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Thanksgiving break: small girl's feet in puddle with leaves

15 things to do with kids over Thanksgiving break

The kids have some days off. With any luck, the parents do, too!

For many of us, the upcoming Thanksgiving break is a wonderful time to spend with family and friends. But what are you going to do with all the days off? There’s only so much stuffing you can eat and only so much holiday shopping a family can endure before the fatigue sets in.

So here are 15 things to do over Thanksgiving break that’ll get you moving, use your creativity, and maybe show some gratitude. Choose a few to do over the break and have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Make Thanksgiving Day fancy

Not having family over and making it an intimate affair? Make the day special by changing up the menu. At my house, we’re forgoing the turkey in favor of a simple roast chicken, but my kids and husband do insist on cranberry sauce and “too much pie.” But even though you aren’t doing a daylong cook-fest (takeout, anyone?) you can still make the meal special. Have your kids make decorations for the table. Make it fancy and dress up for the family gathering or virtual call (from the waist up is just fine). Bring out the good napkins and fold them up in a special way. It’ll make all that pie taste better.

[Related: Decorations for the table]


Make holiday cards and gifts

Get a head start on your holiday mailing. If your loved ones are in another country, even British Columbia, everything should be in the mail by December 6. Within the U.S., it’s December 16. So put your kids to work making cards and writing notes. Your family will love them!

November 24 is Native American Heritage Day

Take some time to learn about local Indigenous People. A great place to start is the Hibulb Cultural Center website. Particularly good for kids: the stories in the “Storytelling” section and the “History Minute” videos.

[ Related: This Thanksgiving, educate your family about Native history and culture ]

Neighborhood dinner

With the arrival of the usual winter viruses as well as concerns about COVID, you might want to get together with your neighbors or extended family to share in an outdoor potluck. On your block travel from driveway to driveway and break some bread. You bring your own main dish. One household hosts appetizers, another hosts a couple of sides, and another supplies dessert. Eat at tables set up in a driveway or get together at a park picnic shelter.

Here are some noteworthy things to bring. Also a great way to get the kids cooking.

Holiday cooking with the kids

Five kinds of stuffing

Go for a walk

You can do it in almost any weather (I draw the line at freezing rain, particularly if sideways). It’s simple and safe, and you can go to different places depending on the time you have and the enthusiasm of your walking buddies.

Here are some places to try:

3 magnificent fall hikes on the Eastside

5 walks for Seattle-area families on wet winter days


Visit a state park – Free on November 24th

Here are some lovely ones nearby. Bonus: Normally, you need to buy a Discover Pass, but honor of Native American Heritage Day, all Washington State Parks are free on Friday, November 24th.


Exercise indoors

When it’s too cold and dark to go outside, kids still need to get their wiggles out. 14 ways to get kids moving when you’re stuck indoors.


Play board games and card games

Here are some great ones to try:

10 games to play with your family during COVID-19 times (and after)

11 cool games to play with your kids during coronavirus quarantine


Exercise gratitude

Remembering what you are thankful for is a documented way to boost mental health. Here’s a list of gratitude-boosting activities for kids.


Explore nature

Go see the spawning salmon at Carkeek Park. Or stop by the body of water nearest you and watch the ducks hanging out there for the winter. Examine the fall profusion of mushrooms. Or spend some creative hours with playthings from nature.


Get crafty

You could try to make one a lion pillow or a panda puppet or these projects from the book “Girls who Build.”


Bake something simple

Kids love measuring, stirring, rolling dough, spraying pans, shaping cookies, all the steps to make a baked treat. If only they were as keen on cleaning up …


Go to the zoo

The Woodland Park Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Cougar Mountain Zoo are all open. You could even go at night. The Woodland Park Zoo is open for “WildLanterns” while Point Defiance has its Zoolights.


Get into the holiday spirit

Thanksgiving break kicks off the holiday season with events leading right into December’s jolly goodness. Get into the holiday spirit by visiting a light show, attending a theatrical performance, or visiting a market. Check out our guide to holiday fun for the whole family and choose something that will be memorable for your family.

Plan future adventures

It’s time to plan summer camping reservations if you are intent on going to a popular spot, such as one of these:

7 kid-friendly campgrounds that get booked up fast

Want to camp at one of these Washington State Parks next summer? Reserve your spot soon!

First timers guide to camping

About the Author

Fiona Cohen

Fiona Cohen lives in Ballard with her husband, two teenagers, a big vegetable garden and an absurd cat. She is the author of "Curious Kids Nature Guide," and is working on a new nature book for kids, to be published by Little Bigfoot in 2022.