Thanksgiving gratitude tradition

gratitudeWhat it is: A Thanksgiving tradition my mother-in-law always does. It’s a talking reflection activity, a great way to develop grateful hearts because it goes beyond the typical “Name one thing you’re grateful for this year.”

Best for: A group of people, any size, at a Thanksgiving dinner.

What you need: You’ll need slips of paper with different items you can be grateful for written down on them. I provide a free printable below. When my mother-in-law does it, they’re always cute crafty papers punched out the shape of leaves or shaped to look like little pilgrim boats or something. Mine are a kind of cheap imitation, but if you print them on cardstock and cut them out I think they might look okay. :) Feel free to use some of my word ideas and make your own cards as cute or as plain as you would like them to be.

How to play: The tradition is pretty simple. At Thanksgiving dinner, each guest will be given one card with different items you can be grateful for written on them. These can include things like familyhomefoodsunshine and some that are more specific (like a random act of kindness). After everyone has eaten, go around the table and have each guest tell a story or explain the time they were most grateful for the item on their card.

My mother-in-law usually preassigns the cards by setting them at place settings. You could also have guests randomly draw a card. But I like having them at the place setting at the beginning of the meal because it gives everyone a chance to think (this is one of those things that you need to think about). One thing to be aware of, some of the topics could be sensitive or difficult for some guests, so allowing trading is always a fine idea.

The stories can be longer or shorter; they might just be a few words. But I’ve found that it’s really a great activity that leaves everyone feeling grateful for the blessings we do have, because a lot of times the time when we were most grateful for something is the time we didn’t have it. There’s something about hearing others’ stories or grateful experiences that is very powerful. I love Thanksgiving at my in-law’s because we do this each time.

If you want an example, say I were given the card food. I might tell about the time when I had finished labor and delivery with my first child, and I was amazed and happy and exhausted and I hadn’t eaten in twelve hours. And then my new son and I made it to our recovery room and he was all swaddled and clean and my husband was there, and I got to order lunch! And the hospital food tasted so good, and I don’t think I had ever been more grateful just to have food to eat. The experiences can be as simple as that.

Printables: Here is the printable I made! I’d recommend printing on cardstock. Feel free to pick and choose. The items should be pretty universal, except for the last three pages. Those pages are specific to the Latter-day Saint or Mormon culture (the church I belong to). Feel free to use or not use those pages as you see fit.

Thanksgiving gratitude talking

Would you rather

What it is: A hypothetical talking game where players choose which of two scenarios they’d rather do.

Best for: Any number of players. It’s a great two-player game.

What you need: Nothing! Aren’t those games the best? It can be nice if you have a pre-made list of “would you rather” scenarios. Guess what? I made one! You can download it for free below.

How to play: Basically players take turns asking each other questions starting with “Would you rather…” and ending with two different scenarios. Like, “Would you rather have to wear ski goggles for the rest of your life…


…or have to wear a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask?”


(p.s. is Donatello your favorite?)

As demonstrated, the questions are usually a little wacky/silly/absurd. (In some variations, they’re also gross/weird, but I don’t like those questions as much.)

Some other examples of would you rather questions:

  • Would you rather live to be 90 with great health or live an extra ten years past 90 with not-so-great health?
  • Would you rather live off of bread only or live off of anything but carbs?
  • Would you rather be respected but feared or laughed at and loved?

The questions can be thoughtful, silly, or completely hypothetical. It’s fun for players to think up their own questions, too.

Once someone asks a question, everyone else must answer the question. Then another player gets to ask a question.

Another variation for a large group is to have one player draw a question (like from the list I made below) and answer it alone. Then another player draws another question and answers it for themselves, and so on. This could work well if you have so many people, it’s hard to have everyone answer each question.

Printables: Here’s the list of Would you rather questions I came up with. It’s two pages long, so not a ton, but definitely enough to get you started or get you thinking of ideas. Once you get playing with a good group, the ideas usually start coming to players. It’s a fun talking game to play.

Printable-markerWould you rather

Categories list

What it is: A very flexible game with lots of adaptations.

Best for: A group of about 4 to 10.

What you need: You’ll need a list of categories (I’ve provided one below) and possibly a timer and pens and paper.

How to play: Basically the challenge is to try and think of as many items in a category as you can. An example category would be fast food.


And items in the category? Chicken nuggets, tacos, hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, McDonald’s apple pies, chicken sandwiches, and on and on. How many things can you think of?

Variations: There are many different ways you could set up your game. Here’s a few to get you started.

Like the game Scattergories, you can name as many items in a category that start with the same letter. Choose a letter from the alphabet, draw a category, set a timer, and go! For example, if the category were male names and the letter were C, you could write any of these:

  • Carson
  • Caleb
  • Cole
  • Christian
  • Connor
  • Carter
  • Cameron

You can play on teams, individually, or as a whole group. At the end of the game, everyone takes turns reading all their answers aloud, where questionable answers can be submitted to the group to see if they’ll be allowed or not. (For example: “Camille? That’s a girl’s name!” “But I totally knew a guy named Camille once!” “OK, fine, we’ll allow it.”) If you’re playing against each other, the person who writes down the most names wins. (One variation is to have everyone cross off any name that someone else wrote down, too. That way the person with the most unique answers wins.)

You could also play the above version, but without the restriction of a letter of the alphabet. Any boy name, for example, would work for the above example. Then follow the same rules for the rest of the game.

Another variation which works really well for car rides or killing time can be played one word at a time. In this variation, you pick a category and then take turns saying something from that category, one player at a time. The first person who can’t think of a word that hasn’t already been said is out of the game, and you start a new round with a new category. (The game first letter, last letter is an even more challenging variation of this.)

You could of course use your list of categories to play the pool game categories or a similar game.

What other rules or variations can you come up with?

Printables: Here’s the list of categories! It’s a few pages long, so hopefully it gives you lots of categories to choose from for all of your game-playing needs. :)


Sing a song

What it is: A simple, flexible time-killing activity for anyone who loves music and guessing games.

Best for: 2 to 8 players.

What you need: Nothing!

How to play: This is just a simple guessing game involving singing, but singing a song only one word at a time. One person, like Lucy, starts out by thinking up a song. Then Lucy starts singing the song out loud, but only the first word.

So let’s say Lucy chooses the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” She would start singing the first note: “Take…” Then there are several different ways you can play. You can have other players guess what song Lucy is singing by adding what they think is the next word. Ryan, for example, might think Lucy is singing “Take on Me” (he’s an eighties fan). So Ryan would start singing “on…” Lucy could either shake her head no and let other players continue to guess, or, for a more fluid game, the song could change and now all the other players have to guess what Ryan is singing. The song might change several times as players take turns adding notes and words to what they think the song is. You can have play go in a circle, or just have players sing out in any order when they think they know the next word.

Variations: Another similar game you can play is when one person says a word (like take, for example), and the next player has to think of a song with that word in it. You can play with song titles or song lyrics in general. We played this a lot as just kind of a time-killer, not keeping score or having much structure, but just shouting out words and singing songs as they occurred to us.

So if you like music and have friends who know a lot of songs, they can be some fun games to play to pass the time or try to stump each other.

How many miles?

What it is: A guessing game to play in the car. My family played this a ton when I was growing up because we took a lot of road trips (we were definitely a road trip rather than an airplane family). It’s a nice game to play because it can last the whole trip long, but you can be talking or doing other things in the background while you play. It’s not super concentration-intensive. And everyone can play.

Best for: As little as 2 or as many as a carful of people.

What you need: A journey in a car. A long road trip on roads you don’t drive every day works best. Then just a car and people to play! Optional: Paper and pen, or a way to keep score. (It was paper and pen when I grew up, but today it would totally be my iPhone.)

How to play: This game involves spotting and guessing the numbers on those road signs that say how many miles to a certain city, the green ones, you know? Like this:

The point of the game is to correctly guess the next mile number for a certain city, usually your destination.

So say your car is taking a trip to Dallas. Once you’ve seen one sign that says how many miles are left to Dallas (like Dallas: 215), everyone would take a guess as to the number that will be on the next sign that says how many miles to Dallas. Logically, this could be any number lower than 215. You can use your experience or knowledge or just luck to try to figure out exactly how many miles away the next sign will be placed. But I can tell you from playing this game as a kid, it’s not always what you think! It’s not like there’s always a pattern or a rule, especially as cities and landscapes vary (and this all just makes the game more fun).

So everyone puts in a guess for the number on the next mile sign – you can write them down or just have everyone remember. Let’s say a hypothetical car of people make these guesses:

  • Jamie – 200
  • Louis – 154
  • Ann – 194
  • Jeff – 172

Then everyone can go about other activities, but make sure at least one person is keeping a lookout for the next sign. Once it’s spotted (Dallas: 160), figure out who won that round. For us, the winner was simply the person who had the closest guess, whether it’s lower or higher. In the above example, this would mean Louis wins. I know a lot of times people play number guessing games like this and make a rule that the winner is the closest number that didn’t go under or something like that, but we liked to keep it simple. You can certainly play with rules as complicated as you like.

So Louis would win that round. You can keep a running score pad of who wins each round, or just play for fun and not keep score. But that round would be followed by another, and another, until you reach your destination. Even when you’re driving in the middle of nowhere, you can still play. The signs just might be really far apart, but that’s okay. Closer to cities, the signs might be only a couple of miles apart, and it’s always fun when that throws everyone for a loop. You can guess but you never know for sure, which is why it’s fun. The game is a good way, too, of tracking the distance until you reach your destination, maybe cutting down on the “Are we there yet?” questions. 😉

Another thing: Our family road trips were often so long that we couldn’t play with our final destination right away. So we’d choose bigger cities on the way to play with until we were close enough to use the final destination. (For example, Dallas, then Oklahoma City, then Wichita…) Just make sure everyone agrees on the next city as you guess.

Rules: One rule we had was that everyone had to put in their guess for the next sign before too much time passed. For example, after passing a Dallas: 215 sign and then gathering up the next round of guesses, there were always some of us who liked to delay as long as possible, realizing that the more miles we drove, the better idea we’d have of the next number on the sign. But this was considered cheating, so guesses for the next sign had to be in before a specified time (like a minute). Otherwise your guess is invalid. However, if you wanted to do away with this rule, you definitely could: Then each person can kind of gamble as to how long they want to wait to guess. Wait too long and you might risk passing a sign without guessing at all. But wait long enough and you could have a big advantage over the other players. Come to think of it, I think we played that way sometimes, too. Either way is fun.

Also, when making guesses, no duplicate numbers: if you want to guess 160 but someone already guessed it, too bad. You have to choose a different number. (It was legal to guess just one number lower or higher, which was often a good strategy.) Guesses are first-come, first-serve, which was why we always said our guesses out loud at least, even if we didn’t write them on paper.

Variations: If you’re hardcore, you could keep score by not just writing down the winner of each round, but the number of miles by which each guess was off. Then at the end you total up each person’s miles, and the person with the lowest score wins. For example, take the above list of guesses again:

  • Jamie – 200
  • Louis – 154
  • Ann – 194
  • Jeff – 172

If the right answer was 160, that means each person would be assigned a number of how far they missed the mark:

  • Jamie – 40 (200 minus 160)
  • Louis – 6 (160 minus 154)
  • Ann – 34
  • Jeff – 12

Those numbers would be the scores you write down for each player for that round. To be honest, that’s way too much math for my taste ;-), but if you like a more competitive game and your addition and subtraction, it might be a fun way to play.

However you play, happy road tripping!