This post: 25 Thanksgiving Traditions for Teens (That Won’t Make ‘Em Cringe)
There’s something so special about hanging out with family enjoying a time-honored tradition. Not only do traditions give our kids something special to look forward to (even if they are a tad hokey), but they also strengthen our family bond and build lifelong memories.
And, even though our kids are getting older and chances are we’re letting go of a few childish traditions, that doesn’t mean we can’t replace those traditions with new ones! The good news is our teens are never too old to start a new tradition or carry on an old one that holds meaning. (By the way, don’t let them fool you… teens love traditions!)
To bring special meaning to this Thanksgiving and a whole lot more “togetherness,” here are 25 Thanksgiving traditions for teens that (hopefully) won’t make ’em cringe!
1. Let Your Teen Be the Breakfast Chef
Now that your teen is old enough to find their way around the kitchen, let them be in charge of making Thanksgiving breakfast for the family. Let them choose the menu, buy the ingredients (even though we both know you’ll be paying for them) and pull it all together. Whether it’s simple scrambled eggs and frozen hashbrowns or something more gourmet, let them be breakfast chef for the day! Need an idea? Check out this easy breakfast casserole recipe!
2. Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
If your teen didn’t grow up watching the kick-off of the holiday season – the traditional Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – it’s time to add it to your “new traditions” list. Let them snuggle up on the couch with their favorite blanket, hang out with the family and enjoy this time-honored classic Thanksgiving Day parade.
3. Add Something Fun to Your Thanksgiving Menu (Let Your Teen Decide!)
A few years ago, I was on the hunt to add something fun to our Thanksgiving menu – something that would get my kids involved in the kitchen. I challenged my kids to create a turkey vegetable tray and they blew me away with their creativity! Now, it’s become a fun family Thanksgiving tradition every single year.
4. Do Good for Others
Make the world a better place by volunteering as a family. Whether your family spends a few hours at a senior citizen’s home talking and hanging out with the residents or you rally up donations to help the local homeless shelter, the Thanksgiving season is a great time to encourage your teen to focus on others. You can also let your teen come up with a few random acts of kindness!) Need ideas? Check out these 100 Random Acts of Kindness Ideas.
5. Let Your Teen Invite a Friend for Thanksgiving Dinner
When you’re a teenager, your friends are more than simply friends, they’re family. Maybe your son or daughter has a friend whose family doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving or your kid in college has a friend or roommate who isn’t going home for Thanksgiving. Open your heart and home to them and give them the gift of “family” this Thanksgiving.
6. Walk or Run a 5k (Turkey Trot) as a Family
If your family is active, a great way to spend a crisp fall Thanksgiving morning (and get your family’s adrenaline pumping) is to run (or walk) in a 5k race. Since a lot of races typically join forces with a charitable organization, your family can get their exercise in and do good for others at the same time.
7. Let Your Teen Plan (and Help Cook) Thanksgiving Dinner
Got a teen who loves to cook? Even if your teen is a little clueless in the kitchen, Thanksgiving is a great time to help them get comfortable in the kitchen. Rally their help in planning the menu and let them be in charge of a few recipes. It’s a great way to teach your teen a new life lesson while having a little fun!
8. Turn It Into a Game Night
Whether you break out the board games or make up a game of your own, keep the feeling of “family time” going strong by diving into some good ‘ole fashioned fun! Trust me, even teens will enjoy a game night – especially if you keep the food flowing. Check out these BEST board games for teens or get the fam involved in a bit of crazy fun with these game ideas!
9. Add “Grateful” Placecards to the Dinner Table (FREE PRINTABLE!)
A Thanksgiving tradition I started with my family many years ago is to go around the table while we’re eating and have each person say what they’re grateful for. Last year I took it a step further and created “Grateful Placecards.” Each card asks a different question: “Something I Witnessed that Made Me Realize that Life is Good,” “Who Inspired Me to Become a Better Person this Year?” “One Person Who Had a Positive Impact on My Life This Year,” “A Hard Lesson I’m Grateful to Learn this Year,” and others! You might be surprised by your teen’s honest and heartfelt answers! To download the free place cards, visit our Free Resources Page.
10. Watch a Classic Holiday Movie
Snuggle up with a few cozy blankets, and sip on hot chocolate while you settle in with a holiday movie favorite. What teen can resist A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Home Alone or Elf? Need a few more ideas, check out our list of holiday favorites your teen will love!
11. Play a Gratitude Guessing Game
At the start of the festivities, have everyone write a few things they’re thankful for on slips of paper and place them in a jar. After dinner, let everyone take turns drawing a slip and try to guess who put which “thanks” in the jar. Not only is it a fun way to see how much you all know about each other, but it also encourages everyone to get creative (and maybe a little crazy) about what they’re thankful for this holiday.
12. Make Thanksgiving Cookies or Cupcakes
Get creative in the kitchen and whip up a batch of Thanksgiving cookies or fun Thanksgiving-themed cupcakes with your teen. There are so many fun and easy ideas out there to choose from, it might be hard to decide which ones to make! Check out the recipe for these scrumptious Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirl Cupcakes HERE.
13. Get an Outdoor Game Going
Get a game of family football going, set up a badminton net in the yard or pull out the corn hole game – get the family outdoors for some fun family competition.
14. Create a Special “Signature” Thanksgiving Mocktail
Let your teen in on the “specialty drink” fun by creating a fun “signature” Thanksgiving mocktail just for them. This Autumn Harvest Punch looks too pretty to drink! Check out the recipe HERE!
15. Let Your Teen Host a Thanksgiving “Dessert with Friends Gathering”
After spending the entire day with family, your teen might be in need of some serious “friend time.” Let them invite a handful of friends over and host a “dessert with friends gathering” after dinner. Ask each friend to bring a dessert (homemade or store-bought) and let ’em hang out and have fun while they sample all the desserts.
16. Host a Friend or Neighbors Potluck
Switch things up a bit by inviting your neighbors and/or friends over for a big Thanksgiving potluck. To make sure everyone has a say in who’s invited, each family member gets to invite one person and/or family for dinner. Divvy up the cooking responsibility by asking everyone to bring a dish (which is easier on you!), plan a few post-dinner games, whip up (or buy) a few simple desserts and spend the Thanksgiving holiday enjoying time with people you care about.
17. Take a Walk or Hike After Dinner
Thanksgiving traditions for teens don’t need to be fancy and they definitely don’t need to break the bank. Sometimes, the simplest traditions are the best! Plan an early dinner so you’ll have enough time to hit the trail in the afternoon before the sun goes down. A beautiful fall afternoon and quality time with those you love the most. You can’t beat it!
18. Play a Thanksgiving Trivia Game
Did you know that in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving one week earlier? Or, that the very first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade featured live animals from Central Park Zoo? Who knew, right? Well, make Thanksgiving fun by tossing out a few Thanksgiving trivia questions! Here are a few interesting Thanksgiving facts you might not know!
19. Take Thanksgiving to a New Destination
Instead of staying home and just doing, well… the usual, take Thanksgiving to a whole new destination. Plan the weekend away with friends, extended family, or just your immediate family. Head to a cozy cabin in the mountains (don’t forget the s’mores ingredients and snuggly blankets), a beach house on the water, or a cool high-rise hotel in the city.
20. Skip the Stress, Dine Out
If life is just too busy for you and your family, take the stress out of making a big Thanksgiving dinner and try something new this year – dine out! You can still make Thanksgiving special by doing specialty desserts at home or having a fun game night when you return home. (Your teen might just be thrilled they don’t have to help clean up!)
21. Crank Up the Festive Music
There’s nothing like festive music to get your family in the Thanksgiving spirit. Let your teen choose the music – they can even create a full Thanksgiving/holiday playlist.
22. Make a Fall or Thanksgiving Craft
While the turkey is in the oven, let your teen have fun making a Thanksgiving or fall craft of their choice. Teens are so busy all the time, it’ll be fun for them to break free from their daily stress and do something truly creative for a change. Need ideas? Check out these fun fall craft ideas or these adorable and easy No-Sew Burlap Pumpkins by Confessions of a Plate Addict.
23. Put Your Teen In Charge of Dessert
Hand over the reins and let your teen plan and make the desserts for Thanksgiving. Let them try their hand at making a pumpkin pie (even if it isn’t perfect… who cares!?), a delectable chocolate cake or another dessert they fancy. The more involved they are in the Thanksgiving dinner, the more fun they’ll have.
24. Kickstart the Holiday Season by Decorating
After everyone has stuffed themselves with turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, why not break out a few Christmas decorations and start decorating? Having the whole family together makes it special and you’ll be glad you don’t have to do it all alone when your kids go back to school after the long weekend.
25. Take a Drive to See Christmas/Holiday Lights
Since Thanksgiving marks the official kick-off of the holiday season, why not get your whole family in the holiday spirit by hopping in the car after dinner and looking for the best lights in town? A lot of cities/towns have holiday lights drive-throughs that are amazing or just keep it local and check out neighborhoods that are known for their lights. (Don’t forget the hot chocolate!)
There are so many ways to bring meaning to the Thanksgiving holiday! Just by adding a few special traditions for teens that aren’t too “cringe,” you can get your teen involved in the festivities and bring your family closer together!
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What Thanksgiving traditions for teens do you enjoy during the holiday season? Share your ideas below in the comments section… we all learn from each other!