Celebrating Thanksgiving Virtually – 14 Meaningful Activities for separated Families

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, how do you celebrate Thanksgiving when family is far away and you still want to connect?

But how to do you have a virtual Thanksgiving with family and loved ones? There is no question that Thanksgiving will look different this year and that it “simply won’t be the same”. There are still many lovely Thanksgiving Activities for Families you can give a go and share your thanks and loved ones with those you won’t necessarily be able to see and hug on the day. I hope the ideas shared here today, help you have a great Virtual Thanksgiving!

Photo Credit by Ryan Christodoulou on Unsplash

Please DO email me with your own ideas and celebrations – I would love to add more to this article and help others!

Send Thanksgiving Cards to Loved Ones

Mail a Hug
The Green Lean Bean has a fab Mail a Hug Post

We have always been a great fan of Handmade Cards by Kids. This year, I think making and sending cards to loved ones is especially important. Make sure that family members know that you are thinking of them and miss them. And as with many Thanksgiving activities for cards, make sure the cards contain messages of thanks! Especially messages of thanks that concern the person you are writing too.

Include messages of thanks –

e.g. why ARE you thankful of Granny and Grandpa? Is Granny particularly great at telling bedtime stories? Does Grandpa take you fishing?

Think about each member of the family and friends and why they are special to you and your kids.

Also.. why not have fun and send a paper hugs by post? Here is a simple handprint hug card you can make and send!

Create a Family Thanksgiving Recipe Book

Make it a simple photo copy folder, or go all out with someone like Create My Cookbook

We all know that Thanksgiving is of course about family, but it is also about the FOOD!!! Mmmmh. All those delicious dishes that family members bring along on the day… if a larger Thanksgiving isn’t allowed this year, why not have a go at sharing those family favourites? Regardless of whether you have a socially distanced Thanksgiving with less people or a larger do.. a Family Recipe book is always something special.

Creating a Family Recipe Book, can be a simple or as fancy as you like.

How do you make a Family Recipe Book?

Here some ideas

  • Make photo copies of favourite recipes and put them in a binder.
  • Write up the recipes in a word document and print out.
  • Get a cute ring binder and fill it with your photo copies or word prints (e.g. take a look at these for inspiration US/ UK – affiliate links added for convenience).
  • Make a really fancy book by using an online tool like Create My Cookbook

How to make a family recipe book extra special

Needless to say adding photos of the dishes is always great.. but why not try adding a little story about the dish to the recipe ? How was the recipe created? How long has the recipe been in the family/ who made it first? Is there a funny/ disaster story related to the recipe.

Can you add a photo of the family member who “owns” the recipe? Or a group photo from a given year?

A family recipe book can be made extra meaning full in this way.

Have a Thanksgiving Wreath Competition

A lot of family celebrations are in fact about the anticipation of the day. Though the day itself is no doubt the most important… the run up and the prepartions to Thanksgiving are just as important and fun.

When faced with a “different” sort of Thanksgiving, make sure you still have lots of fun decorating and planning.

Thanksgiving Wreath Competition Ideas

Holding a Wreath Decorating competition can help focus the mind and bring loved ones together. You can have some rules, for example:

  • Thanksgiving Wreath made by the children vs adults
  • Thanksgiving Wreath has to be funny
  • Thanksgiving Wreath can only be made with certain materials (e.g. just paper, like our Paper Leaf Wreath in my new book or recycled materials only)
  • The Thanksgiving Wreath has to be a certain size
  • The Thanksgiving Wreath has to have a certain theme – e.g. leaves, handprints, turkeys etc

Looking for Thankgsiving Wreath inspiration? Try Prudent Penny Pincher for over 50 DIY Wreath ideas!

Watch a Thanksgiving Movie

A family movie may just be the thing! Image from Harpers Bazaar

Yes, ’tis the season to watch movies.. right? When stuck indoors a good ol’ movie is always a good one to head for! Hunker down with some yummy popcorn or other Thanks Giving Treats and enjoy the show!

Harpers Bazaar and Good Housekeeping both have great family movie lists to check out!

Sale Shopping Online

What is Thanksgiving without a bit of bargain hunting?! Right? Well, this year, do it from the comfort of your own home and have yourself an online bargain shop. All the major retails, still have great Black Friday sales online! Give your feet a rest, avoid the crowds and get some bargains!

Have a virtual cook along

Hold a cook along or join a cooking class like these offered by Going Awesome Places

Virtual cook alongs became popular during our lockdowns in 2020 and 2021… and I think people found them a really great experience, that are here to stay! I confess that I have been rather surprised how popular and fun these are. Much better than you think. Again, as with all of our virtual Thanksiving ideas, you can make it as simple or complicated as you like… you can have a SERIOUS cook along, where you make the main meal, meet up the day before for making refridgerated starters or pumpkin pie. Or have a virtual cookie decorating session. Make it fun and involve everyone. Or make it one on one and speak to your mom whilst you both cook!

You could even attend a virtual cooking class together as organised by companies like Going Awesome Places has them online.

Do an act of kindness/ volunteer

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

And act of kindess can be super small or super big. It can be something quick to do, or take more time. It can cost you nothing or you can spend some spare cash.. the key thing is, that you do something nice for someone else!

Acts of kindness we have done in lockdown

In the past, the kids and I have enjoyed reading stories over zoom to younger neighbourhood kids stuck at home isolating. We have walked dogs for neighbours who needed a little help. We have bought our teacher’s donuts to thank them during a difficult week. We have given a bunch of daffodils to a friend. It really is just a question of what suits you and your family.

I hope that you will find, that any act of kindness, doesn’t just help the person you are helping, but that you will also get a lot out of it!

Social Distancing Thanksgiving Acts of Kindness ideas

Acts of kindness can be anonymous, to friends, family or a service like the fire station. Traditional ideas include:

  • Donating to the foodbank – foodbanks are usually grateful for ANY donation, no matter how small. If you can spare even just a can of soup, you can help someone
  • Take food to the local fire station or ambulance station – as we know visiting the fire station is a firm favourite with many young children. Donating treats, donuts or homemade cupcakes usually go down a treat
  • Help in a soup kitchen – before I had children, I used to regularly volunteer at a soup kitchen at Christmas. As soon as my kids are old enough to join me, we will go again. In the meantime, my son has helped pack parcels at the foodbank
  • Support a neighbour – is there a lonely, elderly or sick neighbour you can support? During the height of lockdown, my kids and I were able to support shielding neighbours by walking their dogs. It was of help to them, but my kids got a lot out of it too!
  • Help at an animal shelter – now my daughter would be all over this, our local shelters at the moment don’t take volunteers.. but maybe one near you does?

My friend Valerie at Inner Child Fun has some fantastic ideas for kids to help brighten someone’s day. Go take a look!

Create a Family Tree Art Project

Crafty Sisters created this lovely shadow box family tree

Family Tree Magazine has some GREAT ideas for creating your own Family Tree. It is a great way to get together with the children, talk about your family and share stories. Why not arrange a zoom call, as you add each person to your tree – and have a chat to them their life and their childhood?

A way to think and remember loved ones at a time you can’t be together.

You can also frame these and gift them to family members!

Fun with modern “family trees”. More info here

Make Thanksgiving Banners (and send to family)

Newspaper garland
Recycled Newspaper Garland – you can add messages of thanks or letters to spell Thanksgiving

More Thanksgiving decorations! Well, we made some Thanksgiving Wreaths “earlier”.. now how about some Thanksgiving Banners. Again, this could be a competition.. Or you could make banners for all the family, post them all out and then have same background during a virtual Thanksgiving call.

Thanksgiving banners can be made in all sorts of ways. The Suburban Mom has a great set of printables for you to browse, or you could get creative, with leaves, handprints, photographs and messages of thanks.

Have a Thanksgiving Secret Santa

How about a Secret Santa or Boo Your Neighbours Thanksgiving Style? Put a smile one someone’s face with a simple gift exchange or doorstep surprise.

As an example, Lil luna has these cute Thanksgiving Printables and delicious cookie recipe idea you can give a go.

But of course it can be anything!! Or combine some home made treats with some fun Turkey Crafts to help decorate the gift wrap.

Get Active

Jenny Gibson Shares here Turkey Trott costume on Pinterest

Ok, I am including this one for future years, when we are just looking for fun Thanksgiving activities… and not JUST virtual Thanksgiving ideas… You would probably have a Turkey Trott organised in your area. Which is a great way to get out and about and freshen up after all the movies, treats and food…

If running isn’t your think, do see if you can all go out for a nice long Thanksgiving Day walk. Maybe go out to collect some gorgeous Fall leaves and turn them into lovely Leaf Lanterns upon your return!

Or maybe you can organise a small obstacle course for the kids – get them to walk like a turkey as they complete it!

Watch an old Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV and on Youtube

Photo by Carson Masterson on Unsplash
Photo by Carson Masterson on Unsplash

Thanksgiving isn’t thanksgiving with out the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Have some family viewing of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will only be on TV this year! There are also of old parades on YouTube too – maybe choose a year with a distance family member and watch it together, whilst face timing?

e.g. Maybe watch one from the year your oldest child was born – see how they have changed over the years. If you search your birthday year, you may be surprsied! Here is one from 1975 or how about 1959?!

A fun way to see how times have changed! I think any Thanksgiving activities list simply MUST include this parade – at the very least, have it playing in the background!

Social Distancing Thanksgiving Games – Bingo & Scavenger Hunt

Back to good old zoom and virtual meet ups.. Surely you haven’t quite had enough of them yet. As with our Family Halloween ideas, Virtual Bingo and Scavenger Hunts are fun for kids!

Crazy Little Projects has a free Thanksgiving Bingo + playing instructions for you check out! And Play Party Plan has a fun scavenger hunt with clues for you to try.

Virtual Thanksgiving Charades and Pictionary

During our lockdown, we hade a game of virtual Charades with our neighbours. I wasn’t sure at first – would this even work? Was it lame? Mmmmh.

And you know what? It was brilliant! Much better than I thought and a great way to conenct us all.

To play charades:

Give a person a word (or get them to think of their own). They need to act out or draw a picture of it, whilst the rest of virtual call participants try and guess what it is.

Thanksgiving Crafts

And last but not least.. don’t forget to GET CRAFTY. With our fun Thankgiving Day Projects here (including a number of free printable ideas too!):

Thanksgiving Ideas for kids