Cooking a huge Thanksgiving meal with kids around is way more challenging than most people think — especially when they're restless or full of energy. But thankfully, there are creative ways to keep them occupied (and out of the kitchen) as you work.
From Thanksgiving-themed puzzles and games to fun DIY crafts, these activities can keep your kids entertained for hours on end. So this year, you won't have to worry about getting them out of the kitchen, cleaning up extra messes or hearing the dreaded words "I'm bored." See all the Thanksgiving activities that are sure to keep your kids of all ages busy as you cook.
Little Bins for Little Hands
Who needs building blocks when you've got cranberries and toothpicks? Before you get started on the cranberry sauce, consider putting aside some cranberries for the kids so they can use it to build their own STEM structures. Their creations can range from towers and houses to people, numbers, letters, and shapes. And as an added bonus, they can snack on all the leftover fruit as they wait for their dinner.
You're probably thinking that this is a better activity for Halloween season (and you're probably right), but since pumpkins are technically in-harvest during fall, they're the perfect item to use for this adorable version of Tic Tac Toe. The first step is finding a few mini pumpkins (though we can't guarantee that each one you find will be perfectly Instagrammable). Then, split them into X's and O's by painting over the tops with acrylic paint. Once those are all dry, clear a space at the table to set up a Tic Tac Toe "board" and you're good to go.
With over 100 pages of coloring, mazes, puzzles, find the difference and more, your kids will be so engrossed that they'll forget they're waiting for food. The new book, which includes coloring pages of scarecrows, turkeys, pumpkins, and pies, is ideal for middle-grade kids. They can use their brainpower, learn new things and get creative. But of course, children of all ages can also enjoy this book. You can get it here.
Buggy and Buddy
It's the perfect activity for younger kids who are in the process of learning their shapes. Aside from fitting shapes together, they get to create colorful art that'll look amazing as part of the holiday decor. All they'll need is some construction paper, a pair of scissors, a glue stick, and pieces of paper that are already cut into different shapes with straight edges. There's no right or wrong way to do it - as long as they get creative with their designs, they'll stay occupied for a while! Learn how to do it here.
A Kailo Chic Life
Ever been in that situation where your kid was so desperate to help that you let them, only to regret it moments later because they made a total mess? Well, to avoid letting that play out again, you can have them create little pumpkin pie coasters for everyone's drinks. And you know what? The most fun part is that it doesn't even have to be pumpkin pie. It can be cranberry, apple, or any other favorite that they want to try, just as long as they follow the same technique included in the tutorial.
It requires a few steps, but it's easier than it looks. And no, the kids don't have to draw like Picasso to do it. For this, they'll need colored construction paper, scissors, rubber cement glue, googly eyes, wooden craft sticks and markers. They can make multiple as keepsakes for the family or even use them as cute fall decorations around the home. Either way, these owl puppets are super adorable.
DoodleBug Design Inc.
The creators over at Doodlebug came up with this concept so that they'd have the spirit of gratitude. But a pretty cool idea would be to design a Gratitude Jar for the kids and provide them with strips of construction paper. Then, they could pass it around and simply add all the things that they're grateful for until the jar is completely full. Going through all the things that were added by dinnertime would make for a sweet (and pretty entertaining) experience.
Glued To My Crafts
With this craft, it's basically a win-win because not only do the kids get to make something cool, they also get to snack on something while they do it. Aside from the tasty cereal (which, by the way, isn't limited to just Cheerios - it can be any cereal that's round), this corn on the cob craft requires scissors, yellow and green construction paper, glue, a stapler, and a pencil. It's relatively simple, but still, pretty fun to make!
Who doesn't like playing Bingo? Kids and adults alike are sure to be huge fans of the game, which comes with player chips, caller chips, and game instructions. Since they're reusable, you could also use it for other occasions, or even make it into a holiday tradition. If you're ever with a group of kids who claim to be bored, this Thanksgiving Bingo game ought to cheer them up in no time.
Admit it, you've done this activity at least once as a kid. If it wasn't Handprint Turkey Hats, it was Handprint Turkey cards, paintings, plates, or ornaments. It's probably one of the most memorable traditions from our preschool and kindergarten classes. And thankfully, it's still a go-to craft to this day. For this hat, all you'll need is scissors, brown, white, orange, yellow, and red construction paper, glue or tape, and a black marker.
Another option for cool Thanksgiving hats is a premed hat crafting kit, which already includes all the tools and pieces that they'll need. In fact, just looking at these colorful hats are making us feel more festive. Each package includes paper hats, decorating options, hat rope, and double-sided glue. Whether you're throwing an actual party or just trying to get some dinner on the table for your family, these will be a big hit.
Where Imagination Grows
Aren't these gorgeous? They look like jars that you'd actually see for sale at the store, but anyone can create these fall luminary jars at home. All you need are mason jars, Mod Podge, pieces of tissue paper, brown construction paper, a paintbrush, and a candle. You can use them to decorate your home, or even make a few extras and give them away as gifts. Honestly, we might try these out for ourselves...
1 Pure Heart
We're pretty sure that the kids would be stoked to make a pretty corn wreath for the front door. As for how the corn is made, the method is actually pretty unique. You need to use painted bubble wrap to decorate construction paper, which will give the appearance of kernels on a corn cob. And after they dry, they can all be cut out and pasted to the husks, made from green construction paper. Then lastly, they all get attached to a piece of cardboard and hung with a piece of twine.
Pin the Tail is easy to learn and super fun to play. Each kid gets a turn to select their tail out of 24 pieces. Then, with their eye mask on, they try to pin the tail in the correct spot on the turkey. And of course, the closest tail is the one that wins. We don't know about you guys but this sounds like the kind of game that even grown-ups would enjoy playing. It's safe to say that this is a must-have if your family has a lot of little ones.
This hands-on game is perfect for kids of any age. It can be played indoors if you have the space, but if you're lucky enough to have decent weather outdoors while you're in the kitchen, the kids can go outside and enjoy this beanbag tossing game. We should warn you though, it will definitely get competitive...
This candy game is an awesome way to keep the kids at the table as you cook. As for how to play, every kid gets a card and there's one bowl of plain chocolate M&Ms (or any similar chocolate candy). Everyone gets a turn rolling two dice and, according to their total number, they have to check the color code at the bottom of their cards and add the candies accordingly. The first person to fill up their turkey wins. You can order it here.
As you’d expect, it’s just like regular Charades, except with this version, it's Thanksgiving foods, characters, objects, and more. It’s fair to say that this version can get even more challenging, as it’s pretty tough to act out terms like "Butterball Turkey Hotline," "Horn of Plenty" and "Four Day Weekend." Still, it’s a great way to get the whole family together and bring more excitement to the holiday.
Dream a Little Bigger
How clever is this idea? It's quite simple to do and doesn't require that much time, so you're probably thinking that this won't be enough to keep your kids busy. But hold your horses. After they all finish making their cool puppets, they can still play with their creations or even come up with a little Thanksgiving play. All they'll need to make their puppets are some feathers (can be natural or fake), a kid-friendly glue gun, scissors, and craft felt in orange and red. Learn how it's done here.
Word scrambles are perfect if you're looking to keep the kids occupied and quiet at the same time (because let's face it, it often feels impossible). You can use this downloadable worksheet for the activity, or you can even create your own to make things more interesting. That way, they'll be concentrating so hard their work that they'll forget they're actually waiting for dinner.
Sugar and Charm
These are too adorable! The DIY craft is perfect if your young ones are into fashion and accessorizing. To make the process easier and a bit less time-consuming, you can provide them with beads in separate bags and elastic that's already been cut and tied. And if you want to add another bonus, you can give them some material to make a gratitude or Thanksgiving necklace too.
Skip to My Lou
It's incredibly creative and probably the best way to put aside those crayons when your kids are finished with their crafts and activities. You'll need brown, red, and orange felt, googly eyes, glue, scissors, crayons, the Felt Turkey Crayon Holder Template and a sewing machine to sew the lines along the feather piece. This crayon holder could double as a cute decoration for your home, or you could even put it on display at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
For this adorable Thanksgiving treat bag, you’ll need popcorn, M&Ms, Reese pieces, googly eyes, scissors, a glue stick, and orange construction paper. However, if you want to switch things up by experimenting with other snacks and candies, do feel free to try other substitutes! Though it's simple to do, it also requires a bit of patience, which means the kids will definitely stay occupied for a while.
This one will take some extra work beforehand because you'll have to provide the kids with dyed pumpkin seeds (which you can see here, such a fun process!). After you've dyed your seeds, you can also provide the kids with a brown marker, white construction paper, and glue. You can even spice things up by having them add other items such as glitter or fall-themed stickers, depending on where their imagination takes them.
Here's a fun fact: These turkey napkin holders can actually double as hair clips. It all depends on whether you attach your little turkey to a piece of felt or a flip clip. So if you've got a mixture of boys and girls to keep entertained, there's something for everyone to try. The materials you'll need are brown felt, a piece of red rick rack, google eyes, glue, and a flip clip. You can go through all the steps here.
Little Miss Celebration
Okay so we confess, this one will definitely require the help of at least one adult since it requires some patience and attention to detail. If you want to go all out for a front-door decoration without breaking the bank, consider having someone work with the kids to make this gorgeous Door Turkey, made up of styrofoam, felt, chipboard and paper twist. Sure, it'll be pretty time-consuming, but hey, it's fun to make and it'll last for more than just one Thanksgiving.
The Happy Scraps
It's time to toss the hand-written place cards and swap them for something a little more festive - like these cute turkey name cards. They look super fancy but don't worry, they're pretty easy to make. For this you'll need patterned paper, ink, scissors, a pen, scrap cardstock, and double-sided tape. Your guests will be so impressed when you put these out!
If you're not a big fan of the Felt Turkey crayon holders, these are much simpler and super quick to make. However, if you want the kids to go all out and get creative with their holders, you can add more options for them to decorate their Pilgrim hats. For instance, some additional options could be rhinestones, beads, glitter, pompoms, and more. You can check out the details for how to make it here.
It’s a fun way to create goodie bags for your guests and it’s not hard to make at all. For this, the kids will need paper bags, colored cardstock, glue, scissors, and their own little surprises that they’d like to put inside. These cute paper bag turkeys can even double as placeholders since name tags are also attached along the bottom.
Ella Claire and Co.
These free printable placemats will come in handy as the kids are waiting to be served. The creator, Kristen, has three different designs for kids to choose from, including autumn leaves and a turkey. But if you want to explore some more options for creative placemats, you could consider having them draw their own and then color it. To take it even further, they could work with construction paper to create something colorful.
I Heart Arts n Crafts
Fair warning: This Thanksgiving craft can get pretty messy. But considering the beautiful results, we'd say that it's so worth it. To make these marble-patterned leaves, you'll need paint, shaving cream, white card stock, a piece of cardboard, scissors, leaf templates, and a foil pan. After your leaves are dipped and completely dried, they can make for gorgeous decorative accents on your front door or in your home.