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Thanksgiving fun & games to keep kids entertained

Girls drawing
Photo credit: pressmaster/Getty Images

A pair of two-word phrases that come from the mouths of kids almost always drive parents crazy, with extra emphasis on family holidays such as Thanksgiving.

Parents are generally universally annoyed by the age-old “I’m hungry” and “I’m bored,” uttered by kids who either just ate, are just about to eat, or just finished doing some spectacular activity.

One of the best ways to avoid those verbal potholes is to be ready for them. There are certain truths that come with holiday meals, and one of those includes bored kids who linger around the kitchen, begging for food and looking for something to do. Another includes unresponsive teens, who are glued to their phones, scrolling through newsfeeds and complaining about a weak WiFi signal.

MORE: 9 family activities for Thanksgiving Day

Head these obstacles off at the pass. Here are a few ways to keep kids of all ages entertained and off the internet throughout Thanksgiving.

Head off boredom with these simple ideas

Surrender devices. What may sound like a parent trap is actually a good way to inspire real interaction among family members. And, lead by example. Request that everyone in the family put their phones and other digital devices aside for the night. The whole exercise will make room for real conversations, even between plugged-in teens and younger siblings and cousins.

Kick everyone out. If you live within walking distance to a park or playground, send older kids with the younger ones to go and play. They’ll be out of the kitchen, working up an appetite and you’ll be out of earshot when they say “I’m hungry” for the 100th time that day. Even if there’s only a tiny back yard, there is room to burn off a little of that energy.

Pick up a new game. Instead of going back to the well of games everyone has already played dozens of times, pick up something new and debut it at your Thanksgiving gathering. Find something that gets all ages involved, even if teams are needed — such as Apples to Apples, Pictionary or Uno.

If you don’t have time to get a new game, use an old game, and have the kids work together to create a new set of rules for it. For instance, maybe players can travel the board backwards, or take two turns in a row every time.

MORE: Printable games to keep kids entertained on Thanksgiving Day

Break out the crafts. Before putting the turkey in the oven, spend a few minutes on Pinterest and find a couple fun and easy crafts that don’t require glitter. (Why? Because glitter takes years to clean up.) The site is crawling with festive activities that either celebrate Thanksgiving or look ahead to Christmas, from cute little turkeys to easy ornaments.

Brooke Roe, founder of the Pinterest-inspired DIY Makerspace Pinspiration, suggests having crafts ready before the big meal. And, they don’t have to be difficult. Roe suggests allowing kids to make handprint turkeys on linen napkins or using a faux pumpkin to collect reasons why everyone is thankful. If the idea of pulling together crafts in addition to managing the cooking and hosting is too overwhelming, assign a family member to the job.

MORE: How to make the kids’ Thanksgiving table simple & fun

7 more easy ideas to keep kids amused

  1. Let them make a fort (in a designated area with approved materials)
  2. See what they can create with a bunch of empty boxes
  3. Have them play with the pets
  4. Make a movie (they’ll have to have smartphones or a camera to do this, of course)
  5. Play old-fashioned games that need no equipment, like Simon Says and Hide & Seek
  6. Allow them to decorate a whole wall with paper snowflakes they make
  7. Have each child teach the others a trick or a skill

Take a deep breath and know that with just a little advance prep, you can make sure this time of Thanksgiving togetherness is enjoyable for everyone — no matter his or her age group.

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