Planning a Great Thanksgiving Holiday With the Family

Thanksgiving Family Dinner

Thanksgiving is a time where many families get together to give thanks for all the things we should appreciate in out lives. It’s also one of the few great times to strengthen the ties that bind our families.

With families increasingly getting geographically dispersed and with people’s increasingly busy schedules reducing the amount of time families spend together, it’s no wonder that making the most of your Thanksgiving get-together is a priority for many families.


With just a little up front planning you can pull off a memorable Thanksgiving that becomes tradition for years to come.

Who’s Coming…

For most families, the more the merrier rings true. And while it means increased chaos, it also makes things just a lot more interesting and exciting. I’ve never met a family that didn’t say they weren’t a little crazy. Invite the extended family as much as you can, reconnect and share.

Plan some activities…

Make it an event! Plan several days of activities, particularly ones that cause intergenerational and geographic mixing. Include other activities that are age appropriate so that certain groups don’t get bored. And always keep in mind not to overengineer what people do. People’s interest change with the wind and forcing people to do an activity they don’t feel like doing just causes stress. We’ll talk about a couple of example activities that I’ve seen work well with many families.

Get online…

Planning shouldn’t happen when everybody gets there. Someone should appoint (or appoint themselves) as the lead planner and just make things happen. Many families use email lists to send out group emails and websites to publish a calendar of events and sign up sheets. While a leader is essential in moving things forward, make it a collaborative process. And put people in charge of activities too in order to share the responsibilities.

Some activity ideas:

Let’s Get Physical

There’s nothing like team sports to help let out some of the pent up energy, particularly from the kids. It’s also a great way for people to work off all the extra eating the middle-aged group may be doing during the holidays. Try to get all age groups involved. Maybe grandpa can be the coach and grandma can be the referee. A little competitive flag football, soccer or basketball is always healthy in family. Something that most everyone can enjoy together is a hike or a walk.

Tell a Yarn

This might take some up front planning, but some families like to put together a skit or play – for instance recounting the history of Thanksgiving. Another great activity is to put together a slide show. Whoever is organizing it can ask everyone for their photo and video contributions and put together a Powerpoint presentation that recounts the memorable happenings for that year.

Get everyone involved in preparing

If you aren’t making it a potluck anyway, you can enlist people to help in the kitchen for meal preparation. It’s a great opportunity to talk and swap stories. Have the kids help make a snack. Prepping food occurs all the time too. It’s important to always have food available, whether it be fruit, cookies, warm cider, pumpkin bread, etc. People’s hunger clock works at different times.

Indoor activities

The easy solution would be to plop the kids in front of a video game system. If you must, at least pick games that are participatory in nature. Puzzle games, Karaoke and many others make for memorable game play. You can also go low-tech by having a lot of board games around. Even charades or Pictionary make for great fun. There are a multitude of sites that have indoor activities (like making corn husk dolls) which are fun and educational.

Get out of the house

While hanging out during Thanksgiving is great, if you have a multi-day event, you’ll probably need to get out of the house at some point. The more sporty folks in the house can organize a morning run or bike. Going to the movies, or having the golf outing event are fun ways to get groups of people together. And of course, the day after Thanksgiving has been dubbed Black Friday, where those who enjoy the hunt of a good deal can usually walk away satisfied.

And While You Are At It…

Not everything needs to be fun and games. When everyone is together, it’s a chance to discuss the important matters that affect the family. It’s also a chance to talk about the future get-togethers like for the winter holidays. When everyone is together, it’s also a great opportunity to create the family website so that the communication, sharing and planning can continue on once the holidays are over.

Jeanette LaPorte

Jeanette LaPorte

Christmas Section Editor at Families Online Magazine
I love everything about Christmas and I hope you do too!
Jeanette LaPorte

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