8 Virtual Thanksgiving Activities for Families

Updated: November 9, 2020
In light of the CDC's most recent recommendations regarding Thanksgiving and the pandemic, we have put together a list of eight virtual Thanksgiving activities to try this year. Pick and choose the ones that sound fun to you and your family!
8 ways to celebrate Thanksgiving virtually

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With the ongoing pandemic still very much impacting our day-to-day lives, many families are choosing to stay home this Thanksgiving. But that does not mean that you cannot celebrate together with your loved ones! There are lots of ways to share some family time virtually over the Thanksgiving holiday. It may not be perfect, but our current world situation just is not perfect. Like so many other parts of our new normal, this Thanksgiving we can still try our best.

More: 5 Ways Kids Can Stay Connected and Social While Social Distancing

Can We Really Not Be Together This Thanksgiving?

We have been on lockdown, quarantine, or sheltering in place for quite a long time now. Can we really not make an exception this one time for the cherished family time that comes on Thanksgiving? Well, no, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC says that celebrating in-person with only the members of your own household poses a low risk of COVID-19 transmission, and they recommend sticking to virtual when it comes to extended family and close friends. 

Some of the higher-risk activities listed include celebrating indoors, gathering in large groups, hosting guests who have to travel far, or neglecting to take protective measures such as wearing masks and maintaining a distance of six feet between people. When you really think that through, a virtual celebration is just so much safer. Thanksgiving is usually too chilly to stay outside and extended family members often live far from each other. Plus, this holiday is all about eating and drinking and it’s not possible to do that with your mask on!

How To Celebrate Thanksgiving Virtually With Our Loved Ones

We all want to get back to normal, but stepping away from “normal” for a while is really the best way to get there as soon as we can. Try a virtual Thanksgiving. We have put together a list of eight virtual Thanksgiving activities to try. Pick and choose the ones that sound fun to you and your family!

1.  Plan a Shared Thanksgiving Experience

Although we can’t all be together physically this year, we can all do the same thing. Following the same schedule as our extended family can make things feel a little more special when we are apart. Knowing that the cousins are also watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving at the same time as us or that Grandma is digging into her pumpkin pie just when we are can help us feel connected. 

2.  Doorstep Recipe Exchange

This one is great for families that live within driving distance of a group of extended family members and close friends. Use email or a Zoom chat to assign each household to a Thanksgiving recipe. Everyone makes enough to share, portions it out, and drops off the portions on everyone else’s doorsteps. You may need to create a drop-off schedule to prevent accidental run ins with each other if your group is on the large side. Not only do you get to share everyone’s yummy recipes but you also only have to cook one dish to enjoy several! 

3.  Virtual Pie Making Party

Bake your Thanksgiving pies from scratch all together on Zoom! Choose one pie recipe that everyone will be ready to follow. Get your ingredients and baking supplies ready and jump on the group video chat. If you have that one great aunt who always makes the best Thanksgiving pies, here’s a chance to learn her signature recipe. Otherwise, select a tried and true recipe from a pie cookbook like this one.

4.  Zoom Gratitude Sharing

Thanksgiving is about good food but above all it is about giving thanks. Let every family member on the group chat get a chance to read a list of things they are grateful for. Plan ahead so everyone has time to think it through and write down what they are thankful for. Help children prepare and remind them to express gratitude for others and not just toys or food!

5.  Virtual Pictionary

Games are a great way to bond as a group, and many can be done online. Pictionary is a fun game to play on Zoom--just flip your camera so everyone can see what you are drawing. To reduce confusion, write your name across the top of your paper. It is not necessary for every household to have a copy of the Pictionary game, but that can simplify things. You can also have one person from each team come up with the list of things to draw for the other team to choose from, but you will need to plan ahead and mail it or drop it off at their doorstep. You can play on household teams or you can create mixed household teams. 

6.  Virtual Pre-Meal Prayer

Saying grace is a special part of many families’ Thanksgiving traditions. A pre-meal prayer can look different depending upon what religion your family follows or it can be a non-religious expression of gratitude for the upcoming meal. Some families alternate who says grace each year while others have a chosen speaker that always says it. Asking a child to say grace is also a special way to celebrate Thanksgiving. You may not be able to hold hands around the circle this year but that does not mean you can’t be together. A virtual pre-meal prayer will work just fine this year. You can even keep your cameras on as each family pod digs into their meals all together. 

7.  Virtual Music Jam

Musically-inclined families will often sing and play music together after the turkey and the pies have been cleared. Bring that tradition on-screen and jam all together over group video chat. Each household can choose a favorite song or carol, or you can just let the music lead the way. 
 

8.  Family Storytelling

Take turns telling stories over Zoom. Family members can read from books, make up stories, or tell tales from their own lives. One great idea is to use this as a chance for the adults to pass down stories from the family. Immigration stories, memorable family trips, or those funny stories that get told and retold make excellent choices.

Looking for ways to shake up your usual Thanksgiving traditions this year? Check out How to Use Thanksgiving to Jumpstart Your Genealogy and Family Tree Research.