Family Thanksgiving Traditions, Local Events Favorite Books, and More

One of the wonderful things about Thanksgiving is that it’s an official reminder to be thankful. Isn’t that crazy that we need a reminder to be thankful for what we have?! But I know I do! I get caught up in little details, planning our days, and trying to keep the peace sometimes that I definitely appreciate the nudge to look at the bigger picture. The Kidlist Team put together a few of our family Thanksgiving traditions to give some ideas and hopefully inspire others to share their traditions so all of us can adopt some new traditions or modify them for our own families!

Family Thanksgiving Traditions

Jill B’s Family Thanksgiving Tradition

“I also love Thanksgiving. A few years ago, we started a “Today I am thankful for….” chalkboard that sits right on my kitchen counter. For the month of November, we take turns writing what we are thankful for, whether it is something big or little. And usually something funny from my husband pops up there from time to time.”

Meghan mentioned that she found small chalkboards in the dollar section at Target, or you can click here to buy one on Amazon.

Nicole’s Family Thanksgiving Traditions

“Each year we stamp the kids handprints on Thanksgiving table cloths and draw in legs, a beak, and gobbler to make them into turkeys with the year under it. We gave one to each grandparent the first thanksgiving and collect them back each year to add this year’s handprint turkey. As more of our siblings have kids, we pass around the table cloth each November for the kids to add their handprints to. On Thanksgiving we place it on the dinner table and we see how much the kids have grown and our family has expanded.

Our second tradition is similar to every else’s. We add something we are Thankful for to a scroll of butcher paper. I roll it up each day to hide how long it’s getting. On Thanksgiving breakfast we unroll the butcher paper across the table and read our huge scroll as we eat breakfast!”

Claudia’s Family Thanksgiving Traditions

“In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, we fill out leaves with things we’re thankful for and attach them to a tree in the center of our table. This year, I loved hearing that my toddler is thankful for “mom and trains” and was bursting when my daughters listed each other on their leaves.

Thanksgiving is especially wonderful for me because we had a ‘Black Friday’ baby a few years back! My lovely second daughter celebrates her birthday every year with a turkey shaped ice cream cake!

We recently started spending the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving at a downtown hotel with family. We wake up, have a fabulous breakfast, and watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade before traveling back to the suburbs. We then have two, yes two houses to hit for Thanksgiving dinners and end the day with family game night. And, like many, we roll into Friday ready for the Christmas season!”

Annie’s Family Thanksgiving Tradition

“Each of us writes a list of the things they are and were thankful for over the last year. We have been making our lists and discussing them during our Thanksgiving feast every year! We actually have a binder of all the lists from past years to be able to look back at all our blessings. And now it’s even more exciting to write the thankful lists with my kids… sometimes they come up with the most hilarious things to be thankful for, small things that I would never even think of, immensely profound things, and sometimes they say things that I’m so glad I have written down and will warm my heart forever.”

Meghan’s Family Thanksgiving Tradition

“Thanksgiving has always been a favorite for me! And my daughter was born the day before Thanksgiving so now it is even more special. One tradition that my sister started and I have carried over to my family is printing out a favorite photo from that year for each person that will sit at your table. Place the photo under the plate. Everyone goes around and shares the photo and it turns into a great way to remember special times together that year! My kids love this tradition.”

“My dad has 9 brothers (no joke!!) and every Thanksgiving morning we would meet at a grade school in our town and play the Collins Family Turkey Bowl. It was all the dads and cousins, my dad was always the referee and one of my uncles would always video tape so we have tons of footage of these fun times. I think the moms were home getting the dinners ready! I know a lot of people do this and its a fun way to begin Thanksgiving morning.”

Family-Friendly Thanksgiving Day Events 2017

Turkey Shoot Free throw Contest (Orland Park)
November 18, 2018, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Talkin Turkey (Wheaton)
November 20, 2018, 10:00am - 11:00am
Friendsgiving Party (Bolingbrook)
November 21, 2018, 9:30am - 12:30pm
Giving Thanks for Books ()
November 21, 2018, 11:00am
Make a Cornucopia Snack (Downers Grove)
November 21, 2018, 4:00pm - 4:30pm
Dan Gibbons Turkey Trot (Elmhurst)
November 22, 2018, 7:00am - 10:00am
Turkey Trot: 30th Anniversary! (Glen Ellyn)
November 22, 2018, 8:00am - 10:00am
Naperville Lions Turkey Trot (Naperville)
November 22, 2018, 8:00am - 9:30am
Family Turkey Bowl (Montgomery)
November 22, 2018, 10:00am - 5:00pm
Thanksgiving (Elmhurst)
November 22, 2018, 12:00pm - 7:00pm
Butterball Burner Fun Run (Homewood)
November 23, 2018, 8:00am

Family Thanksgiving traditions can bring so much joy to your family celebration. We hope that these have inspired you to adopt some traditions of your own! Do you do something special or memorable each year? We would love to hear about it! Comment below or email me at and I would love to add it to our list!

How to Explain “How Thanksgiving Began” to Your Kids

I’m not a history buff and never really was, so when my kids asked me how Thanksgiving began I really didn’t know what to tell them. I vaguely knew the story but you know how kids love to ask questions about everything and I didn’t feel prepared! I ended up finding a couple videos and a link that I thought were pretty good; I thought you might find yourself in the same situation and would think these were useful.

The first is a great factual video about how Thanksgiving started. It’s fairly straightforward and to the point which I appreciated.

And here’s a link with a short list of fun thanksgiving facts for kids:

PS. I know that hand turkeys are super common projects for kids around Thanksgiving, but I recently saw in a craft book to use your child’s feet as the turkey’s body and the hands as the feathers. I thought that was pretty clever because then the sizes of the turkeys are determined by the size of your children!

Favorite Thanksgiving Books

Head over to your local library to find these books or order them on Amazon by clicking on the titles below.

Thanksgiving Picture Books

Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes
At Thanksgiving time, children express their gratitude for the people and things in their lives.

Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’ by Eileen Spinelli
When calamity stalks every step of the preparations for the Tappletons’ Thanksgiving dinner, they realize that there is more to Thanksgiving than turkey and trimmings.

Thanksgiving Day Thanks by Laura Malone Elliott
Sam has trouble deciding what he is grateful for during a Thanksgiving-themed classroom assignment.

A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting
Mr. and Mrs. Moose try to invite a turkey to their Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving Rules by Laurie Friedman
Young Percy Isaac Gifford provides a list of ten rules for getting the most out of Thanksgiving Day, especially how best to enjoy the buffet.

The Night Before Thanksgiving by Natasha Wing
Tells the story of one family’s Thanksgiving Day celebration.

Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules
When Tuyet finds out that her Vietnamese family is having duck rather than turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, she is upset until she finds out that other children in her class did not eat turkey either.

Beginning Readers and Early Chapter Books

Katie Saves Thanksgiving by Fran Manushkin
When a snowstorm causes the power to go out, Katie and her parents think their Thanksgiving dinner with JoJo and Pedro is ruined, but by being a good neighbor, Katie saves the day.

Trucksgiving by Jon Scieszka
The trucks of Trucktown create their own annual day of giving thanks.

Amelia Bedelia Talks Turkey by Herman Parish
When Amelia Bedelia volunteers to fill in as director of a third-grade Thanksgiving play, she misunderstands everything from one girl’s desire to play a big role to an opening night wish that she “break a leg,” but all is well in the end.

Thanksgiving on Thursday (Magic Tree House) by Mary Pope Osborne
Jack and Annie travel in their magic tree house to the year 1621, where they celebrate the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians in the New Plymouth Colony. Also check out
Pilgrims: A Nonfiction Companion to Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne.

Nonfiction Picture Books

The Story of the Pilgrims by Katharine Ross
From the dangerous voyage across the Atlantic to the first harsh winter to the delicious Thanksgiving feast, all the excitement and wonder of the Pilgrims’ first year in America is captured in this retelling that is perfect for the youngest historians.

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet
Award-winning artist Sweet tells the story of the puppeteer Tony Sarg, capturing his genius, his dedication, his zest for play, and his long-lasting gift to America–the inspired helium balloons that would become the trademark of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Sarah Gives Thanks by Mike Allegra
The story of the writer and magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale, who pushed the idea of establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

Thanksgiving is… by Gail Gibbons
An introduction to the history and customs of Thanksgiving.

Picture Books about Being Thankful

Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson
Bear thanks his friends for bringing food dishes to his dinner party and finds a way of sharing something of his own.

Splat Says Thank You by Rob Scotton
Splat the Cat figures out how to let Seymour know that he’s thankful for their friendship.

The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
Easy-to-read text encourages the reader to find something every day for which to be thankful, from underwear that is just the right size to birthday cakes and the wishes they bring.

The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood
While learning the secret to a good life, a child says thank you for the natural world and for being loved, because a grateful heart is always happy.

Thank You, World by Alice McGinty
Eight children from eight different countries express their thanks for many special things including the sun that colors the sky, breezes that lift kites, clouds that paint cotton pictures and send rain, and sparkling stars that “shine like Mommy’s eyes.”

Easy Prepared Food for Thanksgiving

The holidays can be a stressful time, especially for parents that don’t have enough time to cook, don’t enjoy it or just feel overwhelmed by the thought. Thankfully there are a lot of options for prepared food for Thanksgiving! Click on the store or restaurant name to be taken to the Thanksgiving menu or in some cases the main website for more information.

Whole Foods Market (various locations)
Everything from the classic Thanksgiving dinner and supper options, vegetarian, vegan, unexpected food choices and a small gathering menu. Click on each category to see the choices along with photographs. The order deadline is Monday, November 23, 2015.

Casey’s Meat Market (Western Springs)
You can find everything from different types of turkeys to various side dishes. The order deadline is Friday November 20, 2015. In the past they have extended the deadline, but it will be adhered to this year due to limited availability.

Mike’s Meat Market (Villa Park)
You can find everything from different types of turkeys to various side dishes. The order deadline is Friday November 20, 2015. In the past they have extended the deadline, but it will be adhered to this year due to limited availability.

Standard Market (Westmont, Naperville)
They feature fresh, never frozen, turkeys from Plainville Farms that are all-natural, antibiotic-free, vegetarian-fed, and humanely raised. The Market also has chef-made side dishes, delicious appetizer and party trays, made-from-scratch baked goods and desserts. They are accepting orders for Thanksgiving through Sunday, November 22.

The Dinner Club (La Grange)
There are nine sides available on their holiday menu, along with additional sides and desserts on their seasonal menu. Their pre-assembled sides are available ala carte after November 17th.

CHOW to go (Elmhurst)
The full menu is on their Facebook page (link above) with options for breakfast, main course, sides and desserts. To guarantee your order, they ask that you place your order by Friday, November 20.

Marion Street Market (Oak Park)
Guests looking to spruce up their Thanksgiving table can also pick up custom charcuterie and cheese platters and beautiful host gifts from hard-to-find bottles of wine and beer to local chocolates. Cheese and charcuterie platters must be ordered at least 48 hours in advance.

Weber Grill (Lombard)
Whole turkeys and party platters to-go: Each prepared platter serves 8-10 people including choices like the Harvest Salad or Shrimp Cocktail plus festive classics from whole or sliced Grill-Roasted Smoked Turkey and Beef Tenderloin to Cornbread with Maple Bourbon Butter, Sausage Stuffing and Grill Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Desserts include 10” Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie or Classic Pumpkin Pie. All orders require a 24-hour notice before pick-up, with the exception of Whole Turkey orders. Whole Turkey orders must be placed by 5 p.m. on Friday, November 20.

Tommy R’s (Willowbrook)
Pick up times on both Wednesday, November 25 and Thanksgiving Day for main dishes, sides and desserts.

Trader Joes (various locations)
No pre-order meals are available, however they have several prepared sides that you can pick up. Check your local store for options.

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About the Author

Annie Tandy
Annie loves making great memories with her kids and started Kidlist in 2011 so she can help others do the same! Besides finding fun and exciting things to do, Annie, her husband, and their kids enjoy caring for their chickens and hanging out with them in the backyard. Click here to read about Annie's chickens and see pictures! She also finds joy in gardening, home improvement projects, knitting, soap making, and painting along with being active in her community, church, and as a board member of the Western Springs Business Association. Click here to follow Annie on Instagram.

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