Back in the 90’s when all 7 of my kids were home I reached Thanksgiving BURNOUT. We lived on a little farm outside of Dixon, Illinois and had no family nearby. We would often invite a few people to our Thanksgiving feast but it was mostly just us. So it entailed a massive amount of prep and cooking all for a 20-minute meal. And then there was the mess. It was not fun and I didn’t feel very thankful.

Twelve year old Max attacking a turkey leg.

So, I wrote out the menu with all our traditional sides and pies, and put it on the refrigerator. Each child was to choose one or two items to be in charge of (depending on age).

Three year old Theo helping with pumpkin pie.

17 year old Max helping Grandpa carve the Turkey.

A miracle happened. It became FUN! Did I still have a lot of work to do? Yes, but it was different. And the kids LOVED it. It became a cooking event, with lots of fun and laughter in the kitchen.

In recent years Corinne has created a Google doc that she sends out to everyone to sign up. She adds a loose schedule and anything else people need to know.

One of the sections now on the sign up is the schedule of activities. They vary from year to year. Things like Christmas ornament craft, Family Football Game, Mini hike or walk, Thanksgiving Trivia Game, Fruit Loop necklaces and puzzles have all made the list. It just depends on what people are willing to be in charge of, and prepare.

3 year old Sterling with his Fruit Loop Necklace.

Our family FAVORITE is BINGO! We play Bingo between dinner and pies. It is a mashup between Bingo and White Elephant.

Each guest/family brings a small pile of wrapped gifts. They are mostly Dollar Store and Target Dollar Spot stuff. Years ago I dug through old Christmas decorations, most of them were things I had crafted in the 1980’s and ’90’s. I wrapped them up, and my adult children fought over them hardcore. Now every few years they show back up during Bingo. It is so fun to watch them fight over their childhood Christmas decorations, and this way they get passed around every few years. 

Stick on Mustaches were a FUN Bingo gift.




And now we have a Thanksgiving tradition that we love. We hope you enjoy it too!



I was in High School when mom started this new tradition. I love that it has followed all of us into our own families. For many years I lived with my family in Portland far away from mine and my husbands families. We had many years of “Friendsgiving.” We missed our families, but we love the memories of spending Thanksgiving with friends. 

I make a Google Doc and share it with anyone I’ve invited. I encourage them to add pies and dishes to the menu. I never “assign” people what to bring. I tell them to bring whatever will make the day special for them. I have found many new favorites by trying out our friends Thanksgiving favorites. 

Then I print it for my fridge, and encourage my kids to sign up, and help make any of the dishes with my name on it. It always ends up with lots of messy handwriting and scribbles, but it’s not meant to be pretty. 

Obviously, not all of my children are able to make a pie or stuff the acorn squash on their own. The point is that we are in the kitchen together. I call out to whoever is signed up for the next dish, and if it’s my 9 year old son he will need me to be right by his side, and he will mostly be helping me.  

There are many reasons why this tradition is one of my favorites. 

  1. Thanksgiving is about gathering and family. This promotes us spending more time together. The mom isn’t by herself doing all the prep.
  2. By the time kids are teenagers they can pretty much make these things on their own. How many 18 year olds can say they are confident in their pie making skills?
  3. It’s a great way to include the guests you have invited to your feast. 


Click below for our free PDF that you can edit with your own menu and sign up for your family! Thanksgiving_Menu_editable