Serve up savory slices of history, forkfuls of festive fun, and a gravy boat of gratitude this Thanksgiving

Whether gobbling up green bean casserole with fried onions or free-range bird with roasted pumpkin risotto, making family time the focus of your feast will help keep priorities straight.

The first Thanksgiving shindig dates back to 1621, of course, but the celebration became an official federal holiday in the U.S. via proclamation issued October 20, 1864, by President Abraham Lincoln. This is why he is sometimes called the “father of Thanksgiving.” Given our media headlines, it might be noteworthy to share with kids that during a very sad and challenging time in our country’s history, even while a divisive war was happening on American soil, the president—and our nation—still knew we had much to be grateful for, just as we do today.

Giving thanks in both new and traditional ways are good starts for a great holiday. Parents magazine website has a bountiful Thanksgiving page with links ranging from “Cute Crafts to Give Thanks,” to “5 Thanksgiving Dishes Kids Can Make,” to “6 Ways to Raise a Grateful Child,” and so much more.

On that last one, Kristen Welch, writing for her We Are THAT Family blog, in a post titled titled “The Secret to Raising Grateful Kids,” suggests there really isn’t one secret, but instead, parents can learn from one another. Welch has found the following four ideas helpful in cultivating gratitude: “We can make our home a safe place,” “We can choose relationship over rules,” “We can choose to live in community,” and “We can pray for our kids.”

Praying together and playing together can both be good for bonding. When family members get together for the holiday games—and not just the kind with halftimes, either—can make the day extra special. This past August Brooke Kosofsky Glassberg and Katina Beniaris , posted “17 Thanksgiving Games Your Kids Will Obsess Over” for Woman’s Day. The cornucopia of ideas include Turkey Bowling, Thanksgiving Bingo, Thanksgiving Pictionary, Pumpkin Twister, and the Gratitude Game.

Music is another way to add a joyful note to the day. For example, a just-right song for the occasion that also helps little ones learn numbers is Count Your Blessings. It’s actually a 3-in-1 song: 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.” Or sample from a couple dozen Thanksgiving Songs for Children posted to Songs for Teaching for downloading from other sites.

Putting a song in your heart, as well as on your lips, can help with travel stress, too. Thanksgiving is a big  holiday for moving around. If flying, Smarter Travels offers some great tips compiled by Tim Winship for “How to Survive the Thanksgiving Travel Rush” and make it as smooth as possible. But if you are among the masses hitting the road, check out Gina Salmone’s “Thanksgiving Road Trip Survival Guide” for vroomgirls. For example, she says, “Don’t eat turkey and drive,” noting that “the Thanksgiving bird is known for packing high levels of Tryptophan, an amino acid that brings on sleepiness.” Salmone adds the “side dishes that usually accompany the main course, like stuffing and piece, aren’t doing you any favors either. These carb-heavy dishes produce sleep-promoting melatonin and can add to your drowsiness.” These reminders seem especially important for those ambitious folks, trying to make an appearance at more than one home—and-meal—or trying to get back home in record time to be up and at-‘em for early a.m. Black Friday specials.

Taking along activities to keep kids entertained and learning can make the hours and miles pass faster and more productively. Little Scholar Mini for kids 3-7 is one choice. Just the right size for little hands, it has more than 70 preloaded apps, videos, books, songs, and games, and it’s ready to play right out of the box.

Or put Discover the Zoo Preschool Adventure Workbook, Explore the City Kindergarten Adventure Workbook, and Travel the World Adventure Workbook in your kids’ hands. These tablet-style, take-anywhere, themed workbooks have two sections. Activities that focus on learning specific skills are paired with fun activities such as codes and crosswords that go along with them. These include mazes, dot-to-dots, hidden pictures, and drawing and coloring pages. This exciting combination help kids sharpen early math and language skills and also flex their creative muscles. Easy tear-off pages make for quick sharing and proud displaying, and two pages of reward stickers in each workbook add to the fun.

A little planning and a lot of love can make Thanksgiving just what it should be: a time to give thanks and enjoy being together!