Dinner's Done, Now What? Ideas for After Thanksgiving Family Fun

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After all the hours of prep work that go into Thanksgiving dinner, it seems as if it's gobbled up in no time flat. Now what? Here are a bunch of ideas for the entire family to enjoy after the big feast.

Create a Thanksgiving tablecloth or sign a pumpkin. According to positive psychology research, simply expressing gratitude can enhance overall happiness. Invite family members to consider their individual blessings.

Purchase a large artificial pumpkin or solid color tablecloth (to use year after year) for everyone to sign. Ask each person to write a note on it about what they're most grateful for this year—and date it.
If signing a tablecloth, be sure to use fabric markers and protect the table by placing a cardboard matte underneath it.

Go for a walk. According to the Calorie Control Council, a traditional Thanksgiving meal serves up 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat for the average American. Start burning some of those calories by taking a stroll after the big meal.

Get out the board games. Get your kids off of their phones and video games and engage in lighthearted family fun and conversation with a board game. Playing games together builds camaraderie and provides low-key entertainment and face-to-face togetherness. Some family favorites include Catan, Pandemic, Telestrations and Clue—or try one of this year’s new games! Find a list of great new games at www.sandiegofamily.com/for-the-kids/kid-tested-toy-product-reviewThis content is created and maintained by San Diego Family Magazine. Unauthorized permission is prohibited..

Play touch football. Football is as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and pumpkin pie. Play a casual, but fun game of touch football. It’s a great group activity before pie!

Share family stories. While the kids are waiting for the meal, have them write questions to ask dinner guests and slip one under the plate of each table setting. After dinner, go around the table and have each person pull out their question and share. Questions such as "What was Thanksgiving like when you were growing up?" and "What was your best Thanksgiving ever and why?" are sure to rekindle fond memories.This content is created and maintained by San Diego Family Magazine. Unauthorized permission is prohibited.

Plan a scavenger hunt. Send everyone outside for a scavenger hunt. Give each team a small bag to collect items or have them use phones to take photos of items on the list. Keep the hunt simple for youngsters and a little more challenging for older kids. Items on the list might include: something red, a heart-shaped leaf, a stick shaped like a Y, a black rock, a feather, etc. Team adults with kids and turn the hunt into a fun race to the finish. The winning team receives the first slice of pie or a silly prize like pilgrim's hats to wear during dessert.This content is created and maintained by San Diego Family Magazine. Unauthorized use without specific permission is prohibited.

Puzzle fun. Lauri Duncan, a mom of two boys, ages 8 and 11, says that she and her family do a puzzle after dinner. "We do one big puzzle every year that every age can work on. The kids, parents, cousins and grandparents work on it in rotations throughout the afternoon," she says.

Pumpkin tic-tac-toe. Choose five small white gourds and five small orange gourds. Make a grid on a card table using craft or painter's tape. Or use larger gourds and set up the game in your yard using sticks to make nine squares.

Get into the holiday spirit. If your large extended family is together for Thanksgiving, this is a good time to pull names for a secret Santa or white elephant gift exchange. Everyone draws names, keeps the name they pulled secret, and purchases a light-hearted or wacky gift to exchange around the holidays.

In memoriam. The holidays can be especially difficult for those grieving loved ones. Look through family photographs together, watch old home videos or take time to tell stories about your special someone. Mindy Foral, mom of two, says one of her favorite traditions on Thanksgiving night is to listen to a recording her mother made before she died of The Night Before Christmas in a recordable book. "It's such an incredible treasure,” Foral says. “There is something about hearing the voice of your loved one—especially someone who loved spending the holidays with her grandkids."

If you (or your child) are grieving the loss of a loved one this holiday season, read “Dealing with Grief in a Time of Joy” for coping tips and support resources.

Remember those on deployment. If your spouse is deployed for military duty over the Thanksgiving holiday, he (or she) will definitely be missed. After dinner, invite your family and friends to circle around the table to make cards and write letters to your absent loved one. Mail everything in a package to show they were still an important part of your day.

Find more great ways to show gratitude to military service members in “9 Ways to Thank a Veteran.”

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Freelance journalist Christa Melnyk Hines and her husband have two sons, ages 12 and 10. Every year after the big feast, they take their two dogs for a walk through the autumn leaves.

Published November 2017

This content is created and maintained by San Diego Family Magazine. Unauthorized use without specific permission is prohibited.

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