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35 fun Thanksgiving activities for the whole family

Keep kids and adults entertained while they wait for the turkey to roast.

Let’s get a show of hands — who’s ready for turkey, gravy and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving? Everyone, of course.

It's the one day that combines all our favorite things: food, family, family and long naps on the couch. But there are so many things to do on Thanksgiving that don't involve eating and sleeping (even though, frankly, we’d be totally fine with just that).

If you want to switch things up this year, step away from the TV and run a 5K (bold, we know) or play Thanksgiving games with loved ones. You can also relinquish your dinner duties by hosting an open house. Or skip the work altogether and just go out to a nice dinner instead.

Whatever you’re in the market for, we’ve gathered a list of fun Thanksgiving activities that'll keep everyone — little kids, teens and adults — entertained all day long.

As for you, all you need to worry about is thawing the turkey and making sure the remote has a fresh set of batteries. We'll handle the rest.

Make a gratitude jar

Instead of having everyone go around the table to say what they're thankful for, have them write it down on a piece of paper. Collect the sentiments in a jar, then read them aloud one by one. See if guests can guess who said what. When the game's over, save the jar and its contents as a family keepsake.

Play board or card games

Monopoly, Battleship, Scrabble, UNO — it doesn't matter what game you choose, just pick one and have a game-a-thon with friends and relatives. Get everyone in the competitive spirit by offering small prizes (think: dollar store finds) for the winners.

Put a puzzle together

Puzzles are a great family activity, especially on Thanksgiving when things can get a little hectic. Bring a puzzle to Thanksgiving dinner or, if you're hosting, put one out for guests and relatives to work on as a calming break from the action.

Serve signature cocktails

Take Thanksgiving to the next level by whipping up seasonal cocktails — alcoholic or otherwise. Whether it's a pitcher of Thanksgiving sangria or a bubbly cranberry gin fizz, guests will love having a specialty drink all their own.

Host an open house

Hosting a large, sit-down dinner for Thanksgiving can be a daunting task for anyone. Why not break it up by turning Thanksgiving into an open house instead? Relatives and friends can stop by throughout the day, mingle, eat a few appetizers, then be on their merry way.

Assemble care packages

Part of expressing gratitude is recognizing what you've got, then doing what you can to help others less fortunate. Start a Thanksgiving tradition of assembling care packages for members of the military, local shelters or animal rescues. It's an activity everyone can participate in — young or old.

Share Thanksgiving memories

Take turns having guests share a meaningful or funny Thanksgiving memory with the rest of the crowd. Not only does it bring a piece of everyone's personal history to the gathering, it's also an easy way to get to know new faces at the table.

Take a walk

People Walking By Canal In City
Philipp Dase / EyeEm / Getty Images stock

Unless it's pouring rain or snowing, a post-dinner walk is the perfect way to walk off that extra serving of pumpkin pie. Go alone or with the rest of the group. Either way, it's a chance to get a breath of fresh air or take a moment if you need it.

Make a Thanksgiving craft

Hours of food and football can get pretty boring for the little ones, so keep them busy (and happy) by arranging a Thanksgiving craft or two. Pick up easy-to-follow kits at your local craft store or DIY your own Thanksgiving-themed project.

Deliver baked goods to friends and neighbors

Make someone's day with a thoughtful drop-off on Thanksgiving. It doesn't need to be elaborate or even homemade. A care package made up of baked goods (or anything else for that matter) is a wonderful way to let someone know they're in your thoughts and heart on Thanksgiving Day.

Hold an ugly sweater contest

Make it mandatory to show up on Thanksgiving in a hideous sweater. It doesn't even have to be holiday-themed, just terrible. Guests will love the challenge and it's a great ice-breaker. Once everyone arrives, vote on who's wearing the best-worst sweater.

Get started on your holiday playlist

There's no better time to make a holiday playlist than when the whole gang's together for Thanksgiving. Have each person contribute a few of their favorite songs to add to the list, then share the finished compilation with the group so everyone can enjoy it.

Host Friendsgiving

Dimensions / Getty Images stock

Even if you have plans to celebrate with family this year, dedicate part of your day to hang out with your friends or reconnect with old acquaintances. Invite high school or neighborhood friends over for after-dinner dessert, then catch up on old times.

Do something in remembrance

If a loved one is missing from this year's table, then honor them with a meaningful remembrance. Set a framed photo in their place, and make a cherished dish or dessert to pay tribute.

Play Thanksgiving trivia

Where did the Mayflower first land when it arrived on American shores? If you answered Plymouth Rock, then you're incorrect! Eventually the Pilgrims ended up there, but their first stop was in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Answer this question and so many more during a game of Thanksgiving trivia.

Run a 5K or road race

It's never a bad idea to start off a day with a little physical exercise. Your body will thank you for jumpstarting your metabolism.

Decorate Thanksgiving placemats

Some blank sheets of white construction paper and crayons are all the supplies necessary to craft some placemats for the table. Let kids draw pictures of turkeys, then finish it off by writing a few Thanksgiving messages.

Draw names for holiday gifts

If the Thanksgiving crowd will gather again for the holidays, then use time together to plan out a gift exchange. Throw names into a hat and have family and friends choose one person to buy a gift for instead of shopping for everyone.

Play a game of football

Instead of watching your team lose on TV, get everyone outside and play a game of football instead. Those too young or unable to join can cheer teams on from the sidelines.

Take photos for holiday cards

Since everyone's together and all dressed up for Thanksgiving, you might as well get the holiday card photo out of the way. The best time to do it is right after everyone arrives. Once the turkey's been carved and football has begun, it's all over.

Have a movie marathon

vladans / Getty Images stock

Thanksgiving weekend is the perfect time to binge long movie series including "Harry Potter," "Lord of the Rings" or any Marvel series. Watch them all in order and don't forget the popcorn.

Make an ornament for the Christmas tree

Keep the crew entertained while the turkey is cooking by organizing a Christmas ornament craft. The football crowd might opt out, but otherwise kids, tweens and adults are sure to get involved in the project, especially it means a new ornament to hang on the tree.

Start a new tradition with the family

Shake things up by starting a new Thanksgiving tradition. Watch the National Dog Show together and wager if the Scottish Deerhound is going to take home the trophy for the second year in a row. Go rogue and ditch the same ol' turkey and gravy for a completely new menu that reflects a guest's heritage or family-favorite recipes.

Preserve kids' handprints

Kids grow up so fast, especially when you only see them once a year. Chronicle their progress by making handprints with finger paint or imprinting them in clay. Bring them out each year so children and parents see how much little hands have grown.

Eat out for Thanksgiving

Let someone else do the heavy lifting by going out to eat on Thanksgiving. Though many restaurants are closed for the holiday, quite a few remain open. With no dishes to do or leftovers to wrap up, you'll have plenty of time for football and conversation.

Build something

Get down on the floor with the kids and build a LEGO tower or Lincoln Logs cabin It's a project that adults, kids, teens and tweens can all participate in. And let's be honest here, making stuff out of LEGOs never gets old.

Play bingo

B-I-N-G-O spells "good times" on Thanksgiving! Bingo is pretty much the easiest game in the world to set up and play, especially if you're hosting a crowd. Make your own Bingo cards or find Thanksgiving-themed cards online.

Make a holiday shopping list

The year's busiest shopping season is in full swing, so use any down time on Thanksgiving to start pulling your holiday shopping list together. Poll friends and relatives for ideas. You might get some insight into what they're hoping to receive at the same time, making it a total win-win.

Film a Thanksgiving video

Just about everyone has a phone and will likely be using it to capture all the special Thanksgiving moments. Elect someone in the group to make a short video of it all, then share it so everyone has a keepsake of the holiday.

Make a masterpiece with sidewalk chalk

If the weather's nice, head outside with a bucket of sidewalk chalk and create some memorable Thanksgiving art. Or if you'd rather, write some messages of gratitude as a warm welcome to neighbors and guests.

Bake holiday cookies

No time like Thanksgiving weekend to get started on baking holiday cookies and other sweet treats. Unless, of course, you're exhausted from cooking Thanksgiving dinner. In that case, get a massage and we'll forget this whole conversation happened.

Try out a new recipe (or two)

Sick of sweet potatoes and apple pie? Throw tradition right out the window and make something entirely new for Thanksgiving. Look online or flip through old cookbooks for vintage family recipes.

Unpack the holiday decorations

Decorating the house for the holidays is a lot of work. Be a friend to your future self and get the ball rolling early. Take the decorations out, make sure the lights still work and figure out what you need to pick up during the Black Friday sales.

Go to the movies

After being cooped up in the house all day, going out to see a movie might be exactly what the doctor ordered. Thanksgiving weekend is one of the best (and busiest) times to see a new film. Scout out times and get tickets ahead of time to make sure you don't miss out.

Map out Black Friday shopping

When it comes to Black Friday, it's crucial that you make a plan — otherwise you'll come home with things you don't really need. Make a list of who you need to buy for, then see where the best prices are. Once you've got a plan in place, map out where to go so you don't waste a single, precious moment on the big day.

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