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Simplify a complicated holiday season with activities and gifts that promote closeness regardless of distance

As families everywhere wrestle with swapping longstanding traditions for safer alternatives such as joining far-flung relatives via Zoom vs. visiting in person, many are reframing budgets, to-do-lists, and expectations. Focusing on what’s meaningful and matters most makes it easier.

Staying home? These are challenging times, for sure, but Thanksgiving is the perfect time to count our blessings. Worth Writing For, a website that offers “practical parenting tips for all the years,” compiled fun ways to inspire gratitude in kids this Thanksgiving. They include The Gratitude Game, “a printable card game for reflecting on what we can be grateful for.” It’s an instant digital download on Etsy for under $3.

Another from their list is creating a Tree of Thanks. It can take many forms, but they include a link to leaf-shaped sticky notes available on Amazon. They also suggest tossing around a soft-material “gratitude ball.” Whoever catches it has to share something they are grateful for. Or help kids start a Gratitude Jar. They write, “You can help your kiddoes fill it with little notes of things they are thankful for throughout the month. But why not keep it going all through the holidays and into the new year?

Of course, Thanksgiving has long been about feasting. Staying home this year might just make for less pack ‘em up, head ‘em out scramble time and more time to experiment. The Food Network’s How to Thanksgiving At Home Celebration Guide offers great tips including “10 Tips for Baking Perfect Pies Every Time.” What little one wouldn’t love getting their freshly washed hands on some sticky pie dough? And kitchen time is a great time to work on counting and measuring skills with little ones as well math skills such as fractions, multiplication, and division with older kids.

That same Food Network Guide also has entire sections dedicated to turkey, stuffing, and side dishes! Their playful descriptions just might trigger a wave of family-wide giggle fits. For example, in describing a brined and roasted turkey, they say, “a brine swim followed by a butter massage definitely agrees with this bird.”

Every Thanksgiving table needs a festive centerpiece, and The Spruce Crafts compiled “8 Thanksgiving Table Decorations Kids Can Make.” A few will require more help and supervision than others, but all are adorable, and making things together also makes forever memories.

Almost everything about Thanksgiving will look different this year from the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade—but still with giant balloons!—to NFL games, to Black Friday shopping. But one thing that hasn’t changed, is kids’ holiday excitement and anticipation. Whether venturing into brick-and-mortar stores or filling online shopping carts, more than ever we want—and need—the biggest payoff for our effort.

Books are always a great choice for kids of all ages, but when families can’t be together, books such as Hallmark recordable books do double-duty by building both reading skills and relationships.They include All the Ways I Love You; Grandma and Me: A Conversations to Keep Recordable Book; I Love You – Grandma; and At Christmastime and Always, I Love You.

An economical, no-wrapping-required gift option would be a subscription to Anywhere Teacher, the online learning program for kids ages 2-8. For just $6.99 each month, multiple kids in a household can access nearly 2,500 activities from different devices simultaneously in a safe, ad-free environment. Storybooks that include both narrated “Read to Me” and “I’ll Do it Myself” options, expand kids’ reading skills and can also give Mom and Dad some needed chill or chore time.

Preschoolers and kindergarterners will find near-endless play and learning options in three colorful sets: Jaz’s Preschool Learning Pack, Oba’s Kindergarten Learning Pack, and Lily’s Playtime Learning Pack, all of them characters from the Charlie & Company original preschool series (Jaz the Tiger, Oba the Bear, and Lily Longlegs the Frog). Contents themed ardouh each character include various combinations of a DVD, wordbooks, flash cards, and/or game cards, and FIVE colorful games including one printed right on the pack and four others on double-sided games boards, all of which build important collaboration and cooperation skills as friends, siblings, and the whole family play together. Press-out pieces for use in the games and some of the cards, double as manipulatives that build fine motor skills. A removagle zippered pouch stores jumbo pencil, Write & Reuse™ marker, child-safe scissors, and press-out pieces, and a bright, colorful cloth carrying case for the whole pack makes learning fun AND portable.

All these sets are available at School Zone’s website: schoolzone.com and also on their dynamic Amazon store.

With a little thought and planning, the 2020 holiday season, though different, can still be sweet, festive, and family-focused.