Make Thanksgiving Special

By Cindy Nurik, Ed.D., Mommy & Me

November is the one month of the year when we take time from our busy lives to reflect on all we have to be thankful for. Thanksgiving dinner – with its turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and pumpkin pie – is something everyone looks forward to, not just because of the great food, but because it brings together family and friends.

>Make the holiday meaningful for children by explaining its history and by talking about why we celebrate it today. Then, make sure kids feel part of the festivities by involving them in the preparations. They can make decorations, help with simple food preparation and set the table. Having your child say grace or create a poem on the theme of thankfulness can be a lovely way to start the feast.

Here are some easy-to-do activities to help make Thanksgiving a heartfelt holiday in your family. 

Little People Place Cards

Materials Needed:
• Safety scissors

Craft glue
Black, white and yellow construction paper
Paper towel tubes

Everyone loves a festive Thanksgiving table, and decorations are most charming when they are homemade by the household’s youngest members. As your child makes these Pilgrim and Native American place cards, talk about how the first Thanksgiving was held by the Pilgrims to give thanks to God for their first harvest in their new home. The Pilgrims invited members of the Wampanoag tribe to join them in this three-day feast because they had shown them friendship, teaching them the fishing, farming and hunting techniques that the Pilgrims needed to survive in the
New World



1.  Cut paper-towel tubes in half and paint or cover them with construction paper (if using paper, glue in place).

2.  Draw faces on the tubes or cut 3-inch circles out of construction paper and glue them onto the tubes. For facial features, cut small circles for eyes and noses, mini-rectangles for eyebrows and crescent shapes for mouths.

3.  Add headbands and feathers to the Native Americans and construction-paper collars and hats to the Pilgrims. (A ring of black construction paper slipped over the tube makes an authentic-looking hat brim.)

4.  You can also add arms, feet, hair and aprons.

5.  Write the name of a dinner guest at the bottom of each “body” and set by place settings.

Table Toppers

Thanksgiving CornucopiaTo make a centerpiece for the Thanksgiving dinner table, use large, waffle ice-cream cones to make mini-cornucopias. Place a few cones on a large platter lined with colorful leaves. Gather a variety of nuts, berries, dried fruit, raisins and small apples or other fruits to fill the cones. Set the platter in the center of your Thanksgiving table.


Wreath of Plenty – Cut a circle out of a piece of cardboard (8 inches in diameter works well). Cut a hole (about 4 inches in diameter) in the center. Glue autumn leaves, berries and other natural items on the cardboard until it is covered. Attach a length of twine or fishing line to the back and hang. If desired, you can substitute a foam wreath form from a craft store for the cardboard.


Harvest Candles – Glue acorns, unshelled nuts, pinecones or other natural fall items around the base of pillar candles. Place on bases and space down the length of the table.


Helping Hands Thanksgiving Tablecloth – If you set a special child’s table, cover it with white craft paper and supply markers and crayons for the kids to use to decorate it. Thanksgiving cookie cutters or stencils are fun, or you can ask the kids to write or draw pictures of all the things they’re thankful for.

Gobble, Gobble Games

Turkey Hunt – Have children draw or paste pictures of turkeys on a dozen or so index cards. Mom hides the cards around the room, then everyone goes hunting. The player who “bags” the most turkeys wins.

Turkey Tag – One child is a Pilgrim, and the rest are turkeys. The Pilgrim chases the turkeys until he catches one. All the turkeys should gobble and strut around the room. The turkey who is caught becomes the next Pilgrim.

Mommy & Me author Cindy Nurik, Ed.D., is a family therapist, a specialist in early childhood education, a playgroup pioneer, a mom and the author of Fun with Mommy & Me (Dutton, 2001).