14 Thanksgiving Traditions For A Small Family


I’ve been pondering Thanksgiving traditions for a small family – mine – this year. Other obligations and distance tends to separate our extended family and close friends for the holiday. At my house on Turkey Day, it’s usually just immediate family. But instead of being disappointed and focusing on the people who are missing, I’m grateful for the small family that I do have. 

And this year, I intend to celebrate as such and form new traditions of our own! Here are some things that my family will be doing on Thanksgiving to signify the holiday and ways you can make your small gathering special as well. 

Thanksgiving Tradition Ideas for a Small Family

Thanksgiving Countdown

Why should other holidays have all the fun? Purchase or make a Thanksgiving countdown calendar to help your kids keep track of the days. I bought this one and my boys are already getting into the spirit!

Deck The Halls 

Let’s not forget to decorate for Turkey Day! Dress your home in pumpkins, gourds, fall leaves, and miniature model turkeys. Putting your little one’s Thanksgiving art proudly on the fridge and hanging up twinkling lights will make everything feel festive. 

Gratitude Jar

Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to start a gratitude jar. Take an empty jar or small box and have your kids help you decorate it. In November, encourage all family members to fill the jar with written examples of what they’re thankful for. During your Thanksgiving feast, open the jar and read aloud the things that make you truly grateful.

Volunteer or Donate 

November is also the perfect time of year to get back into the habit of volunteering or donating to a local charity. Include your whole family in this activity and ask your kids to select an organization that means the most to them. We have so many ways to help our neighbors and friends on the Seacoast.

Thanksgiving Book Collection

One of my personal favorites, start a Thanksgiving book collection for your kids. I use a basket to rotate books based on the holiday or season. If you don’t have a large collection, stop by your local Seacoast library for some great Thanksgiving reads.

Keep Thanksgiving books on hand during the month of November.

Bake Traditional Foods 

There’s nothing better than munching grandma’s homemade pumpkin bread and grandpa’s party mix while watching the parade on Turkey Day! Dig out those traditional recipes and get cooking. Tell your kids stories of the past and if you are feeling really motivated, help them create a special family holiday cookbook. 

Family Movie Night Before Thanksgiving 

Break out those fall themed pajamas and have a movie night! Make some Thanksgiving inspired snacks and watch a film that will get everyone into the spirit of the holiday. Some Turkey Day movie suggestions for kids are A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Free Birds, Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving, Miracle on 34th Street, and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Run a Turkey Trot

Running a race on Thanksgiving morning is a classic way to begin the day. Luckily, the Seacoast has multiple runs to choose from. Find one that suits your family and lace up those jogging shoes!

Go For A Hike

Going for a hike with your family on Thanksgiving is a fabulous way to celebrate the day! With so many places to explore on the Seacoast, you can’t go wrong. Check out The Freelance Adventurer’s super suggestions. 

Family Tournaments 

Before or after dinner, get your family involved in an epic tournament. If weather permits, bring your crew outside for a flag football, frisbee, or bags competition. Chilly air keeping you inside? Start a tournament using your favorite board games. Winner doesn’t have to do the dishes!

Thankful Journal 

I love the idea of writing down family memories from each Thanksgiving in a special journal reserved just for the holiday. Each year, encourage family members to write down what they’re doing or thinking about that day, and ask little ones to use the journal to draw pictures. Don’t forget to write a list of the things you’re thankful for! The journal will become a treasured item to reflect on in the years to come.

Starting a Thanksgiving journal is one way to make the day special and record family memories.

Take a Family Photo

My family does not like to stop for pictures, so Thanksgiving is a great excuse to slow down and round everyone up for an updated snapshot. Make it more fun by remembering to take a few silly photos as well.

Transition to Winter Holidays 

When your family is stuffed full of turkey and pumpkin pie, it’s time to usher in the winter holidays! I like to begin by switching out our Thanksgiving books with holiday and winter tales. This year, I’m also trying something new – presenting my little ones with cozy new pajamas to wear while we watch a holiday themed movie.

Thanksgiving Weekend Fun 

The fun doesn’t have to stop on Thanksgiving day! Turn the weekend into an extended holiday. If your house isn’t packed with people on Thursday, plan an outdoor adventure with the family and friends you didn’t see, drive to visit loved ones, or host a sleepover for your kids.

Thanksgiving celebrations and families come in all shapes and sizes. Embrace yours this holiday season and be grateful for the ones you love. 

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving with your small family?


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I’m a Maine native and after a long stretch of time living in Chicago, I feel lucky to again call the Seacoast my home. I currently live in Kennebunk with my husband, two sons, and a spaniel mix who truly believes he is a furry big brother to our boys. I hold a Master of Education degree from the University of Maine and as a certified English and Special Education teacher, a passion of mine has always been helping students and connecting them to reading and writing. Free time is best spent in the sunshine with family and friends, curled up with a good book, eating my husband’s incredible cooking, or creatively writing for the kids in my life. Being a mom is the most challenging and amazing job I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.