Giving Thanks: 6 Thanksgiving Traditions to Start this Year

Turkey Day kicks off the beginning of shopping season, but don't let your child fall victim to the gimmes. Help your family be thankful this holiday with these Thanksgiving traditions.

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by: Jae Curtis

Leaves are dancing, football is on and paper turkeys are being crafted … Thanksgiving is right around the corner! While you may have some Thanksgiving givens—your mom’s famous stuffing, Black Friday shopping stops—you might not have specific traditions related to the holiday.

Establish Traditions

Traditions are an excellent way to make memories while reinforcing the real reason for the season. And while Thanksgiving may kick off the beginning of shopping season, take some time this year to start a new tradition that reminds your kids to be thankful before the gimmes kick in.

Start Photo Journaling

Armed with a digital camera, smartphone or even a disposable camera, your child can start documenting the things they're thankful for all year round. Hand over a camera and a calendar and have your child start snapping at least one photo per day. Whether it's a shot of the family dog, a picture of his favorite after-school snack or a family shot, you can print them off for Thanksgiving and go over each picture. It's an interactive way to help your child remember to be thankful for the daily stuff all month long.

Volunteer with Your Family

Give back with your family for Thanksgiving. There are plenty of Turkey Day volunteering opportunities available for kids 9 and up, including working at a soup kitchen, visiting or bringing goodies to a pediatric unit in the hospital, organizing food for a food bank or visiting with patients in an assisted living home. By focusing first on service to others, it can entirely change the spirit of your Thanksgiving dinner. Just make sure you arrange for volunteer opportunities a few weeks in advance—it's a popular way to spend the holiday, so you'll want to prep and make sure there are opportunities available.

Play Tech Turkey

Pry your kids—and yourself—away from tech gadgets this year with a family-friendly game. "The major increase in tech usage at the dinner table has dramatically reduced the quality time family members interact, laugh together, and connect on a personal level," says tech expert David Ryan Polgar. "Tech-Free Turkey is a simple game where all family members agree to not use their smartphones, laptops, and tablets. The first one to break the bond 'loses,' and often has to do a chore (such as the dishes)." Designate a spot where everyone can "check in" their phones and tablets. Then, put your child in charge of watching the checkpoint to see which family members try and sneak back to their gadgets.

Create a Thankful Tablecloth

A plain white tablecloth can make for an elegant table setting for Thanksgiving dinner, but it can also translate to a cool tradition that you can use year after year. Purchase an inexpensive white tablecloth to fit your Thanksgiving table. Then, buy a number of fabric markers, which you can find at a craft store. As you sit down to eat, ask your child—and all of your guests—to write one thing they're thankful for this year on the tablecloth. Year after year, your family can add to the tablecloth and reminisce about past years each time the tablecloth is brought out and laid across the table.

Host the Turkey Awards

Was your kid top dog when it came to math tests at school? Did your spouse nab a huge client at work? Celebrate your family’s accomplishments by hosting your own Turkey Awards. It gives you a chance to acknowledge each other for some of the awesome stuff they did all year. You can easily print of certificates online and hand out the awards with a small treat or gag gifts. Your kid will love being recognized and everyone gets a chance to take home a prize for a year's worth of awesomeness.

Play Thanksgiving Scrabble

If your child is a total word whiz, he'll love playing a game of Thanksgiving Scrabble before or after the feast. It's easy! Simply hand out Scrabble tiles (you may need a couple games if you have a lot of people) and then challenge the players to play a game of Scrabble, using only words that have to do with Thanksgiving. Or, you could mix it up and instruct players to use words that represent things for which they're grateful. Either way, it's an excellent way to sharpen spelling and vocabulary skills, and keep your child involved in the festivities and away from the TV during the day.

Inspire Family Gratitude

Make this Turkey Day better than the last by trying a new tradition with your family. By centering the holiday on family, food and gratitude, you can add a new spirit to your Thanksgiving festivities before the whirlwind of the Christmas holidays begin.

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