Did you know that the first national Thanksgiving was called for by George Washington in 1777? He saw it as a way to show gratitude and celebrate the end of the Revolutionary War.
Centuries later, Thanksgiving continues to be one of the best times for families to reunite and enjoy each other’s company in an atmosphere of love and appreciation. Not to mention, the cool and crisp autumn air makes it the perfect season to play Thanksgiving games outside.
Are you wondering which outdoor games can make your Thanksgiving extra special and memorable this year? Keep reading to learn all about 12 Thanksgiving games that are fun for the whole family.
1. Pumpkin Pie Eating Contest
Pumpkin pie is to Thanksgiving what apple pie is to America as a whole. A pumpkin pie eating contest is a great way to encourage friendly competition, all while satisfying everyone’s sweet tooth.
Depending on the size of your family, you may want to bake 10 pies, perhaps even 20 or 30. This would be a daunting chore if you had to do it yourself. Since dessert often comes later in the day, anyway, you can turn the baking chore into another fun family activity. With adult supervision, kids will especially love to get in touch with their inner baker.
After an awesome afternoon of baking, the mouth-watering scent of pumpkin pies will get the competitors pumped up for the contest later in the evening. Thanksgiving dinners are notorious for being belt-bursting. With this in mind, you should play a different game after the big dinner so that people can have a chance to digest and make room.
The competition should take place outside at a long fold-out table or something similar. Each competitor should have several glasses of milk or water nearby. The pumpkin pie eating contest can last a certain length of time, such as 10 minutes, or it can last until there’s only one person left eating.
To make the challenge even sillier, you can take away everyone’s silverware. Whoever is brave enough to shove their face into an entire pie deserves to be applauded as the champion.
The winner could be given a plastic trophy that you can order online or something more unique, such as an enamel pumpkin pie pin for their lapel. Although, they may not want to look at another pumpkin pie until next year, if ever!
2. Scarecrow Crafting
Arts and crafts are always a blast, but it’s even more hands-on when you can build your very own scarecrow. The scarecrow is as much of a fall symbol as the snowman is for winter.
You could have each member of your family make a miniature scarecrow, or you can form teams and work on life-size ones. To make things even more interesting, you can designate a couple of judges who will give out first prize, second prize, and so on.
Scarecrows can be fairly creepy, so you could have a competition for who can make the creepiest one, something that would be right at home on Halloween night. On the other hand, you could compete to make the goofiest looking scarecrow. If you have enough variety in the old clothes that are available, then you can even have a ton of laughs by judging each scarecrow as if it was part of a fashion competition.
You’ll have to make sure you have enough materials for plenty of scarecrows. A wooden stick frame, straw, old clothes, and burlaps sacks are essential. You can also include unique materials too, such as different types of buttons for the eyes, a medley of magic markers, colorful scarves, and anything else you can think of.
As an added bonus, the scarecrows can double as quirky decorations for the rest of the holiday season.
3. A Thanksgiving Race (Pumpkin or Yam)
Since everyone will be packing on the pounds at dinner, why not shed a few with an awesome Thanksgiving race beforehand? Whether you’re playing with friends or family, this activity is sure to get people of all ages excited.
There are two ways you can have a race in which everyone is able to participate. The first involves rolling a pumpkin to the finish line. However, pumpkins are far from perfectly round, which means it’s a lot harder than it sounds.
You can expect the pumpkin to topple in every direction, so it’s best to put people into teams of two or three. Doing this means that everyone can work together to get that tricky pumpkin across the finish line.
Another way to have a Thanksgiving race is by using yams. This might sound easier than using pumpkins, but it’s potentially harder! The shape of a yam is even less like a ball, so you can expect it to be even more unpredictable as you try to push it to victory.
Rather than using your hands, like with pumpkins, the yam should be pushed using a spoon or a similar utensil. This version of a Thanksgiving race is more suited to individual competitors.
You can give the winner of the race a nice Thanksgiving gift basket filled to the brim with treats, such as baked goods, delicious jams, a plush turkey, and more.
4. Thanksgiving Jeopardy
If you’re looking for a game that’s exciting but not so physical, then a Thanksgiving Jeopardy is the way to go. Like the classic TV show, you’ll need to choose a charismatic host, then split everyone into teams. This is a good opportunity for your friends and family to come up with playful, fall-related team names, such as The Scared Crows or The Plump Kin.
You can make categories related to the history of Thanksgiving, trivia about past family Thanksgivings, and more. Don’t be afraid to get creative, too. For instance, it could be fun to have a category related to turkey facts. As an example, did you know that turkeys can make up to 20 different vocalizations?
The categories are something you should prepare ahead of time, but you should feel free to ask a loved one for help. Since the game will be played outside, you’ll need to put the categories up on a presentation board, along with cards that the host can take off and read aloud.
The easier, lower-point questions are something the kids will have fun answering, but it’s perfectly fine to create higher-point questions for the more knowledgeable adults. Kids can still get excited about guessing, too.
Aside from bragging rights, the winning team could get first choice of dessert. You could do the same for the other food as well because some people prefer dark meat over white meat, for example, or a turkey leg over a breast.
5. Thanksgiving Bingo
If you’re looking for a family game where children and adults can fully participate at every level, then you should look no further than Thanksgiving bingo.
To really get into the spirit of the holiday, each bingo card should feature fall-related decorations, such as pilgrim hats, acorns, orange leaves, and more. In fact, these images can be used as the call numbers themselves. If you’re up for it, you can make your own bingo cards using tables in a Word document, but you can also save time by printing one of many pre-made Thanksgiving bingo cards online.
To add another twist to the classic game, you can use candy corn as place markers. Just be sure to give a generous amount to each player because they’re sure to snack while they mark each call. Candy corn is a fairly cheap treat, so you should have plenty for everyone to play multiple rounds while having people take turns calling out the markers.
Don’t forget to include a prize for each victor. Depending on how many rounds you play, you might end up having a lot of winners, so the prizes shouldn’t be too luxurious. Little toys for kids and inexpensive gift cards for adults would be just enough for them to have a memento of the year’s best Thanksgiving celebration.
6. Miniature Pumpkin Hunt
Similar to hunting for eggs on Easter, a miniature pumpkin hunt is sure to entertain all the kids and even the adults, too. After getting a bunch of miniature pumpkins, you should hide them around the backyard before your guests arrive. That way, no one will have the upper hand by peeking.
So that everyone can join in the fun, you should place the miniature pumpkins in both obvious spots and more secretive areas. For example, a miniature pumpkin at the base of a roof’s drainpipe isn’t so difficult to spot, whereas finding a pumpkin tucked inside the bushes might take some extra skill. If you have access to a park or a forest, then you can expand the map of the pumpkin hunt for an extra dose of adventure.
To make the game fair and safe, you should try to pair each child with at least one adult. At the end of the hunt, all of the teams will have to count up their finds. Whoever was able to collect the most miniature pumpkins can be given an awesome prize.
7. Thanksgiving Charades
Charades is a classic game because it can always bring laughs and friendly competition to the atmosphere of any party. By taking the fun outside, you can enjoy the surrounding nature and fresh air at the same time.
Once again, your friends and family members will have to divide into teams. The cardinal rules of this game involve no speaking of any kind and only writing short phrases that aren’t proper nouns. A player can’t write out the word others have to guess either.
You can make this a Thanksgiving-specific charades by getting the players to act out relevant words and phrases.
To be prepared, you should think up as many of these as you can ahead of time, then write them on cards that others can use. For example, you should include “buckle shoes,” “Mayflower,” “ear of corn,” “Native American,” and “blessings.” For younger kids, you’ll want to include words that are more suited to their level, such as “turkey,” “pile of leaves,” “mashed potatoes,” and “family.”
Don’t forget to tally the scores as you play so that the winning team can enjoy their victory and maybe even gloat a little.
8. Turkey Tag or Turkey Flag Football
Tag is one of those timeless games that really gets the blood pumping. The kids might get cramps if they play it after eating, so it’s best to plan for this game before the big Thanksgiving feast.
What can change normal tag into turkey tag is the use of a clothes pin that has to be clipped to a shirt in order to tag someone. Not just any clothes pin, though, because you can decorate it ahead of time with markers and glue-on feathers, turning the mouth of the pin into a stretched turkey’s beak. For an additional silly twist to this game, you can tell the person who was bitten by the clothes pin turkey to make gobbling noises before they’re allowed to take the pin off and tag someone else with it.
Although this game is great for kids and it will give them lots of laughs and exercise, it probably won’t appeal too much to the adults. This is where turkey flag football comes in.
American football is seen as a staple of Thanksgiving events, but flag football is safer and can allow everyone to participate. Instead of using a flag that one has to grab for a ‘tackle’, you can make a tail of turkey feathers that each person has to wear.
9. Make Your Own Papier-Mâché Turkey
Allowing everyone to create their very own papier-mâché turkey has two awesome benefits. Not only will your guests have a blast with this arts and crafts activity, but they’ll also be making a memento that they can take home with them and cherish.
Depending on the size and construction of the turkey, you can also add a different benefit to this hands-on activity. A larger turkey with a hollow stomach can be stuffed with confetti and small candies. Having multiple turkey piñatas at your Thanksgiving will add a unique and memorable spin to the family event.
Aside from the confetti and candies, you’ll also need a string to hang the piñata turkey up when it’s done being made and stuffed, as well as a child-friendly bat made from a soft material. As for the papier-mâché activity itself, you’re going to need plenty of scrap paper of various colors, a bowl or other objects for modelling purposes, and lots of glue. If you have the time, you can actually make your own papier-mâché paste using water, sugar, white vinegar, and cornstarch.
Sometimes it’s better to do simpler activities, especially when kids are involved. If you don’t want to make a mess with paste and paper, then the young ones can make turkeys with their hands. Using a marker, crayon, or colored pencil, kids can trace their hands to make the classic turkey shape. Make sure to provide them with extra colors for their finger-feathers and a nice background.
After the arts and crafts, you can have a designated pair of judges to hand out ribbons for the best turkey creations.
10. A Turkey Sumo Wrestling Tournament
Sumo wrestling is an ancient Japanese sport, but it can also become one of the most memorable and hilarious activities of your entire Thanksgiving celebration. To play this game, people usually purchase inflatable sumo wrestling suits, but did you know they have inflatable turkey costumes, too? You’ll be glad to hear that you can find some fairly inexpensive turkey costumes and they’re even waterproof as well as one-size-fits-all.
With a big turkey belly and bottom, you can host a full-on sumo wrestling match in your back yard. You can use a can of spray paint to create the ring in the grass or, if possible, use a gardening tool to dig a big circle in the dirt.
To be safe, make sure that all participants are wearing helmets. Two people at a time will have to suit up and then, once the match starts, it’s up to each competitor to try and push the other out of the circle. Getting them to fall over is another way to win the match.
Like in a tournament, each winner of the preliminary matches should go head-to-head until there’s only one super turkey sumo victor. It’s definitely worth creating a funny trophy for the winner of this epic Thanksgiving activity, such as a big golden turkey.
11. Outdoor Thanksgiving Film Festival
After the adrenaline rush of a turkey sumo wrestling tournament, it’d be a good idea to relax for the rest of the evening, especially once everyone has stomachs that are nearly bursting. What’s more cozy than a campfire and a Thanksgiving film festival outside?
Most people aren’t able to bring their television outside, but you can always use a projector to play the movie on the side of your house. Did you know you can even get a miniature movie projector that works with an iPhone?
If you’re wracking your brain about which movies to watch, here are some family-friendly suggestions:
- A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
- Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
- Addams Family Values
- Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow
- Free Birds
- Garfield’s Thanksgiving
- What’s Cooking?
- Dan in Real Life
- A Winnie the Pooh Thanksgiving
- Home for the Holidays
No film festival is complete without some delicious munchies. Traditional popcorn is always great, but kettle popcorn can add to the flavor of this autumn event. If you have room in your budget, then a portable popcorn machine can really sell the film festival atmosphere.
With a campfire, you’ll be able to have more than just popcorn because you can also add yummy s’mores to the menu.
12. Giving Thanks from A to Z
A Thanksgiving celebration isn’t finished without everyone giving thanks. It’s in the name, after all. This year, your loved ones can show their gratitude while also having fun with a simple yet clever game.
To play giving thanks from A to Z, one person starts with A, saying what they’re thankful for using a word that begins with that first letter, such as a beloved “Aunt.” The next person will use B, and so on, until you reach the last letter of the alphabet. If someone can’t think of something, then they’re out.
So that everyone can have a chance to win, you can play multiple rounds. Be sure to start with a different person each time so that some of the players get new letters.
This game is great to play while the turkey’s cooking or even as everyone is enjoying their Thanksgiving meal together.
Are You Ready to Send Out Your Thanksgiving Invitations?
Now that you have 12 wonderful Thanksgiving game ideas for outside, you can start inviting all of your friends and family.
You can make sure all of your loved ones make it to this year’s Thanksgiving by sending them beautiful Thanksgiving invitations that can be printed or sent via email. Greetings Island offers a vast range of designs ranging from the sweet and simple to the absolutely elegant.