Plan to cook up family fun and magnificent memories this Thanksgiving

In our hurry-hurry world, the hush of a pristine overnight snowfall or the healing happies of a warm hug often go underappreciated. What better time than Thanksgiving to not just count our blessings but fully savor them surrounded by family and friends.

Nigel Hamilton, British-born biographer, academic, and broadcaster, has reflected that “Thanksgiving is a time of togetherness and gratitude,” and the ways we can creatively share and give thanks are near-endless.

Family is at the heart of the holidays, but “family” comes in many forms including our friends, neighborhoods, and communities. A Turkey Day- dedicated website, www.thanksgiving.com, is hosted by Thanksgiving & Co., billing itself as “America’s Home for the Holidays.” They offer a fun list of “9 Family Activities for Thanksgiving Day,” including those for “after dinner.” A few of the 9 are “volunteer together” at a place such as the Salvation Army or homeless shelter by providing or serving a meal, design a scavenger hunt through the backyard or neighborhood with gift cards or treats as prizes, and flip through family photo albums where you “gather grandparents and the kids for some storytelling.”

In 2016 the site Dumb Little Man “Tips for Life,” posted “20 Fun Things You Can Do with Family on Thanksgiving.” They include participating in a round of “I Love My Family Because,” where you “gather round as family and have each person share what they love about the family.” Or maybe stage a silly dance contest or kids’ talent show. Yet another sweet idea is creating Our Family Tree, in which you “have everyone imprint a fingerpainted handprint on a big sheet of paper with their name underneath. You can have it framed or take a picture of it to share with everyone.” To add to the idea of “tree,” you might want to place the handprints inside stenciled leaves.

Focus on the Family presents some adorable, faith-based activities for Thanksgiving sorted by age. One for ages 4-7 that now would be the time to get started on, is creating a custom table cloth for serving Thanksgiving dinner on. They urge mom and dad to break out the crayons or markers, then “allow each child to draw their own artwork depicting a thankful day.” Later on in the Big Day, “play a game of ‘Alphabet Thanks,’ where children draw from a bow of letters, and then tell God thanks for something that begins with the letter they picked.”

Along those same lines—and for roughly the same age group—is the rollicking little “Count Your Blessings” song, available as an MP3 download. Think of it as a 3-in-1: kids give thanks, learn to count, and channel their energy in exuberant praise. “Now it’s time to think of what you’re thankful for when you pray,” including “8 for the food that’s on my plate, 9 I’m feeling fine.” What a great song to sing while starting a day or getting dinner ready. It’s like saying grace in a brand-new way.

Thanksgiving is often considered the start of the in-earnest countdown to Christmas, so to keep the spirit going, grab a joyful 3-pack of Bible-Themed  Readiness Mini Board Books:  Go-Togethers, Opposites, and Matching. With every turn of the page, skills, imagination, and love of reading will grow. Durable pages with rounded corners are designed for little hands to easily manage. Use the trio to start building excitement on Thanksgiving or save them for an ideal stocking stuffer.

We tend to think of screen time as a solitary pursuit, but that need not be an absolute. For example, kids 3-7 will love Little Scholar® Mini because it's ready to play right out of the box, has fun, engaging content, and is just the right size for little hands. It’s great as a Christmas gift or a way to keep kids learning during holiday prep. Plus, it has lots of games and activities that can be played solo or with a sibling or mom and dad, and parents can track kids’ play and engage them with questions about what they have learned.

Indoors and out, contemporary or traditional, this year think through the possibilities for a Thanksgiving served up on a platter full of love, learning, and joy.