Memorable thanksgiving activities & traditions that will be a hit with the teens and the entire extended family.
As the leaves turn gold and the candy gets eaten… Thanksgiving has quickly come upon us again!
In a household of bustling teenagers, the season becomes more than just a traditional celebration… It’s now a space for creating new traditions that honor both the past and our ever-evolving family dynamic. Atleast, that’s my hope for this year.
The Thanksgiving holiday offers a chance for everyone to take a needed break from school and give so many opportunities to engage, inspire, and connect with our teens.
As a mom navigating these intense years, I’ve discovered that incorporating our teenagers into the preparation and celebration of Thanksgiving can be a journey filled with creativity, unexpected revelations, and, most importantly, shared gratitude.
Here are some of my favorite activities and traditions that are not only teen-approved but also give fresh energy to the time-honored spirit of this cherished holiday.
Fun Turkey Day Activities for Teens
First up some fun options for guaranteed to captivate even the most melancholy teenagers!
1. Community Service
By volunteering, teens can experience firsthand the challenges others face. It’s an eye-opening activity that encourages empathy, community connection, and the importance of helping those less fortunate. It’s a great way to do something as a family together and have fun in the process. Offer a treat to the teen who comes up with the best way to serve together this year.
2. Turkey Trot
Whether running or walking, being part of a community event like a Turkey Trot promotes physical health, encourages a community spirit, and can raise awareness or funds for local causes, making the holiday about more than just one’s own family. We love to run this as a family and then all go and pick out our Thanksgiving pies together. Our turkey day is about moderation after all. 😉
3. Thanksgiving Night Walk
This peaceful walk encourages family members to connect with one another away from digital distractions. It’s an opportunity for teens to share their thoughts in a more relaxed environment and for families to bond. I especially love to do this out in the forest in the snow!
Cozy up and grab cocoa and enjoy the night together.
4. Family Football Game
Organizing a family football game is about teamwork, fun, and friendly competition. It helps build family camaraderie and makes for great, laugh-filled memories. Football season is at an all time high, check out these High School football game time ideas!
5. Recipe Sharing
Allowing teens to choose and prepare a recipe gives them a sense of responsibility and contribution. It’s a creative outlet and a practical skill, and it allows them to showcase their individuality through their unique dish.
6. “I Am Thankful For” Placemats
This crafty idea is a visual representation of gratitude. Family members can express their creativity and it serves as a conversation starter around the dinner table about what each person values most. Here are more Thanksgiving crafts teens will love.
Learning Activities Do While Your Turkey Sits
7. Historical Movie Night
Understanding the history of Thanksgiving adds depth to the celebration. It can open avenues for discussing both the good and the problematic aspects of the holiday’s history, encouraging critical thinking and awareness in teens.
8. Crafting Cornucopias
This activity is not just about being artistic; it’s a symbolic reflection of abundance and thanks. Filling cornucopias with representations of blessings encourages mindfulness of the good things in one’s life.
9. Storytelling Time
Sharing stories, especially across generations, is a way of preserving family history and helping teens connect to their heritage. It creates a sense of continuity and belonging.
Pro Tip: Record these if you can! From the teens answers to the grandparents, you’ll be glad you have them in the future to look back upon.
10. Thanksgiving Playlist
Music brings people together. By involving teens in creating a playlist, they’re given a voice and a chance to contribute to the ambiance of the day. We create a new Turkey Playlist every year and our son gets songs from all the family members to add to it.
Fun Service Ideas for Teens on Thanksgiving
You are going to want to jump into the spirit of gratitude and giving this season with this treasure trove of fun service ideas for teens on Thanksgiving. These Thanksgiving activities are just perfect.
11. Digital Storytelling
For this thanksgiving activities, teens can create digital stories (videos, online scrapbooks, or blogs) honoring local heroes or historical figures, or documenting local history to share with the community.
12. Food Drive
Organize a neighborhood food drive leading up to Thanksgiving to collect non-perishable items. Coordinate with a local food bank for collection and distribution.
13. Online Tutoring
Offer free online tutoring sessions or homework help for younger students or peers who may be struggling in certain subjects.
14. Crafts for Seniors
Make Thanksgiving-themed crafts and cards. Though they can’t visit in person due to various reasons, they can send these to local senior centers or nursing homes to brighten the residents’ day.
15. Virtual Performances
Organize a virtual concert or play. Teens can show off their musical, dancing, or acting skills by streaming performances live for those who might be alone during the holiday.
16. Cooking or Baking for Neighbors
Prepare meals or baked goods for neighbors, particularly those who might have difficulty cooking for themselves, like the elderly or those with disabilities.
17. Tech Help
Provide tech support for community members who are not tech-savvy. Many older adults, especially, find it challenging to use technology to connect with loved ones or access information.
Reward yourself for all this great work with a holiday kick off event like walking through a light display.
18. Letter Writing
Start a letter-writing campaign to soldiers overseas, people in hospitals, or anyone who might need a kind word of encouragement and thanks during the holiday season.
19. Animal Care
Offer to walk dogs, pet-sit, or clean animal shelters. Sometimes shelters and pet owners need extra help during the holiday season.
20. Upcycling for Charity
Organize a project to collect gently used clothes or toys, upcycle or repair them if needed, and then donate them to shelters or organizations that distribute them to those in need.
Family Thankful Traditions with Teens
I think it’s important to embrace the moments of gratitude this season. Here are some meaningful practices that can unite your family in appreciation for all the good things we do have together. These Thanksgiving activities are an absolute must.
21. Family Debate
A mock debate on a light-hearted topic teaches teens to express their opinions, listen to others, and can help them articulate their thoughts in a respectful manner.
22. Book Club
Reading the same book and discussing it can open up new perspectives and improve communication skills. It also provides a shared experience and a platform for sharing opinions.
Pro Tip: We love to look ahead to what new movies are coming out and all pick a book to read beforehand and then head out to see the movie for over the long weekend.
23. Decorating Together
When teens contribute to decorating, they see that their input is valued and it enhances the sense of a shared occasion. It’s also a creative outlet and a way to make the environment festive.
24. Homemade Desserts for Neighbors
This act of kindness fosters a sense of community. It teaches teens the value of generosity and can help build positive relationships with neighbors.
25. Thanksgiving Breakfast
By extending the holiday to include a special breakfast, the day starts with a focus on family togetherness. It sets a tone of unity and celebration for the day ahead.
26. Personal Growth Reflections
Sharing personal victories or growth experiences helps teens vocalize their own achievements and hear others’. It’s affirming and helps build self-esteem.
27. DIY Thankful T-Shirts
Creating T-shirts is a fun activity that allows teens to express themselves. Wearing the T-shirts creates a sense of unity and can remind them of what they’re thankful for.
28. Family Trivia
This fun activity can connect different generations over shared family history and experiences. It’s entertaining and educational for teens, and they may learn something new about their relatives.
29. Wall of Thanks
A visual representation of thanks that remains up for the whole month encourages ongoing gratitude. Teens can express their thankfulness creatively and it’s a constant reminder of what’s important.
30. Passing the Thankful Feather
This simple activity creates a moment for each person to share, fostering a warm, inclusive atmosphere. It gives teens a chance to voice their gratitude and connects everyone at the table.
31. Thanksgiving Clean Up Race
At the end of the night, set a timer for 20 minutes and see how much cleaning up can get done. Then when the timer is up, you are done for the night.
In the gentle waning of Thanksgiving Day, when the dishes are clean and the last pie crumb has been savored, there lingers a certain magic in our home—a sense of unity that we’ve woven through shared experiences and newly-minted traditions.
Navigating the vibrant landscape of our teens’ worlds has brought an array of colors to our Thanksgiving celebration, breathing life into each moment and memory crafted. As we look back on the activities and customs that have resonated with our family, it becomes abundantly clear that the heart of Thanksgiving isn’t solely in the rituals themselves, but in the connections they foster and the love they manifest.
So, from our ever-busy, sometimes-chaotic, yet always-love-filled family to yours: may your Thanksgiving be a celebration of togetherness, an acknowledgment of growth, and a testament to the gratitude that binds us across tables, through time, and within the intricate tapestry of our shared stories.
If you want some time with just your girls, why not get Mani Pedis? Or DIY them at home! Check out these nail ideas teens for inspiration.