12 Healthy Thanksgiving Traditions to Start With Your Family

For lots of Americans, Thanksgiving goes hand in hand with a big meal, several kinds of pie, and an afternoon nap. We get it! No need to give up all your usual traditions – but how about sneaking some healthy ones into the mix?

These ideas will keep your child entertained and engaged all day, and might just lead to a new family favorite.

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1. Get your child involved in the kitchen.

Help your child select and prepare a recipe for your family’s Thanksgiving meal. (Here are kitchen tasks for kids, broken down by age.) Consider making extra for a neighbor who could use a treat.

2. Use the opportunity to teach your child about nutrition.

While you’re looking at recipes together, talk about the importance of nutritious choices. For example, if your child has their heart set on a less-than-healthy recipe, look up ingredient substitutions to cut back on salt, sugar and fat.

> Related: Need Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids This Winter? Try Two Takes on Dip

Dad and daughter prepare cranberries for Thanksgiving meal

3. Get some fresh air.

Blame it on the turkey: Thanksgiving meal often means a drowsy afternoon. Try stepping outside to wake everyone up and break up the day. Sign your family up for a Turkey Trot, plan a bike ride, start a touch football game, or just take a stroll around the block.

> Related: Tips to Get Active and Help Kids Maintain a Healthy Weight

4. Keep your child moving indoors, too.

To keep kids entertained, keep them moving! If the weather doesn’t cooperate, or you need your child close by to supervise, try these 23 indoor activities for heart-healthy kids. Think: Obstacle courses, jumping jacks, and that old standby, a family dance party.

5. Volunteer in the community.

Leading up to Thanksgiving, talk with your child about the causes that mean most to your family, and identify ways to contribute. On Thanksgiving Day, that can mean anything from volunteering at a soup kitchen to picking up litter around your neighborhood.

6. Practice gratitude.

Gratitude helps kids be resilient during challenging times, and is important for mental and emotional well-being any time. Have your child make a gratitude chain, write Thanksgiving cards, or make a thank-you video for a lucky loved one. Here are more ideas.

7. Do something creative together.

Creativity is an important outlet for kids. And big holidays, like Thanksgiving, can lead to big inspiration. Set aside family time for creativity – whether that means drawing, writing, crafts, dance, music or something else. (Talent show, anyone?)

8. Connect with long-distance loved ones.

Is your child a pro at video chats by now? Schedule virtual quality time with friends and family they’re missing. Try decorating cookies, reading together, or another of these video chat activities.

9. Honor lost loved ones.

Holidays are a meaningful time to celebrate loved ones who are deceased. Ask your child to arrange photos and mementos in a place of honor, and encourage everyone to share stories over Thanksgiving dinner and throughout the day. It will help your child cope with their loss, and keep your loved ones’ memories alive.

10. Make Thanksgiving resolutions. 

As the year winds down, have your child reflect on why they’re proud of themselves, and their goals for the future. What would they like to learn, try, or do more of by next Thanksgiving?

11. Get a head start on holiday planning. 

Speaking of resolutions: Does your child want to make handmade ornaments this year? Go caroling? Perfect a certain recipe? Holiday brainstorming is a fun activity for the whole family – and sets you all up for a festive season.

12. Want more suggestions for healthy family traditions?

Here are 40 ideas to use year-round, from fort-building to LEGO challenges to music appreciation night.

From our Connecticut Children’s family to yours, have a happy – and healthy – Thanksgiving!


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