I’m so thankful to be writing this article because it celebrates my most favorite holiday, Thanksgiving! (Yes, really – I love it more than Christmas) Have you ever noticed how flexible Thanksgiving is? It need not be religious in nature, it need not be a historical reenactment, and you can even enjoy if you’re not a fan of football or turkey. It’s the ultimate, customizable celebration of all the things that matter most to your family – gratitude, quality time with friends and family, and sharing love through food are top of the list for us. This year, when I count my blessings, I include the Kidlist readers among them! We have a really special community, both online and in-person. Keep reading for fun events going on the week of Thanksgiving, as well as a few Kidlist team traditions and kid-friendly recipes!
Kid-Friendly Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes
Mama Johnson’s “Punkin” Bars
I associate these with fun memories made with the friends who have become my chosen family. They are my go-to contribution to any holiday potluck dinner, and they just hit different on Thanksgiving. Lots of opportunity here for kids to help stir, mix, grease pans, etc. – you can’t go wrong!
- 2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 C (one standard can) pumpkin
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3 oz plain cream cheese
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbs milk
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
Combine all the cake ingredients in a bowl, then pour into a floured and greased jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 deg for 30 minutes or until the top feels firm when pressed. Cool completely before frosting. To make frosting, whip ingredients together (a hand mixer is the best tool for this) and frost the cake. Cut and serve chilled or at room temperature. (Pro tip from my own mistake circa Thanksgiving 2005: use full-fat cream cheese or the frosting will be clumpy and unattractive) Enjoy!
Grandma’s Famous Toffee Bars
This recipe has been passed down through Kaitlyn’s mom’s family. These crowd-pleasing dessert is easy to make, and require only a few ingredients!
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 drops maple extract (this is the “toffee” flavor)
- 2 cups flour
- 6 full-size Hershey bars
Mix all ingredients together (except the chocolate) and pat into a lightly greased 13×9 pan. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Place unwrapped Hershey bars on top and melt in the oven for two minutes. Spread chocolate with a knife, cool, cut into bars and enjoy!
Madison’s “Famous Apple Pie”
Nicole’s daughter Madison came up with her own recipe for apple pie a few years ago and wrote it down. It is now a cherished item that Nicole will keep forever. They have since “perfected” the recipe with exact measurements, giving everyone the opportunity to try it at home. It’s super easy and kid-approved!
- 1 store bought pie crust (to keep it simple!)
- 2/4 cup sugar
- 3 tbs. flour
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. all spice
- 6 cups of thinly sliced/peeled apples
Toss all ingredients together and add to your favorite pie crust p. Madison loves to lattice the top of the pie crust to make it look fancy. Cover edges with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.
Fun Events For the Week of Thanksgiving 2022
Brookfield Zoo Free Admission Day
November 21-22, 2022 | 10:00am – 5:00pm
Talkin’ Turkey : A Thankgiving Celebration
November 21, 2022 | 10:00 – 11:00am
Registration required (between $12-14 per person), parking is free.
November 23, 2022 | 10:00 – 11:30am
Thanksgiving-themed play, crafts, dance party and other activities.
Naperville Lions’ Turkey Trot
November 24, 2022 | 8:00 – 11:30am
Glen Ellyn’s Turkey Trot & Food Drive
November 24, 2022 | 8:00 – 10:00am
Free and open to the public, no pre-registration necessary.
Grove Express 5K
November 24, 2022 | 8:30 – 10:30am
Pre-registration required for this family-friendly run for charity.
Downers Grove Annual Holiday Tree Lighting
November 24, 2022 | 4:00 – 4:30pm
Turkey Trot Hike
November 25, 2022 | 1:30 – 3:00pm
Santa’s Craft Corner at Cosley Zoo
November 26, 2022 | 10:00 – 2:00pm
$20 per household, due at door. Admission includes crafts, refreshments and pictures with Santa Claus. *Accessibility notice: this activity is only accessible via stairs*
Ideas for Thanksgiving Traditions from the Kidlist Team
From Rachel’s family…
“We like to go run a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning! The day after Thanksgiving, we put up our Christmas decorations while drinking hot cocoa and listening to carols.”
From Kaitlyn’s family…
“One that’s most special to me is sharing a cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows with my Mom while we watch the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade. She usually makes chocolate croissants and never forgets to serve the hot chocolate in our holiday mugs. We have been doing this since I was little and even though I have my own house now, I still drive to hers on Thanksgiving morning – it’s actually my favorite part of the day because it’s usually the calm before the storm (and yes, we always put up our trees mid-November in this Family!)”
From Jill’s family…
“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.”
You can buy a Turkey On The Table to achieve something like this, or purchase a whiteboard and some dry erase markers at your local office supply store. If you already have paper, you can achieve this for free! Just make a paper loop chain to “Countdown to Thanksgiving” and each day, when your child(ren) tears off a loop, have them write something for which they’re thankful on it and read those slips of paper out during your family meal.
From Nicole’s family…
“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. During Thanksgiving breakfast, we unroll the butcher paper across the table and read our huge scroll as we eat breakfast!”
From Annie’s family…
“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.”
From Katie’s family…
“After we eat, we all sit together and watch the same Thanksgiving episode of an old 90’s sitcom (anyone remember “Mad About You”?)”
More Family Thanksgiving Tradition Ideas
The following ideas were shared from past members of the Kidlist team. We love them (and their ideas)!
Write things you are thankful for on paper leaves and attach them to a tree in the center of your table. – Claudia
Print out a favorite photo from that year for each person that will sit at your table and place each photo under their plate. Everyone goes around and shares the photo and it turns into a great way to remember special times together that year! – Meghan
Gratitude Scavenger Hunt
Simply click or tap on the image below and a printable version will load.
Favorite Thanksgiving Books
Head over to your local library to find these books, check with your locally owned bookstore, or order 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.
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.
Picture Books about Being Thankful
We Are Grateful: Ostaliheliga by Traci Sorell
Cherokee poet Traci Sorell celebrates traditions of gratitude in this beautifully illustrated book.
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.
Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes
Thankfulness shines through these poems with beautiful illustrations.
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.”
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Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!