By Jennifer Gregory
Each year after Thanksgiving dinner, many families head to the living room to relax and watch what seems to be an endless array of football games. Since quality time with friends and family can be hard to come by these days, consider using that after-dinner time to create a new family tradition. Here are a few suggestions:
Focus on others.
Consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or food shelter together to help serve meals to the less fortunate. Local mom, Mary Ford is planning to start volunteering on Thanksgiving with her children. “I want my kids to see the blessing they have while at the same time serving others that are not as fortunate,” says Ford.
Another option is to use the time after Thanksgiving dinner for your family to sing Christmas carols at a nursing home. Or, help an elderly neighbor with a special project, such as shopping, painting or raking leaves. You can also use the holiday to organize your own food drive by having each of your guests bring canned food items that they have collected from their friends and neighbors before Thanksgiving. After dinner, take a field trip to the food pantry to deliver the food.
Make it a game night.
When you invite guests to your home for Thanksgiving this year, ask them to bring their favorite board game. Mom Katie Roger always played games with her family after the dinner and says, “Some of my favorite memories growing up are from these times.”
Be sure to have games on hand that are appropriate for all ages, including teenagers and preschoolers. After dinner, pull out the games and help everyone find something to play. Group games, such as Trivial Pursuit, Charades or Pictionary, are especially popular and provide hours of fun.
If weather permits…
Head outdoors! Mother of two, Kathy Smith remembers, “Growing up we played touch football in the front yard after Thanksgiving dinner.” You could also play a group game of Hide and Seek or Kick-the-Can. If you have a large area, Capture the Flag can also be a lot of fun.
If you are feeling adventurous, head to a nearby park for a friendly game of tag football or explore local hiking trails together. Check out www.trails.com for those in your area. Go for a family walk or bike ride in your neighborhood. Be sure to mention walking shoes or bicycles when inviting guests to dinner.
Create a family scrapbook.
Have each adult and child bring a few of their favorite family pictures. Provide some cardstock, patterned paper, glue sticks, stickers, pens and scissors. Have each person create a page using their photos and record memories about the picture in the scrapbook. Be sure to include the date and artist on each page. Each year, create more pages to add to the album.
Write letters of gratitude.
Have each guest think of one person that they are especially thankful for this year. Have pens and paper ready and encourage your guests to write the person a note or letter telling them why they are special.
You can include preschoolers in this activity by having them dictate the letter to an adult or an older child. When each person is done, give them a stamped envelope, ready to be addressed and mailed.
Decorate for the holidays.
Some families choose their Christmas tree together on Thanksgiving to decorate later in the weekend. Consider decorating for the holidays on Thanksgiving evening and include your guests in the festivities. “For several years, we have gone to a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm to cut down our own tree. We also take our picture for our Christmas cards then, too,” says Jim Thompson, father of two.
Another idea is to make holiday decorations together. Some simple ideas include paper chains, salt dough ornaments and bead ornaments. When deciding on a project, be sure to consider young children who might want to participate. Provide alternate crafts if you have guests who celebrate holidays other than Christmas.
Have a talent show.
When Carrie Schlegel was growing up, her family had a talent contest each year on Thanksgiving night. The adults and children took turns performing acts, such as quoting Shakespeare or singing and playing a musical instrument. Each year, someone was awarded a trophy for the best performance. She looked forward to this tradition throughout the years and is planning to host her own family talent show this year.
Be sure to let your guests know ahead of time about the talent show. Encourage everyone, including children, to participate. Remind them to bring any necessary props or costumes.
Whatever you do with your down time this Thanksgiving, be sure to spend it creating memories and expressing gratitude. In addition to enjoying your time together, you may find yourself starting traditions that others will look forward to throughout the year.