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Written by:  Belinda J. Mooney
Date: November 1, 2010

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to look back over the past year and reflect on blessings. It is a time to spend with family and friends, sharing good food and fellowship. But like many holidays, what is meant to be quality family time often ends up being hectic. Your family may feel scattered and rushed instead of enjoying one another.

With a little planning, Thanksgiving can be a day to enjoy some activities together. Here are some tips to make your day easier and fun.

Plan for fun

Traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday can add to the stress of the day. If traveling is unavoidable for you and your family, try to make it a fun-filled day for everyone. Many times you will be traveling the day before Thanksgiving. If this isn't your plan, you might want to consider doing that simply to allow more freedom and time for fun.

Plan to stop along the way and enjoy some family-friendly sites. Take time to eat a meal together, take in a museum, go to a zoo or visit landmarks that you pass. The Internet is a great way to see what is available along your route. Take pictures and create some memories as you travel.

Get everyone cooking

This year, instead of just mom or grandma in the kitchen cooking the meal, get everyone involved. Allow the kids to help plan the menu. Encourage them to find a favorite dish and fix it themselves. Desserts are a great place to start with kids and can often be prepared a day ahead of time.

It may take a little extra time to let the kids help but it will be worth it when they say, "I made that!"

Why not have a pie-baking contest for the men in the family? If you are having family and friends over, have everyone bring a favorite side dish. This lightens your load and gets others involved.

Get crafty

Decorating for Thanksgiving is another great way to get the family working together. Even if you don't think you are crafty, you will be surprised at what your family can do. Kids love this type of activity.

- Create your own placemats, place settings and decorations.

- Take a relaxing nature walk and gather leaves, nuts and other interesting items to use in your decorations.

- Purchase miniature pumpkins and let the kids decorate them as individual place markers.

- Make tablecloths and coordinating napkins without sewing; simply use fabric glue.

A special "Be Thankful" placemat not only adds a wonderful touch to the table but is a keepsake for years to come.

Plan ahead by having the whole family get together earlier in the week and work together on these projects. Create, laugh and be busy together!

Be thankful

Including some special family activities on Thanksgiving and even the week before is a good way to create some memories and allow everyone to share a reason they are thankful this year. A fun way to do this is to create a "What I Am Thankful For" tree. This is especially nice for families with young children.

- Start with poster board and draw a large tree trunk and branches. Hang this in an area where everyone can see it and reach it.

- Next, cut out colorful leaves and place them near the tree.

- Let family members and friends write on the leaves things for which they are thankful this year and place the leaves on the tree.

Young children who can't yet write can draw a picture on the leaves. You can even cut out photos of those they love and glue them onto the leaves. You might be surprised how fast your family's tree fills up! Be sure to take a picture before you take it down.

Another nice activity to do before you eat your Thanksgiving dinner is to go around the table and ask everyone to share something that makes them feel thankful. This is one of my family's personal favorites. Encourage the children to really think about it ahead of time and not just say the first thing that pops into their heads. Making special "Be Thankful" placemats is a hands-on activity that captures these message. (Directions at end of article)

Start your own traditions

Carrying on family traditions that have been passed down is a wonderful way to preserve your family history. But why not create some new traditions this year? Start something that your kids can do with their kids in the future, things like cooking, or participating in an activity or creating something simple such as the thankful tree. You will be glad you did. Let the kids come up with something they would like to do on Thanksgiving.

Relax and enjoy yourself!

The best activity any family can do this Thanksgiving is to enjoy each other. Don't let the planning and preparation get in the way of relaxation and the sheer joy of being together. Take time to hug, laugh and simply be with one another. After all, isn't family the main thing to be thankful for at Thanksgiving?

Belinda J. Mooney is a freelance writer and mother of seven.

 


BE THANKFUL PLACEMATS

 

You will need:

- Construction paper

- Crayons, colored pencils, markers

- Family pictures

- Colorful napkins, paper crafts, scraps of cloth

- Clear contact paper

- Trim such as ribbon or rick-rack

- Fancy scissors to trim paper or make your own fancy trim

Directions:

- Write the words "I am thankful for" on a piece of construction paper or plain white paper. Trim around it or decorate it. You will glue this in the center of your placemat.

- Glue family pictures or other mementos around the mat. Write down things you are thankful for. Draw pictures. Add ribbon and trim. Make it unique.

- Seal the placemat with clear contact paper, following the directions. You may glue it on first and center things around it or glue it on last after you have placed your pictures and mementos.



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