Fun, Family-Friendly, Indoor Activities To Add More Meaning to Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for families. With fall comes cooler weather, which means more time inside, together! If the weather outside is frightful, hunker down and have some good old fashioned fun with your family using this list of our favorite indoor activities designed to get your family laughing, loving, and sharing, together. So next time you’re stuck inside, join us in celebrating family and give one of these activities a go!

  1. Write Thanksgiving Thank You’s—On small slips of paper, note the names of everyone who will be sharing your Thanksgiving meal. Sit your family down and have everyone draw a name out of a hat. Using markers, crayons, colored pencils, and stickers, have each person write and decorate a note to the name they drew, thanking them for being a part of their life. Pass the notes out on Thanksgiving Day and watch the smiles spread.
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  2. Give Outgrown Goods a Second Life—Encourage each member of your family to clean out their drawers, closets, and toy chests, tossing the junk and separating items that are in good shape. When weather permits, visit a local family shelter—together—to make your donation; then stop somewhere quiet for a cup of cocoa and a conversation about gratitude.
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  3. Give Game Night a Go—Surprise your family with a drop-everything-and-play game night. Collect everyone’s electronic devices and put them in another room; then, let each family member choose their favorite board or card game. Even preschoolers can get in on the action, with games like Shelby’s Snack Shack and BBQ Blitz!. Light a fire, if you’ve got one, set some snacks out, and just enjoy being together.
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  4. Climb the Family Tree—Gather the gang together and start drafting your very own family tree, going as far back as you’re able. Share a story or two about each family member, and ask your kids to tell you what they can remember about each of the family members they’ve met. Take things a step further with younger ones, and take turns sharing fun and fanciful stories about your great-great-great-great-greats that you make up on the fly.
     
  5. Bake & Share—Make something sweet to share with your neighbors! We love the pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe below – deliver them while they’re hot!
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    Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffin Recipe
    1 ½ cups white wheat flour
    ½ cup sugar
    2 tsp baking powder
    2 tsp pumpkin pie spice mix
    4 tablespoons butter, cold
    ½ tsp salt
    1 cup canned pumpkin
    ½ cup half-and-half or whole milk
    1 egg
    1 ½ tsp vanilla
    ½ cup chocolate chips

    1. Preheat the oven to 400 and grease your muffin tin.
    2. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice mix to a food processor (or mix in a bowl).
    3. Cut putter into a few pieces and add to flower mixture. Pulse (or cut with a pastry knife) until the butter is pea-sized or smaller.
    4. In a separate bowl, mix the pumpkin, half-and-half, egg, and vanilla.
    5. Mix the pumpkin mixture and the flour mixture, folding until it’s just combined. Add chocolate chips and fold.
    6. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin, filling each about half full and sprinkling a bit of sugar on top.
    7. Back 25 minutes and cool for 10.


     

  6. Rub It In—Start a collection of fall leaves – when you’ve got enough for everyone, set out the fall-colored crayons and paper and try some leaf rubbings! When you’re done rubbing, press your favorite leaves between wax paper with a warm iron. Cut out the pressed leaves and the rubbings and staple them, pennant-style, to a long string for a fun, homemade, fall decoration!
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What’s your favorite fall family tradition? Let us know in the comments below!

Even MORE Amazing Traditions — More EI Fans From Around the Country Share Their Holiday Traditions

Our first family traditions post highlighted a red carpet couple and their shining star son, a Korean-American family with totally typical traditions, and a rowdy-dice rolling game that’s the highlight of one Chicago family’s holiday get-togethers. We had so much fun learning about the way EI fans and family across the country celebrate their holidays that we just had to share a few more!

Big Family, Big Fun!
Maria, Guillermo, Ricky, and Eric Gonzalez

Maria Family

For as long as she can remember, Maria Gonzalez has hosted upwards of 40 friends, neighbors, and all of the members of both sides of her blended family for Thanksgiving. Thankfully, everyone contributes to her pot luck party–the feast includes two turkeys, two hams (Maria looks forward to her sister Eva’s ham all year long!), and all the trimmings. Maria’s cooking has come a long way since she made her first turkey (hey, who hasn’t accidentally left the bag inside the bird?) and her family comes a long way for her celebrations. Relatives look forward to this whole-family gathering all year, taking time off of work and traveling from as far as Las Vegas, Yuma, and Calexico to be together, and often saving important announcements for the gathering, like new jobs, engagements, and additions to the family!

Maria’s sons enjoy the Thanksgiving gathering, too—it’s a time to see their favorite cousins who live hundreds of miles away—but they also look forward to another one of Maria’s holiday traditions. All year long, Maria’s family gathers gently used clothing and toys to hand out to children in need on the family’s annual Christmas trip to Maria’s native Mexico. At first the boys were nervous, giving their gifts to strangers, but now they really get into the spirit of giving. In fact, the boys remind Maria to gather goodies for their holiday giveaway all year long.

 FUN FACTS:

  • Pumpkin pie or apple pie? Pumpkin pie – you can get the other pies anytime, but pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving tradition
  • What do you love most about your family? I love that everyone makes the time to come together, traveling from out of state to be with the family. Making memories with the little ones, not just the adults.
  • What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Being together with the family, being thankful for what we have, and letting my brother in law say the prayer before the meal!

 Yes to Presence – No to Presents!
Jenn Ryan and Erin Alsop and their children, Jake, Kennedy, and Alex Ryan

Jenn and her kids  20 years

When it comes to get-togethers at the Alsop Ryan home, the more, the merrier! From the very beginning, moms Jenn and Erin instituted a no-gifts policy for all of their parties—including their children’s birthdays and the holidays. That way, the kids could invite their entire class or sports team without worrying that some kids wouldn’t come because their families might not be able to afford a gift. The Ryan kids, Jake, Kennedy, and Alex, get plenty of wonderful toys and games from their parents, so their friends’ presence was far more important than their presents! Their “invite everyone or no one” and “no gifts” policies teach the kids the importance of inclusion and kindness and that spending time together is the best gift of all, particularly during the holidays.

To Jenn, Thanksgiving is a time to show gratitude to the people she loves, to teach her kids to be grateful, and to be thankful for the many wonderful things she has in her life. But Jenn tries to embrace the spirit of Thanksgiving each and every day, sharing her many blessings with everyone around her and sharing her attitude of gratitude with her children. In fact, if there are any leftovers from her big family’s Thanksgiving dinner, Jenn, Erin and their “little roommates” (the three kids) will box them up and deliver the delicious goodies to folks who might not have had a celebration of their own, spreading a little holiday joy along with a delicious home-cooked meal.

FUN FACTS:

  •  Pumpkin or apple pie? EVERYTHING! We are a family of “ANDS.”  We like pumpkin AND apple AND strawberry, and everything else that ends in “pie.”  We’re lucky enough to usually offer a selection of delicious desserts on Turkey Day.  That being said, Alex usually dares to be different: he prefers stuffing for dessert.
  • What do you love most about your family? We decided a long time ago that, as a family, we were committed to being truthful to one another.  We place a high value on honestly and openness… we call it our “no poo policy.” We tell our kids—you know that icky feeling you get when you don’t tell the whole truth?  We don’t want you to feel that way!  It’s better to be open and honest, and by doing so, you can always avoid that feeling of poo!
  • What’s your funniest Thanksgiving story? Our youngest son, Alex, is part Native American, and last November, we told him, “Alex… with Thanksgiving right around the corner, this might be a good opportunity to share with your teacher, and maybe your class, a little bit about your background. What do you think?” Alex says, “Mommy Jenn, there are already a bunch of Indians in my classroom.”  I replied, “Really? I didn’t know that! Who?” Alex retorts, “Well there’s Deepak, and Krishna, and Priya….”

Old World Meets New
Sicilliano Family

ParentsSiblings

When Michealangelo Sicilliano left southern Italy for America in 1957, there were just some customs he couldn’t leave behind—and most of them had to do with food! Nonno and Nanna, as he and his wife were known to their grandkids, hosted the family’s annual Thanksgiving dinner (and Christmas and Sunday dinners, too!) for as long as anyone can remember. EI’s Creative Director, AnnaMaria, was fortunate enough to be born into this foodie family–her father was Michealangelo’s son and he and his brothers and sisters lived within a 10 mile radius of their parents. This meant that the entire family came together to celebrate every Thanksgiving in their grandparents’ basement.

Eleven aunts and uncles and 21 grandkids shared the meal, which included the traditional fixings along with plates of lasagna, manicotti, potato fritters, and hand-cured Calabrese salami. The meal was served Italian style—soup first, then the main course and sides, followed by a salad. Nonno’s homemade wine flowed throughout the meal and stories of the old world flowed around the table, in Italian, of course. Although her grandparents are no longer with her, AnnaMaria still treasures the memory of those old world Thanksgiving dinners and her family’s passion for their native foods and looks forward to sharing her family’s traditions with her partner, Alicia.

FUN FACTS:

  • Favorite side dish – My Nonna’s Italian green beans—she puts tomato sauce with them and they’re so good!
  • What she loves most about her family – I love that they’ve worked hard and endured. They’ve been through a lot, including extreme poverty. I have a lot of respect for them!

How Do YOU Celebrate? EI Fans From Around the Country Share Their Holiday Traditions

From exotic travels to traditional meals with friends and family, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving in a variety of unique ways. Read on to learn about some special holiday traditions held by EI fans and family around the country and be sure to share your unique family tradition in the comments below!

Embracing New Traditions
Jessie, Nick, and Hunter Min

Family Min

Jessie moved from Korea to the United States as a young child and her family immediately embraced the Thanksgiving tradition, celebrating with classic turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, plus the traditional Korean side dish of kimchi. When Jessie married her husband, Nick, also a native Korean, the two families blended their traditional American Thanksgiving celebrations. Now the extended Min family trades off hosting the holiday meal, which includes both sets of parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and, most recently, the addition of Jessie and Nick’s daughter, Hunter.

Two-year-old Hunter loves being surrounded by family and Jessie hopes someday Hunter will come to see Thanksgiving as a day to be thankful for all of the love she has in her life. As for Jessie, she’ll spend this holiday appreciating the people she loves, toasting her family’s good health, and decorating the family Christmas tree!

Fun Facts:

  • Favorite holiday side dish? Cheesy corn—her sister-in-law makes the best!
  • Pumpkin or apple? Jessie is pumpkin all the way—nothing says fall like pumpkin pie!
  • What do you love most about your family?That we’re always here for each other, no matter what.


Twice the Holiday Fun

Alec Mapa, Jamison Hebert, Zion Hebert-Mapa

Hebert Family

A showbiz family, actor and father Alec can be seen on TV shows like Switched at BirthDevious MaidsJane the Virgin, and his own Showtime Special, Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy. His husband, Jamison, prefers to work behind the scenes, as an independent film producer, creating such documentaries as The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Bullied and MSNBC’s Erasing Hate. This red carpet couple completed their family five years ago with the adoption of their adorable son, Zion.

Entertainers by nature, the Hebert-Mapas go big for the holidays with two seasonal get togethers—one Christmas, the other Chanukah—so that they can celebrate with friends of all faiths. Now in 5th grade, Zion is just as social as his dazzling dads, so he greets and gabs with the guests while his dads get the goodies on the table. Although the hands-down hit of these parties is the authentic, home-made latkes (served with sour cream and applesauce), Zion’s favorite dish is always a sweet dessert.

Fun Facts:

  • What do you do with leftovers? POT PIE!!!  Or sandwiches! But mostly pot pie. Comfort food is best in the winter.
  • What do you love most about your family? I love that we all look nothing alike, but none of that has ever mattered. Love is what brought us all together and love is what makes us a family. It’s corny, but at the end of the  day, love is what defines family


Friendly Family Competition

Chris, Jen, Hayden, and Sawyer Truby

Truby Family

That pile of gifts at Chris’ holiday get-togethers might not be what you think! First introduced by Chris’ grandmother to entertain the kids and moms while the dads watched football after Thanksgiving dinner, Chris’ family has been playing “The Dice Game” for more than 40 years. It’s a tradition he remembers and loved as a little boy and now he’s passing it on to his own children. The rules are simple, but the game play is intense!Everyone contributes a wrapped white elephant gift to the pile. Players take turns rolling the dice—roll doubles and you can take a gift from the pile, but don’t be fooled! That awesome-looking gift is as likely to be a can opener or piece of wood as it is something stellar! Don’t score a gift? Don’t worry! You’ll get a chance to steal gifts from other players by rolling doubles in a timed lightening round. Not everyone wins, but no one cares—the fun is in the frantic, fast-paced game play.

Over the years, the competition—and the gifts!—have gotten so epic that the entire family, including two sets of grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, as well as Chris, his wife Jen, and their two sons, Hayden and Sawyer, drops everything when the dice hit the table. Chris’ kids love the crazy gifts; Chris loves that he can share a treasured tradition from his own childhood with his family. He says “The dice game is a fun family tradition that always makes Thanksgiving special!”

Fun Facts:

  • Canned cranberry or fresh? Canned- preferred if it’s still in the shape of the can with the lines around it.
  • What do you love most about your family?Being accepting and comfortable in our own uniqueness.
  • What does Thanksgiving mean to you?  A day to relax and spend time with family

Collecting for a Cure October’s Change It Up! Contribution

Walk to Stop Diabetes and Tour de Cure

Every 19 seconds, someone is diagnosed with diabetes, and diabetes causes more deaths each year than breast cancer and AIDs combined. Olivia Cudahy, EI’s Sales Support Coordinator, is all too familiar with the effects of this deadly disease. Both of her grandmothers and her grandfather passed from diabetes complications; her parents have both been hospitalized with complications due to diabetes; and Olivia herself was diagnosed with diabetes earlier this year.

That’s why Olivia chose the American Diabetes Association as the recipient of Educational Insights’ charitable donation for the month of October. For 75 years, this organization has been dedicated to diabetes research and support, earning more than $30 million last year via events like Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes® and Tour de Cure®.

The American Diabetes Association has hosted Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes and Tour de Cure in communities across the country for more than 25 years. In addition to raising funds, the walks and rides promote physical activity and celebrate people who live with diabetes—Red Striders and Red Riders—who receive VIP treatment at the events.

For more information on the American Diabetes Association, to participate inStep Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes and Tour de Cure, or to make your own charitable contribution, please visit: http://www.diabetes.org/about-us/75th-anniverary/

Collecting for a Cure – September’s Change It Up! Contribution

Make a difference day!

Alzheimer’s robs seniors of their memories and independence and families and caregivers of their loved ones. And, sadly, it’s the only top 10 cause of death in the U.S. that cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed. Today, one-third of seniors will die from Alzheimer’s or similar types of dementia and nearly two-thirds of them will be women.

After witnessing the toll that dementia and Alzheimer’s took on some of the important women in her life and their caregivers, Courtney Wachs, EI’s Director of Marketing, selected the Alzheimer’s Association to receive the team’s charitable contributions in the month of September.

The team’s contributions will help the Alzheimer’s Association conduct research in hopes of developing better treatments for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and, ultimately, a cure. Georgia The group’s research includes exploring how the disease affects the brain as well as investigating tools designed to better diagnose and monitor the disease. Contributions also fund helplines, caregiver services, and community support programs for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association or to make a contribution, visit www.alz.org.