Whether you’re planning a Thanksgiving party or family gathering, the Thanksgiving games below will help you energize the guests – young and old. Most games can be adapted to fit a Thanksgiving theme, so (as always) just set your creativity free.
Ring the Pumpkin
Line up three large pumpkins with stems, to form a ring toss. Use embroidery hoops or make hoops with rope and duct tape. Mark a throwing line on the floor and take turns trying to ring a pumpkin stem. Smaller children can attempt to ring an entire large pumpkin with a hula-hoop.
Players sit in a circle. The first player starts by saying, “At Thanksgiving dinner I like to eat turkey”. The next player must repeat, “At Thanksgiving dinner I like to eat turkey…” and add another dish. This continues all the way around the circle with each person reciting the dishes in the exact order they have been given and then adding a new one. If a player makes a mistake they slide out of the circle and the game continues. The person left who can perfectly recite the Thanksgiving menu wins.
Wild Turkey Hunt
Give each guest a paper bag. On a dozen or so index cards, draw or paste a picture of a turkey (you can also use a stuffed animal turkey or cellophane-wrapped sugar cookies in turkey shapes). To play, everyone leaves the room except the leader. The leader hides the cards around the room. Hunters return and begin the hunt. As each turkey is found, it is brought back to the leader who corrals them in a separate pile for each hunter. When all the turkeys have been found, the hunter with the most turkeys is the winner and becomes the leader for the next round. You can also use miniature pumpkins (Pumpkin Hunt) or harvest colored corn (Harvest Hunt).
Players sit on chairs forming a circle. There should be one more player than there are chairs. The player without a chair is the leader. The leader points to each of the other players to give them a name, such as Cranberry, Corn, Apple, Turkey, anything related to Thanksgiving. After names are chosen, the leader calls out two names, “Turkey and potato”. Those two players must quickly switch places. The leader keeps calling at a quick pace, until suddenly he or she says “The cornucopia has tipped over!” Everyone, including the leader, then scrambles for a new place. The player without a seat is the new leader. The leader may give the same name to more than one person. It can get confusing but it is also very fun!
Pair up the kids, give each team a cup full of popcorn and have them toss the popcorn into their couple’s mouth. The first team to finish wins. This can also be done with cranberries.
Pumpkins in a line
A game also best played by teens or adults. Divide your whole group into two smaller, equal groups. Have each groups stand in a line. The first person in each line holds a mini pumpkin between their chin and chest. On the mark of “Go”, the first person in the line passes the mini pumpkin to the next person who needs to grab it between their chin and chest as well (no hands). If the pumpkin falls, it needs to go back to the beginning of the line. The first group to get the pumpkin to the end of the line by passing it on with their chin and chest, is the group that wins!
Gather some fall, harvest or Thanksgiving items and put them on a cookie sheet. Small items are best and using a theme is fun too. Maybe a mini pumpkin, a cranberry, colored cornhusk, pie server, TV remote (to symbolize the Football or Parade that you watch on TV each year) and even a feather are just a few options. Cover the cookie sheet with a dishtowel and put it aside. Give each person a pencil and paper. Set the timer for half a minute or a minute (depending on level of difficulty you want). Uncover the items and let everyone look at them for a minute but they can’t write anything down. After the timer goes off cover up the cookie sheet again. Set the timer for 3 or 5 minutes. Everyone is supposed to write down what they saw. The person who remembers the most items if the winner.
Pass the Corn
Divide guests into two teams and have them form two lines. You will need two cobs of dried Indian corn. At the signal “go”, the corncob is to be passed from person to person. The catch is that they can use any part of their bodies, except their hands. If the corn touches the ground at any time, it must go back to the beginning of the line again. Whichever team manages to get the corn to the end of the line first wins the game.
Roll the Gourd
This traditional County Fair Game can be played in a yard, garage or even inside! It’s a simple race but since pumpkins are not nice smooth balls and refuse to roll in nice straight lines, you will need plenty of room! You need two large pumpkins and two sturdy sticks. The racers, line up on the starting line with the pumpkins turned on their sides. On the signal, the racers use the stick to roll the pumpkins to the finish line. Younger players may want to use their hands instead of the stick. If you want to play this as teams, make it a relay race. This game can also be played inside, using small pumpkins. You can also use empty plastic pop bottles for bowling pins. Each player gets three chances to roll the gourd into the pins as the gourds go every which way but straight.
After the Thanksgiving meal, give each person three kernels of corn. Pass a cup around and once the cups arrives to someone, they put one of the corn kernels into the cup and they say something they are thankful for. The cup goes all around 3 times till everyone has said things that they are thankful for. This can bring up wonderful thankful words, and while the cup is passed around, people have time to think about what they are most thankful for.
It’s tough for kids to say the name of this game without cracking up. Once you start playing, you’ll find that the belly laughs are completely contagious – no matter how serious some of the guests may be. You’ll need at least four players and a comfortable grassy surface or carpeted floor to lie on. To begin, have one player lie down on his back. The next player lies down with his head resting on the first player’s belly, and the next player lies down with her head on the second player’s belly. Arrange all the players until everyone is zigzagged around the lawn or floor, each with his or her head on someone else’s belly (if possible, make the line into a loop so that the last player can put her head on the first player’s belly). Then, the first player shouts, loud and clear, “Ha!” The second player responds with a vigorous, “Ha, ha!” then the third player chimes in, “Ha, ha, ha!” Continue until all players have shouted out their “Ha’s” or (more likely) have dissolved into uncontrollable laughter, with heads bouncing on the bellies.
As a Child
Look through your old photographs and try finding old photos of people you know will be coming to your celebration (when they were a kid). If you don’t have any, ask each person to mail you a photo from when they were a baby or a young child). Put each on a board and designate a number to each. Create a form having each guest’s name and a blank next to their name. Take photocopies of this form, so that you have enough for everyone. Once people start coming in, let everyone guess who is who by writing the number of the picture in the blank. See who gets closest to getting them all right!
During the week leading up to Thanksgiving, ask each family member to write down or ask a parent to write down, something that they are thankful for, big or small. Add to the jar throughout the week. On Thanksgiving Day, pull the papers out of the jar and have a fun game of charades or have people try and guess who wrote what.
Gratitude Grab Bag
Make up cards, some that say “THANKSGIVING” and others that have a picture on them (no words) of things children may be thankful for. Each child takes a turn reaching into the bag and pulling out a card. If the card says “THANKSGIVING” the child should express something or someone they are thankful for (parents, teachers, pet, favorite food, etc.) If they pull out a picture they show it to all and then express why we should be thankful for that item (food, clothes, trees, grass, stores, cars, etc.). This game is especially fun for preschoolers and their expressions of gratitude are priceless.
You’ll need three to five dry beans per player, a chair, large bowl or tin pie plate. Have the players divide into two teams. Each player is given five beans. On your mark the players will take a seat in a chair, that is set a distance from the bowl, and try to throw their beans, one at a time, into the bowl. The team with the most beans in the bowl at the end of the relay wins.
Pair up the players, hang an apple from a string around the waist of one of the players and have their couple lay on the ground and try to eat it as it swings. This can also be done with a corncob.
Turkey Hide & Seek
Depending on how many kids are playing, choose two to three to be the Pilgrims going on a turkey hunt, the rest of the children are the turkeys. Have the ‘hunters’ count to ten to allow the turkeys time to hide. The turkeys may gobble to help the hunters locate them, as the turkeys are caught the hunters place them in a designated ‘pen’. When all turkeys are caught, change the hunters and play again, and again, and again.
Bird, Beast, or Fish
You have to think fast for this game. Everyone sits facing the leader. The leader points to one of the players and says either “BIRD,” “BEAST,” or “FISH.” The chosen player must come up with the name of an animal that fits the category before the leader counts to ten. No repeating! If the player does not respond in time, she is out. The game continues until only one-player remains. As you can guess, after a few rounds it can be hard to think of an animal that has not already been mentioned!
Mayflower Memory Game
This is a game challenging people’s memory. Have everyone sit in a circle and designate a person to start the game. They start out by saying, “I am sailing on the Mayflower, and I’m taking…” and they then need to say something that starts with the first letter of the alphabet “A” (for example “acorns”). The next person says, “I am sailing on the Mayflower, and I’m taking…” and they need to repeat and say what the first person has said and after that adds another thing that starts with the letter “B” (for example “barrel”). This continues through the alphabet. If someone can’t remember all of the alphabetized items, they drop out. The last player to remember is the winner.
Where is Mr. Turkey?
In this game, one player is the hunter and the others are helpers. The hunter leaves the room. The helpers hide a small toy turkey. The hunter returns with a mission to find the turkey. Helpers give clues by “gobbling” like turkeys. If the hunter is not close, the helpers gobble very quietly. As the hunter gets closer, the helpers gobble more and more loudly until Mr. Turkey is found!
Corn Gobbling Contest
Prepare a pot full of corncobs and have a corn-gobbling contest. The players must eat the corn without using their hands. Or, you can pair up the contestants, blindfold one, tie the other’s hands, and have the blindfolded player try to feed his partner. Loads of fun!