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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

Rather than letting the kids veg out in front of the television or computer, watching holiday specials and eating food reserved for-or leftovers from-Thanksgiving dinner, start some fun traditions that you can carry on year after year, generation after generation.

Go Back to the Books

Chances are, many family members (kids and adults) don’t remember what they learned in history class if they primarily read it from a text book. Reading a dozen or so picture books on the holiday will probably solidify some of the most basic facts that they’ll need to know to ace tests for the rest of their student life. Prior to the holiday, check out a dozen or so books about Thanksgiving, pilgrims, Native Americans and anything else you think your kids will enjoy.

Reading Rockets suggests these favorites:

  • “A Turkey for Thanksgiving” by Eve Bunting
  • “1, 2, 3 Thanksgiving” by W. Nikola-Lisa
  • “Molly’s Pilgrim” by Barbara Cohen

Or visit a variety of websites, including National Geographic, if you don’t get a chance to go to the library. Spend time reading the books to the kids and talking with them about the pictures and what they mean. Many kids listen better when their hands are busy, so print out some holiday pictures from coloringpages.net and let them have at it while you read.

Create a Thankful Leaf Wreath

Make a visual reminder of what you’re kids are thankful for by writing out all of the blessings in your life on paper leaves and then turning them into a thankful leaf wreath. Have leaf templates on hand so kids can trace and cut out their own, or complete this step beforehand for younger kids, and then instruct them to list one thing for which they’re thankful on each leaf. Use glue to attach the leaves to a large paper circle, with the middle cut out, to create a colorful wreath which can be hung in their bedroom. For inspiration, check out the one at enchantedlearning.com.

Get a Head Start on Christmas Cards

Prior to Thanksgiving, spend an hour-or five-browsing Pinterest for neat poses that you and the family can recreate to make photo Christmas cards. Once you choose a few poses, get your props and outfits ready and grab a friend to start snapping away. After you’re done, chose the best one and order your Christmas cards from minted.com.

Mini Pumpkin Pie Turkeys

Control desert portion size and keep kids active while you’re cooking by making mini pumpkin pie turkeys. Make up a batch of your favorite pumpkin pie filling and bake it in mini pie shells. Create the face of the turkey with a peanut shaped cookie, and use colored decorating gels and frosting to make the face. Directly opposite the head, place five pecans upright, creating the back feathers. Make a row of each yellow and orange feathers with frosting.

Give Back to the Community

If you’re not already doing ongoing service work, make it a tradition to do something to give back to others in your community during the holiday season. Let the kids choose so they have more interest in doing it, and feel free to vary the activity from year to year. Ideas for volunteering include:

  • Visiting seniors at a nursing home.
  • Sending care packages to service men and women.
  • Organizing a food drive.
  • Serving meals at a shelter.

About the author: As a stay-at-home mom, Jennifer loves to freelance write about travel, fashion and advice for new parents.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents looking to start some new traditions this year.

Image courtesy of Traci Gardner via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.