankful for each day on a leaf made out of construction paper and make a “gratitude tree,” or you can simply share what you’re thankful for around the dinner table each night.

Anonymously appreciate your neighbors

Show a neighbor some love and gratitude by leaving homemade treats and a kind note on their doorstep. You can also do this for one neighbor with a note that encourages them to “pay it forward” by doing the same thing for another neighbor.

Participate in a turkey trot

A turkey trot is a fun family run that typically takes place on Thanksgiving morning. You can usually choose to do a 5K, a 10K, a toddler trot, or a family fun run. At most trots, all participants receive a frozen turkey as a parting gift, which you can then donate to a shelter to continue the tradition of giving.

Not only is this an exciting tradition to start with your family, but it will also burn off some of the calories that will be consumed later on! Ready to go? Here is a list of turkey trots around the country.

Volunteer at a food drive

More than one in five kids in the U.S. are living in poverty. An excellent tradition to start with your kids is to take them to a local homeless shelter to donate food or help serve the hungry.

Find your local food bank through Feeding America, take your kids to the store and let them pick out items to donate, and go deliver the food together. You will teach your kids the importance of giving back and helping others, in addition to showing them just how thankful they should be for their own situation. Click here for more ideas on how to give back on Thanksgiving.

Debut “Elf on the Shelf”

To lighten it up a notch (and keep your kids well-behaved throughout the season), a fun Thanksgiving tradition to start with your kids is to debut “Elf on the Shelf” every year on Thanksgiving morning. Perhaps set him next to the pumpkin pie in the fridge, or give him his own seat at the dinner table.

Thanksgiving officially marks the start of the Christmas season, so there is no better time to surprise the little ones with an Elf!

Make an extra Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate

Thanksgiving Day is normally spent prepping food, cleaning the house, cooking and spending time with extended family members. Start a tradition with your kids where you make a “mini Thanksgiving feast” with just your immediate family on November first (or any day that works for you) each year.

This is a perfect opportunity to teach your children how to cook! Together, you can prepare a chicken or turkey, and make stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and any other family favorites. Keep the date far enough from Thanksgiving Day so that you aren’t sick of turkey by then. (And don’t forget the pumpkin pie! )

This little ritual will allow you to enjoy peaceful quality time with your immediate family before all of the the hustle and bustle that naturally comes with entertaining guests.

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