Ah, the under-appreciated Thanksgiving break from school.
Not long enough to take the kids on vacation after visiting with family, too long to plop them in front of the TV for 96 hours straight.
Between shuffling turkeys from hot ovens to crowded tables, terrible Detroit Lions games and sleeping overnight in line for a Target Black Friday sale, won't somebody please think of the children and keep them occupied and out of trouble over turkey day break?
Here are 50 ways to survive four days of Thanksgiving with your kids without sacrificing your sanity.
Whether it's just you and your kid and a Nerf football on a slice of grass behind the house or a full-on neighborhood battle in the park, there's no better way to spend a fall afternoon, get out some aggression, get some exercise and grab some bragging rights. Mark an end zone with some twigs and go.
Just stop before you go full-on Monica.
Thanksgiving weekend is the traditional start to holiday blockbuster season at the movies. In fact, the first "Harry Potter" film, "Toy Story 2", "Frozen" and all four "Hunger Games" movies were released on Thanksgiving weekend.
Grab some popcorn and see what's on the big screen this year. We highly recommend a theater with reclining seats.
Santa is currently bringing up the rear at the Macy's parade, so now is the time to sit the kids down with a pencil and paper and have them make their holiday toy wish list to be dropped in the mail to the North Pole.
Set up a craft station in the living room with anything from safety scissors and construction paper to crayons and paper towel rolls to something more advanced. All you really need is imagination.
So many friends and neighbors go away to visit family for Thanksgiving. Offer your kids' services to dog-sit for a couple of days. It's much easier when everyone is off and you can be home 24/7 for the guest pupper, and you'll have an instant companion for your child over the break. Great for families that love dogs but don't have the schedule (or allowance in their lease) to have one of their own.
In person or via satellite, nothing says Thanksgiving more than a parade.
Head down the block to the town main street Thanksgiving parade with firetrucks and Shriners or set up the fam in front of the TV to watch hours of passing balloon floats at the Macy's Day Parade.
Haven't seen Aunt Shelly in a couple of months? Thanksgiving break might not be long enough to fly to see family across the country, but it's the perfect time to load up the car and hit the highway to make a quick overnight jaunt to see a relative who might just be only a few hours away.
For many, Thanksgiving weekend is the traditional time to head to the Christmas tree lot with the family and pick out the perfect O Tannenbaum. But beware — at an average of $66, Black Friday is the most expensive day of the year to buy a Christmas tree.
For much of the country, the end of November might be the last chance to pitch a tent outside and camp with the kids before winter sets in. Sleeping bags and campfires are more fun on a holiday weekend, just a few feet into the backyard or miles from nowhere in a national forest.
Have you ever seen “Top Chef Junior?" Kids as young as 10 are creating masterpieces in the kitchen. Your kiddo might not be the next Bobby Flay, but there are many things they can do in the kitchen to feel like they're helping like peeling garlic and mashing potatoes. And even if worse comes to worst, the most klutzy kid can load the dishwasher after the meal.
The Detroit Lions at 12:30 p.m. (ET) and the Dallas Cowboys at 4:15 p.m. (ET) — every Thanksgiving like the sunrise. Grandpa in the Barcalounger and kids on the floor in front of the set is the biggest non-food Thanksgiving tradition for much of America.
Even if the kids aren't into football, Fox and CBS always make sure the action off the field is as enjoyable as the game, from Santas in the crowd to giant turkey legs and turduckens. And everyone can get a big laugh talking about the “Butt Fumble."
The leaves are still crunchy on the ground and a slight chill is in the air. Grab the whole family, bundle up and strap on the hiking boots and hit your local wooded trail or an urban park. For extra enjoyment, load everyone up with a thermos of hot chocolate.
A great alternative to the loud and boisterous holiday weekend crowds at the mall is a quiet respite at your local library. Kids of all ages will love browsing through the stacks of books, and many libraries have scheduled storytime with wonderful volunteer storytellers. Got some books your kids have grown out of? Let them pack up a box and donate to your local branch.
Got a yard in need of some leaf cleanup? Buy a child-sized rake and let the kids sweep the fallen leaves into a pile — and then have them jump in it. Then do it again. Last time around, have them help load all the leaves into bags to take to the curb or set aside for composting.
Looking for a new Thanksgiving tradition? Many families load up the car right after Thanksgiving dinner and head to the local Target, Best Buy or mall to line up for midnight Black Friday sales.
Warning: This is only for the strong of character, calm of heart and wide of awake.
You don't have to live near Broadway to take in some theater. Local community playhouses, school theater groups and rep companies have amazing productions of all types. And many regional theaters start their Christmas-themed plays Thanksgiving weekend to get in the spirit.
You can buy LEGO bricks by the pound on eBay. You don't need fancy LEGO sets or movie-branded LEGO worlds. Grab a few pounds of brick varieties, set up a card table and let your kid's imagination do the rest. Play as a family and see how massive a LEGO structure you can build!
If you stop and think about it, it's kind of a gruesome tradition. But breaking the wishbone is a time-honored ritual after a big turkey dinner. It's a practice thousands of years old, so there are no rules.
You don't have to always make a wish over the game. Pit two kids against each other and change it up. Make the loser help with the dishes. Let the winner choose the post-meal movie. The possibilities are endless.
Santa isn't the only one this season that can make a list. Grab a pad of paper and jot down a couple dozen items and let the kids go to town looking around. A scavenger hunt can happen almost anywhere — in the house, around the neighborhood or even on the internet.
Give the mid-range and older kids the job of capturing the Thanksgiving festivities on their phones. Let them take a ton of pictures, and then sort through them after dinner.
When the perfect slideshow is crafted, have them hook their phone up to the Chromecast, Fire Stick or Apple TV and show their project off to the family.
What does Thanksgiving mean to your family? Ask the kids that question and have them gather some odds and ends, newspaper clippings, printed out photos and personal notes from the family and seal them up in a time capsule box. Store the box away in the attic or buried in the backyard and set a reminder on your phone's calendar to open it up a year, five years or a decade from today.
Some people don't put up a tree and decorate their house until Christmas Eve. Those people are weird. Everyone knows the holiday season starts the moment pumpkin pie is served Thanksgiving night.
Use your four-day weekend to take the Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa decorations down from the attic or out of storage and start stringing up lights and hanging stockings. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
By Thanksgiving weekend, both Hallmark Channel's “Countdown to Christmas" and Hallmark Movie Channel's “Most Wonderful Movies of Christmas" are already well in full swing.
Plop the kids on the couch and flip on either channel any time of day during the holiday weekend and be regaled by the family-friendly acting stylings of Candace Cameron-Bure, Lacey Chabert and Lori Loughlin.
Thanksgiving is not only a time for family, but also when we reflect on what we're most thankful for. It's important for kids to understand that everyone isn't as fortunate as they are, and Thanksgiving is the perfect time to give back to your community, formally or informally.
The kids can do it on their own by shoveling driveways or raking yards for elderly or disabled neighbors, making cookies or hot chocolate for the cops and firefighters that have to work on Thanksgiving or knitting scarves and wool caps to donate to sick children.
Give away your kid for Thanksgiving! Yes, but not quite.
Call up a fellow mom or dad with a kid about your kid's age and propose a sleepover exchange. Your friend's child hosts yours one night and you switch it up for the second night. Your kids are busy and occupied and each of the families gets a night off.
Big cities and small alike have a bevy of wonderful fun and educational attractions perfect for a family day out of the house during the holiday. Find a local aquarium or zoo and visit the animals, take in a kid-friendly museum or explore fall in a local garden. And many are free for kids or request a small donation.
From intricate to simple, a corn maze can be hours of fun for kids of any age, whether your goal is to get lost or to get found. Just make sure your phones are charged in case you go missing.
Did you know the first modern corn maze, called “The Amazing Maize Maze," was built in 1993 in Lebanon County, PA, and the largest corn maze is a 60-acre behemoth in Dixon, CA?
No, this doesn't sound like fun. But whether your kid is an overachiever or could use a little extra practice, the downtime during the holiday break is the perfect chance to get ahead or back on track. It's also a great opportunity for you and your child to sit and have some quiet one-on-one time figuring out math problems and researching history.
Your kids don't have to play Fortnight or NBA2K by themselves while you're off catching up on “Grey's." Grab a controller and go head-to-head with your child or form teams and play adults versus kids.
Are you a video game n00b? What a great opportunity to have your kid teach you something!
No work and no school means no alarm. Let your kids hit the hay late and wake up whenever they want. And they can let you sleep as well by giving them the OK to get up and watch TV or YouTube on their own.
Fish out old Halloween costumes and let your kids play dress-up while they put together a play. They can use their favorite books or let them make up their own stories.
Pop some popcorn and as soon as they're ready, invite the adults to join you on the couch as the show starts.
Who said coloring books are just for kids? Adults can also benefit from coloring in between the lines. Researchers found that coloring has a de-stressing effect on everyone.
So, make coloring a family activity around the table — talk about crayons, colored pencils and what colors are your favorite.
As part of Thanksgiving dinner, have everyone write down what they're thankful for on a post-it. Yes, even the little ones. When everyone's notes are in the jar, read them out loud and try to guess who it belongs to.
Keep the jar around throughout the year for the kids to submit what they're grateful for.
Between smartphones and emerging tech, kids need to be ready for the future. Luckily, Code.org makes it easy for kids to learn how to code through basic, fun exercises. Their one-hour tutorials have familiar characters and music to get them through building their own games or design an app.
Maybe you're already deep into a "Harry Potter" book with your kids, but storytime shouldn't only be reserved for bedtime. Make a blanket fort in your living room and snuggle up inside as you read over the next chapter. Maybe it will trigger some naps in the group — always a good thing.
Those lucky enough to have cold temperatures and access to a backyard can build a bonfire and make a s'mores station, complete with all needed ingredients like graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows.
Get long skewers for the kids to prepare their own marshmallows, but stay safe in the process.
Get your kids excited about science with just a few household items. You only need food coloring, vinegar, baking soda, oil and a few others to conduct some fun experiments in your kitchen.
Science Kids has many experiments like floating eggs, crazy putty and more. Rainbow Wizard's Brew, anyone?
Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season and with it, more opportunities for ice skating outdoors. Bundle up your whole family and head to your local park to drink hot chocolate as you attempt not to fall. It's a holiday tradition!
Many cities have local museums with interactive exhibitions and kid-focused activities for them to learn more about art, science and other fun facts about the world.
Use this opportunity to check out a new museum that you haven't visited before and make a day of it.
How many things can you pickle aside from cucumbers? Make a small pickle station with mason jars, sliced vegetables (think radishes, carrot, red onions), vinegar and pickling spices.
Let the kids pack their own jars with the pickles they want and enjoy them in a few days after they've fermented.
The art of ordering, packaging and mailing Christmas cards on time is a feat only accomplished by the most organized.
Make it a family affair this year and set up an assembly line with stamps, making address labels and let everyone sign them. Together, you'll make it!
Using delivery boxes, toys, rope, orange cones and other items, create a small obstacle course in your backyard. Time each kid as they go through the obstacle course and make it a competition.
Keep a scoreboard and change the course a couple of times to get different winners each time.
If you missed out on a spot for your family to volunteer at the local soup kitchen, you can still help your city's food- and home-insecure population. Grab a box of Ziploc bags and with a small assembly line, let your kids fill each one with different travel-size toiletry items, a bus pass, feminine hygiene products, a list of nearby shelters and protein bars.
Keep them in a basket in your car and pass them around as you see people in need.
With Christmas on the horizon, it's time to do a once-over all of the toys and games in the house that your kids may have outgrown. Let them pull out all of their toys and separate them into two piles — keep and donate.
Put all of the donations in bags and head to your local thrift store. Start the holiday season feeling good and with more room.
Three words! Is it a movie? Charades can involve the whole family, even relatives staying with you over the holidays. Fill up a bowl with movie names, well-known celebrities and any other trivia. Be careful to not go too obscure!
Grab a timer and set up the teams before starting.
Before throwing those old magazines in the recycling bin, set them out for your kids to make collages. With child-safe scissors, glue sticks, markers and glitter, let them cut out their favorite letters and photos.
Pick a theme and do a cat-walk at the end so they can show off their creations.
Get together with your neighbors that are in town and put on a garage sale at one of your houses. Make fun signs, do an inventory of what you want to sell and get a few stacks of small bills. Have the kids help stick price tags and count the change from the sales.
It'll earn you a little bit more cash for Christmas gifts and make room for new upcoming gifts.
If you or your spouse are runners, participate in your local Thanksgiving day Turkey Trot race. Spend the day before making signs together for the kids to cheer the runners from the sidelines. Have the kids join in if your town has a children-only race.
Maybe you think it's too early to visit the Christmas tree farm, but you can still head to the town square to see the first lighting of the tree. Most cities make a full event of it with food, art markets and holiday-themed activities.
As shown by the many Oktoberfest celebrations, the country's German population has brought many of its traditions to the U.S. One of our favorites is Christkindlmarkt, the German-style Christmas markets.
You can find them in Minnesota, Milwaukee, Helen, GA, Chicago and more. Find out if you have one near you and take a road trip to Santa's Village.