Thanksgiving Guide for Chicagoland Families

Have a great Thanksgiving with these kid-friendly ideas.

For some of us, Thanksgiving might be the first time in a while that we’re getting together with our extended family. Planning a holiday can be exciting — but also stressful — for parents. Plus, you have to keep the kids busy since they’re on break.

Take a look at our Thanksgiving guide below to help make your holiday planning a little bit easier. We’ve rounded up our favorite Thanksgiving break activities, ways to give back and how to prepare for at-home celebrations. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving break activities

Your kids have a few extra days off and you might want to take advantage of the free time in Chicagoland. Here are some Thanksgiving break activities to try.

Chicago Thanksgiving Parade

The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade kicks off the day early Nov. 23. See balloons, bands and entertainers move down State Street from Ida B. Wells Drive to Randolph Street. Find more local events during Thanksgiving break on our calendar.

Enjoy holiday activities 

Welcome back the holiday season! Many of winter holiday attractions in Chicagoland are already open for families to enjoy. Find our complete list of local holiday activities, including holiday lights, Santa visits and more.

Visit a museum

Museums are open during Thanksgiving break with plenty of new exhibits for families. One of our favorite holiday-themed museum exhibits is Christmas Around the World and Holiday of Lights at the Museum of Science and Industry and

Giving back

Focus on gratitude during the Thanksgiving season. It’s important to teach our children values around giving back to our community and helping others. We have some ideas on where to start.

Ways to share your thankfulness

From mindful yoga to a thankfulness chain, here are a few games and ideas to do as a family to jump-start your thankfulness and appreciation as Thanksgiving approaches.

Chicagoland charities to support children in need

Our children might understand that there are kids around their age that need help. Your family can learn more and support a children’s charity that directly assists local families and children. We also suggest checking out Thrive, a non-profit founded by Midwest mom Gina Gabel. With just $10 per month you can feed a child in Bangladesh or the Philippines for a year.

Family volunteering opportunities in Chicagoland 

November is a popular time where families reach out to help others. We have a list of local organizations that offer options for adults to participate with their kids.

At-home activities

Here are some ways to have a great time with your family while at home.

Thanksgiving meal tips and tricks

One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the food, of course. We asked Chicago chefs to give us some tips and tricks for preparing the turkey, mashed potatoes, desserts and more. Here’s a unique recipe to add to your Thanksgiving menu — Twice-Baked Acorn Squash with Maple Butter and Pecans.

Vamp up the kids table

Set the kids table up with crafts, snacks, décor, fun centerpieces and new Thanksgiving traditions they can try. Get your kids to help set things up just how they like it.

Play Parade Bingo

If you can’t make it downtown to see the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade in person, get cozy on the couch to watch it together. You can even print out these Bingo cards by FamilyEducation and make a game out of it.

Holiday mocktail recipes 

Every holiday is worth celebrating with the clinking of glasses. We’ve rounded up our favorite holiday mocktail recipes that both kids and parents will enjoy. For a Thanksgiving cocktail just for parents, check out this Fresh Fruit Harvest Sangria from Sugar with Spice.

Thanksgiving books for kids

Add some holiday books to your at-home library. Don’t forget, November is Native American Heritage Month and we have some great Native American children’s books to add to your collection, too.

Have a family game night

Get out the board games or download a game that everyone can play on your phone or tablet such as Heads Up! Try these other family games to help you reconnect with your loved ones.

Practice gratitude

Print out this gratitude scavenger hunt and walk around after your meal to find things on the list you’re grateful for. The hunt is put together by Let’s Get Together. Also, try the Gratitude Pick-Up Game from Teach Beside Me, which puts a spin on the Pick-Up Sticks game.

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Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Since 1984, the Chicago Parent editorial team is trained to be the go-to source for Chicagoland families, offering a rich blend of expert advice, compelling stories, and the top local activities for kids. Renowned for their award-winning content, the team of editors and writers are dedicated to enriching family life by connecting parents with the finest resources and experiences our community has to offer.
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