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Thanksgiving Party!

Tips and Ideas for planning a thankful holiday for your family and friends! Don't let it be stressful, make this a Thanksgiving you will all remember and treasure for years to come!

Thanksgiving Decorations
Thanksgiving Party Games
Activities for Thanksgiving with the Family
Thanksgiving Crafts for Families

Thanksgiving Classroom Party

Thanksgiving Decorations

Thanksgiving is observed as a day to commemorate the Pilgrim's harvest of 1621, to give thanks for blessings great and small, and to feast! Set the right tone for your Thanksgiving party by using simple but colorful decorations. Incorporate harvest colors into your decor: browns, golds, reds, yellows and oranges.


One idea for decorating tables is to start by covering them with orange flat paper. Group tissue pumpkins in the center, and scatter tissue leaves and a few foil wrapped chocolates in fall colors down the center of the table…simple and easy!

Create an inexpensive centerpiece using pilgrim hats.


Select balloons and curling ribbon to match your theme colors. Inflate the balloons (always use an odd number-3, 5, or 7) with helium and attach a weight to the bouquet. If you prefer not to use helium, attach the balloons to balloon sticks and press the sticks into a piece of floral foam. Turn the pilgrim hat upside down, add the balloons and tissue paper or metallic shred to complete the centerpiece.


For a terrific but budget friendly table, use 12" autumn leaf cutouts as mini placemats. Add gold metallic plates, gold plastic cutlery, and orange napkins. Scatter a little gold confetti or metallic shred in the center of the table.


Balloons can turn any space into a festive and inviting atmosphere in minutes at a very low cost. You need not use helium, and will save money using this tip. Inflate harvest colored balloons , and tie a 5-8 foot piece of yellow, red or orange curling ribbon to the end of each one. Using scotch tape, masking tape, or straight pins, hang balloons down from the ceiling so they hang at different lengths. Curl the loose end of the ribbon with scissors. Group a bunch of them together over a serving table, over a doorway, or in any creative manner you choose.


Use bales of hay, cornstalks, uncarved pumpkins and gourds, dried Indian corn, a scarecrow, or lighted candy corn in the party room and outside the doorway to greet the guests.


Tie bows made of raffia (leave long, flowing tails on the bows) around the stems of real uncarved pumpkins or gourds and place a few in the center of each table.


For a more elegant look, use tablecloths and gather a collection of gourds, pumpkins, leaves, acorns, etc. Spray paint them with gold paint. Arrange them on your tables, and mingle some long pieces of wired ribbon (3-3 1/2" wide) amongst the golden pieces. You could use either a wine colored ribbon or something with a harvest pattern on it.


Create a centerpiece by filling a cornucopia/basket with nuts, apples, gourds, Indian corn, fall leaves, and silk or fresh mums. Many specialty and grocery store bakeries are now offering bread in a cornucopia shape—you can eat the centerpiece during the meal!


For a classroom Thanksgiving party, ,make place cards for each student. This can be done as a class activity during the party, or can be done ahead of time. Mini frames, little tote bags, mini boxes, mini hay bales…all can be personalized, and then used as take-home favors.


For an original touch on your Thanksgiving Feast tables, use a paint pen to draw little random dots on the handles of plastic cutlery with theme related colors. Tie the plastic flatware together with raffia or satin ribbon.

Thanksgiving Games



Turkey Calling Contest – Host a turkey calling contest, complete with lots of squawking, flapping, wattle shaking, and pecking. Give each participant a prize with a fun distinction: "loudest turkey", "most authentic", "most likely to be spared", "cutest turkey", etc. This activity can also be turned into a relay race with family and friends split into two teams. Loud, but fun! (Ages 4-Adult)

Turkey Bowling - The turkey will definitely be tenderized after participating in this game! Use a frozen turkey in place of a bowling ball (one that comes packaged with a "handle" attached). The frozen turkey is hurled at a set of bowling pins (use the real thing, tall wooden blocks or plastic milk bottles filled with stones). (Ages 5-Adult)

Pass the Corn – Divide guests into two teams and have them form two lines. You will need two cobs of dried Indian corn. At the signal to "go", the corncob is to be passed from person to person. The catch is that they can use any part of their bodies, except their hands. If the corn touches the ground at any time, it must go back to the beginning of the line again. Whichever team manages to get the corn to the end of the line first wins the game. (Ages 4-10)

If the games can be played outside, "hay" fights are great fun!

If you are entertaining a large group of young children, these games are perfect for those aged 10 and under.  Many of these classic games can be converted to tie to a thanksgiving/harvest theme with a simple name or prop change. Try one of the following:

"Pin the Tail on the Donkey" – "Pin the Wattle on the Turkey"

"Duck, Duck, Goose" – "Turkey, Turkey, Stuffing"

"Hot Potato" – "Hot Turkey" (with a stuffed animal turkey)

"Musical Hats" – "Musical Pilgrim Hats"

"Bingo" – use candy corn as game pieces

"Dress Up Relay" – Use simple scarecrow, Native American or Pilgrim costumes.

"Ring Toss" – "Ring around the Gourd" (assign different point values to different sizes of gourds, pumpkins, or dried Indian corn.

"Three Legged or Sack Races" – Add an autumnal touch by creating an obstacle course using pumpkins, corn stalks and bales of hay.



Thanksgiving Activities for Families



Favorites of the Family – Have the family select their top 10 favorites in a variety of areas. Top ten sports persons, top 10 politicians, top 10 historical events, top 10 movies, top 10 TV shows, top 10 fads etc. Share everyone's selections and create a unified family list.

Teach your children the true meaning of thanksgiving. Make it a goal to invite one new person to your holiday feast. Select someone who might be alone or doesn't have the means. Make it a family charge to identify, select and invite a special guest.

Be a tourist for the day/afternoon. Instead of heading to the stores to shop the day after Thanksgiving, explore your hometown or the town where you are spending the holidays. Plan ahead by speaking with the Chamber of Commerce. Select one or two sites to visit. Is there someone famous from your town? Visit their old home. Do you have a special library or historical homes or buildings? Take a tour. Is there a famous garden or park? Get out and around in your own hometown.

Plan a football extravaganza. If you have a family full of football fans – take it a step further. Map out the day's games and have each family select a team per game. During that game (select one per time period – flipping channels is optional). Have each family member dress in their team colors. Serve food that matches the team – a Texas team would get Tex-Mex food, a new England team would get clam bake items etc.

Traditional Game Day. Create a personalized family Thanksgiving Charades Game. During the week leading up to Thanksgiving, ask each family member to write down or ask a parent to write down, something that they are thankful for, big or small. Add to the jar throughout the week. On Thanksgiving Day, pull the papers out of the jar during a fun game of charades. On Thanksgiving Day also play traditional board games

Video Memory - Let all Thanksgiving guests know ahead of time that they will be asked to share with the group what they are thankful for this year. Encourage guests to write down their answer. Before you eat, have everyone read aloud why he or she is thankful and videotape each person as he/she speaks.

Family trivia quiz. Create your own family trivia game. Starting early, create simple multiple-choice questions concerning each family member. The questions can be simple or more difficult. You might ask favorite foods, music, or colors. Name of first pet; first grade teacher, childhood teddy etc. Let each family member see how well they know his or her family. For fun, structure it from easy to hard like "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"™.

Recruit an adult to dress up as either a pilgrim or an Indian, and read stories to the children. A great book for a wide variety of ages is titled "Turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn: The Story of the Thanksgiving Symbols", written by Edna Barth. This would also be the perfect opportunity for sharing stories of family ancestors (famous, eccentric, infamous, and those who changed the course of the lives of all who followed!)

Thanksgiving Crafts for Families

Make pilgrim hats that are also snack holders. Using one black stadium cup for each hat, as well as one 6" circle of black cardboard, a gold or yellow "buckle" made from cardstock paper, and tape or sticky pads. Attach the circle base and buckle. Fill the pilgrim hat with a dry snack such as popcorn, pretzels, wrapped candies. They make great centerpieces!

Make festive feather Native American headdress napkin rings. Cut toilet paper tubes into 1 1/2" wide rings. Paint designs in festive fall colors on the "rings". Add construction paper or real feathers. 

Make turkeys out of pinecones. Add colorful feathers, wiggly eyes, and cut and bent pipe cleaners for the beak, wattle and feet. 

Cover tables with orange flat paper . Add baskets of markers to the tables, and allow family and friends to doodle on the decorative table covers. Cut out and save the best doodles for the scrapbook!

Make placecards for each guest. This can be done as a family activity on Thanksgiving day, or can be completed ahead of time. Try one of the following, or create something with special meaning to your family:


"Thankful for you because" bags:

These can double as an activity and a placecard on the tables. You'll need:

Tote bags or brown paper lunch sacks
Green paint pen
Tissue leaves in autumn colors
Plenty of small pieces of paper (approx. 3" X 4" size).
The tote bags look much more formal, but in a pinch the lunch bags will do. If you are using the lunch sacks, cut the top of each sack in a decorative manner. (Use pinking shears, or regular scissors to trim the size, and give the bag a little character.) Glue one autumn leaf to the center of each bag at an angle. Tie raffia into little bows, and glue one to the base of each leaf with a hot glue gun. Write the name of each guest on the bags with the green paint pen. Place small pieces of paper in a basket along with pens and markers. Have each family member write a note or draw a picture (little ones) of why they are thankful for each person. Drop notes into bags. A great self-esteem building activity!


Pilgrim placecards
You'll need:
Black paint pen
Wooden clothespin
Black pipe cleaners
Bottle cap
Construction paper
Use fine tip colored markers to draw faces on the "head" of each clothespin. Color the rest of the clothespin black. Just below the head, wrap a black pipe cleaner around the neck, to create the arms. Wrap another pipe cleaner around the feet, to make the pilgrim stand up in the bottle cap. Glue on a black construction paper hat (complete with yellow buckle), and a white paper vest. Cut nametags from white or yellow construction paper, and attach to the pilgrim's arms. They look really cute with the nametag held above the pilgrim's head.



Mayflower placecards:
You'll need:
Terra cotta colored Sculpey™ clay
White paper plate
Fill with M&M's™ or mini candy bars in fall colors.
Mold clay into boats similar in shape to the Mayflower. Cut a good-sized sail out of the edge of a white paper plate. Write the names of each child on the sails. Poke two holes in the center of the sail (vertically), and use the toothpick as the mast. Boats should be approximately 4-5" in length when completed.

Thanksgiving Food Ideas


TREAT CORNUCOPIA - Create your centerpiece by filling a cornucopia basket with snacks such as apples, bananas, grapes, popcorn, or cornbread, pumpkin, banana nut or blueberry, etc mini muffins. Or, go to your grocery store bakery and get bread that has been baked into in a cornucopia shape. Place an assortment of dips or jams to the table. The centerpiece can then be munched on during the meal.


Use upside down pilgrim hats to serve dry snacks. Small wrapped candies, chocolates, popcorn, pretzels, etc.

CRANBERRY CRITTERS - Cut the log of canned jellied cranberry sauce into 10 even slices. Using cookie cutters, cut thanksgiving shapes out of each slice. Or, use a pan of set Jell-O™ Jigglers to create cutouts.

Teeny TurkeyTEENEY TURKEYS – For each turkey, you will need: One Nutter Butter™ cookie, 2 chocolate wafers, one peanut butter cup, chocolate frosting, 8-10 pieces of candy corn, and a few mini M&Ms™ (or you can use jelly beans). Frost the top of the peanut butter cup, and press it onto the chocolate wafer, lining up one edge of each to the other. Use additional frosting to attach candy corn along the other edge to create the appearance of feathers. Frost one side of the Nutter Butter™ cookie and press it onto the other side of the peanut butter cup. Use small candies to create a turkey face and wattle. Using more frosting, attach the "turkey" to the remaining chocolate wafer. Add candy corn to the base of the turkey as feet.

MINI PUMPKIN PIES – Bake mini pies using ready-made mini pie shells and canned pumpkin pie filling (using directions on the can). Or make apple pies or an apple crumble pies. Mini thanksgiving shaped cookie cutters can be used to create pie-topping garnish. For each mini pie cut one or two shapes out of ready-made pie pastry, bake on a cookie sheet, and add them to the cooled pies.


Crispy PopsCRISPY POP – To make 16 pops, you'll need 1-12 oz. bag of Nestle's TollHouse Chocolate Chips™, 16 ready made Crispy Treats (or make your own if you have the time—cut into 2 ½" X 4" pieces), 16 pretzel rods (or popsicle sticks), and some glorious fall colored sprinkles. Cutting little holes with a knife, stick the pretzel rods into the narrow end of the Crispy Treats. Melt the entire bag of chocolate chips for one minute in the microwave, and stir. Dip the end of the "pop" into the melted chocolate, then sprinkle with festive sprinkles. Set pops on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper, and refrigerate until the chocolate sets.


CRAWLIE POP – Spiders love to move indoors in the fall...and are thankful for the warmth our homes provide! For each pop, you'll need 2 black pipe cleaners, 2 wiggly eyes, 1 Tootsie Pop™, and a 4"X4" piece of black foil or black tissue. Wrap the black foil around the sucker, leaving the existing wrapper in place. Cut the black pipe cleaners in half, then center them at the base of the pop and wrap them around the stick, so that there are four legs on each side. Bend the pipe cleaners to resemble legs, then glue wiggly eyes in place.


Crawlie PopTASTY PLACE CARDS – Bake sugar cookies in the shape of rectangles, and let cool. With colored gel or frosting, write the names of party guests on the cookies, and decorate as desired. A miniature Snickers™ bar attached with frosting will make the cookie stand. This is a great table decoration, and a nice personal touch for a small group or classroom of children.


RITZY BITZY SPIDERS – Ritz™ crackers, peanut butter, pretzel sticks and raisins…all you'll need to create these little critters. Spread one cracker with peanut butter. Break four pretzels in half for each spider, and add pretzel "legs" to the first cracker. Spread peanut butter on a second cracker, and place the peanut butter side down on the pretzel legs. Attach raisins with peanut butter, and…your spider is ready to join the warm celebration.


BEVERAGES – Apple cider served warm or cool is the perfect beverage for a Thanksgiving gathering. To fill the room with a delicious aroma, fill a crock-pot with apple cider, and add ¼ cup of maple syrup and two cinnamon sticks. Simmer on low.



Reason To Party has your Thanksgiving Party Ideas



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