I don’t know about you, but I have loved all the Thanksgiving parades on television since childhood. I thought these were the most exciting events to see and hear–the wonderfully colorful band outfits and costumes of the balloon handlers, the huge school bands with majorettes, flag girls, drill teams and more playing majestic holiday music. Getting to see numbers from Broadway shows as well as watching the Rockettes from Radio City–I was in seventh heaven!!! My brothers and I watched these parades every Thanksgiving morning before we headed to my grandmother’s house for the big family turkey luncheon.
Trying to get my two young sons involved in watching the parades was not as easy as I had expected when I was trying to create some new family traditions. I gave each of them inexpensive Christmas village pieces, so they could create their own holiday towns on the top of our family room pie-safe and television console. These village pieces came out on Thanksgiving morning so the boys could build their towns while they watched and listened to the parades. Over the years, we added hills, fences, mirrors for ponds, fake snow and tiny cards and figures to the landscape. I think my favorite sights were the parking lots full of little cars at the school and church, and the Star Wars figures waging a battle in the little Victorian street. The boys did see more of the parades than they would if they were not constructing their towns, but they still weren’t as involved as I had hoped.
I have since rethought my Thanksgiving mornings and decided that having a Thanksgiving parade watching party is a better way to encourage parade enjoyment. Being intentional about watching a parade together as a family or as a group of friends is more likely to bring about real involvement. If you are sleeping in or working hard in the kitchen preparing the holiday meal, your family may drift off to their phones or computers and never notice the parade on the screen.
There are several ways to approach a party like this. If you don’t have a big holiday meal to prepare on Thanksgiving Day because you celebrate with family on a different day, then this day off from school and work could be the perfect time for a stay-in-your-pajamas, bring-your-pillows-to-the-family-room special brunch. Fix family favorites like pancakes, waffles, monkey bread or egg casseroles and serve this casual meal on trays, on the coffee table or tray tables.
If you are not doing the big holiday meal at your house, you might be willing to invite your neighbors’ children over to watch the parades with your family while the other adults prepare their turkey and sides. You will earn their undying gratitude!
You may want to prepare a fun parade watching checklist to give each child on a clipboard to keep up his or her interest–you can include items like these:
- How many bands performed? What band came the most far to participate? What was your favorite band? What was your favorite uniform?
- What was your favorite giant balloon? What was the oldest balloon in the parade? What was the newest one?
- Name three celebrities who rode on floats?
- What was your favorite float?
- How was Santa dressed this year?
- What was your favorite cheering or dance group?
- What would you be or ride on if you could be in this parade?
You might also want to have some holiday crafts ready for the children to do while they watch or during commercials. Making simple garlands of paper, popcorn or cranberries would not district the children from watching the parade. During commercials, you might send the children out for a fast run outside or inside if you have room to expel excess energy. You could also have some activity stations each child could try–like running in place, lifting light weights, or stretching.
Be sure to talk with your children about the many things you are seeing while watching the parade. The parade emcees throw out many interesting facts throughout the broadcast that you can call to the children’s attention–how far some of the groups came, how the floats are made, how hard the groups worked to earn the money to come, and so much more. Before you know it, your family may become Thanksgiving parade fanatics! Enjoy!