Last Updated on October 30, 2023 by Sarah McCubbin
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Thanksgiving activities for kids are the PERFECT way to naturally teach social skills in a way that makes sense to kids. Holidays area easily one of my favorite way to teach both social and life skills because kids (and adults) love holidays. Everyone is willing to put in a little effort to make the day special.
Holidays are also full of social activities outside of our normal schedules which make them a great time to practice skills in different settings.
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Traditional Activities With a Social Twist
Almost any holiday activity can be turned into one that teaches social skills IF the parent or teacher is being intentional about the activity. Children and teens often lack perspective that comes with experience. And it is the parent’s job to fill in the gaps so that kids understand why this activity is happening.
I was always a very “logical” child. I didn’t want to do something just to do it. My parents didn’t usually explain the big picture of WHY we were doing an activity, so I struggled to understand the purpose. With each one of these activities, parents and teachers can help a child struggling with social skills by explaining the activity in its fuller context.
Questions to Help Parents & Teachers Teach Social Skills?
When you are explaining social behavior to children, consider these questions. They are ones that children think…but may not articulate. Use them to explain different social dynamics.
- What is the social activity?
- Why Do People Do It?
- Do I have do do this if I don’t like it?
- What Lesson Can We Learn From It?
- How Can We Transfer What We Learn to Other Settings?
25 Thanksgiving Activities for Kids to Teach Social Skills
Each of these Thanksgiving activities for kids are simple ideas that can be done with few extra supplies. Teaching social skills simply requires a different perspective on activities you are already doing!!
Make a Thankful Tree
Create a Thankful Tree by gathering branches and having everyone write what they’re thankful for on paper leaves. This activity encourages everyone to share what they are thankful for….no matter how big or small. It is also wonderful for all ages so its a great activity to do as part of the holidays.
Write on the Thanksgiving Table
Cover the Thanksgiving table with craft paper and provide markers for guests to write what they’re thankful for, share quotes, or draw pictures. This fosters conversation and creativity.
Read Thanksgiving Books and Talk About Them
I love to purchase books for different holidays. Even if we don’t fully “celebrate” a holiday, my kids can enjoy books and learn about the holiday and cultures around these days. Below are some of our favorite Thanksgiving holiday books for kids.
Write Up Name Cards
Design name cards for each guest at the table, allowing children and teens to practice fine motor skills and show consideration for individual placement. Planning where a guest will sit can include all kinds of conversations about why they might want to sit next to people, whether they are good conversationalist and many other topics.
Send Notes of Gratitude
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to send “thank you” notes to people for no other reason than that you appreciate them. Doing this with your kids can help them understand that saying “thank you” doesn’t always happen in the moment. We can appreciate people whenever the thought strikes.
A year or so ago, I wrote a note like this to someone who had really helped me many years ago. I was in a hard season and they gave me good advice that helped me shift gears. I waited more than 5 years to say “thank you.” But when I did, that very busy person wrote me a note back.
It is, they said that they had really been struggling in life and my note had been such an encouragement at a really dark time. My note saying “thank you” for something they helped me with a long time ago arrived at just the time they needed it.
Our words have power…let’s teach our kids how to use them well.
Cook Thanksgiving Food Together
Planning and preparing Thanksgiving requires both organizational, communication and cooking skills. And actually cooking together has so many opportunities to talk and problem solve. Include your children in this process at whatever level they can be involved.
Play the Thankful Game
Have a game where everyone takes turns sharing what they are thankful for. This activity promotes active listening and empathy.
Do Family Skits
Create and perform short skits with family members. This encourages creativity, cooperation, and boosts confidence in public speaking and performing.
It is also a great way to laugh about fun family memories of things that have happened in the past!
Participate in a Food Drive
Join a local food drive as a family, collecting and donating non-perishable items for those in need. This teaches empathy and the value of giving.
Have a Team Scavenger Hunt
Organize a Thanksgiving-themed scavenger hunt, promoting teamwork, problem-solving, and effective communication within the teams.
Talk About Religion and Politics Politely
Engage in open, respectful conversations about sensitive topics like religion and politics. This helps develop understanding and tolerance for differing viewpoints.
Take a Walk With Family or Friends
Go for a leisurely walk with family or friends to enjoy each other’s company, fresh air, and natural surroundings. It’s an opportunity for quality conversation.
Do a Turkey Trot or Outdoor Hike
Participate in a Turkey Trot or go for an outdoor hike with family or friends. These activities encourage physical fitness and group bonding.
My family does a “Turkey Trot” before or after dinner. Sometimes the trot is marked out in a neighborhood and other times is more like a hike in the woods. Either is a great. My kids always enjoy walking with a family member they don’t see often and talking about life.
Play Board Games
Playing board games promotes social interaction, cooperation, strategic thinking, and healthy competition among family and friends.
Give a Hostess Gift to the Thanksgiving Host
Bring a thoughtful hostess gift to the Thanksgiving gathering. It’s a gesture of appreciation and good etiquette.
Maintain a gratitude journal as a family or individually. Regularly reflecting on what you’re thankful for enhances mindfulness and positive thinking.
Do a Family Talent Show
Organize a talent show where family members showcase their talents or perform skits. This encourages self-expression and builds confidence. If you have a budding pianist or a student artist, Thanksgiving is a great time to share talent with family!
Charades is a classic party game that promotes non-verbal communication, teamwork, and fun social interaction.
Plan Some Quiet Downtime Between and After the Festivities
Ensure there is downtime for relaxation, conversation, and reflection between the festivities to prevent overstimulation and allow for meaningful conversations.
Spend part of Thanksgiving volunteering together as a family. This promotes community engagement and teaches the value of giving back.
Make a Family Tree
Create a family tree project, discussing family history and genealogy. It encourages storytelling and learning about one’s roots. Your family tree can be something you do on a piece of poster board or something more involved online using Ancestry.com.
Sing your favorite Thanksgiving and fall-themed songs with karaoke, allowing everyone to share their musical talents.
Do Puzzles and Challenges With Others
Work on puzzles or brain-teasers as a group, promoting problem-solving, collaboration, and friendly competition.
Organize a Family Football Game
Play a friendly game of touch football with family members. It’s a great way to get some exercise and bond over a shared activity.
Watch Football on TV
If you’re not into playing football, watching a football game on TV can provide a shared experience and conversation topic. It’s a classic Thanksgiving pastime.
In my extended family, they plan the Thankgiving activities around football.
We have coffee and pastries early…then the Turkey Trot and then Thanksgiving dinner and football. Later the kids get to hit their pinata! There is time for everyone to do the activity that they love!
These Thanksgiving activities are not only fun but also provide opportunities to strengthen social skills such as communication, cooperation, empathy, and gratitude. Thanksgiving is an ideal time to foster meaningful connections with family and friends.