Day #4: Need some games to play on Thanksgiving Day (or at a school classroom party)? It can get pretty boring for the little ones while the adults are cleaning up dinner or watching football. Here are two games to entertain your kiddos.

Thanksgiving Boat Races

Just like Columbus and his crew crossed the ocean in search of the new world, so can your kids with these little boats made from milk cartons and powered by balloons.

You will need: one small milk carton or whipped cream carton to make 2 boats, exacto knife, hole punch or scissors, brown spray paint, one 12″ white balloon per child or boat, sticker letters, blue paper like wrapping paper or butcher paper, a marker for drawing a map

Directions: Take an empty milk carton and cut it in half lengthwise with an exacto knife. Make sure you cut it through the pinched together part at the top, not the other direction. Wash and dry each half really well. This will make two boats but you might want to make three boats like we did, to represent the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. In this case you’ll have to have more milk cartons–but you can make as many boats as you’d like. Using a hole punch or scissors, make a hole at the flat end of the boat (look at the picture for reference). Punch more holes around the first or use the scissors to enlarge the hole to the size of a dime. Spray paint each boat brown and let dry. Meanwhile, take your blue wrapping or butcher paper and draw a map of the new world with a black marker for the boats to sail to. Once your boats are dry you can add sticker letters to the sides to name your boats.

When the kids are ready for the boat race, set up your map on a table. Have the kids tuck their balloon through the hole in their boat and blow up the balloon. Starting on one side of the map, have them set down their boats. Everyone releases their balloons at the same time. You never know what each fantastic voyage will bring. Some boats sail straight ahead, some boats go in circles, and some fall off the side of the table (the world is flat after all, right?). They can race and race over and over again, as often as they want to keep blowing up their balloon. Bon voyage!

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Roll

This game is fast moving and so much fun. Kids can compete against each other around an impromptu obstacle course in the back yard or divide into teams and have a relay race.

You will need: 2 smallish 4-6″ in diameter pumpkins and 2 brooms

Directions: Push the broom like you’re sweeping to get your pumpkin to roll. Small pumpkins should roll really well on their side. Have fun racing your opponent to this finish line.

Photos by Sara Westbrook.


  1. Thanks for the great game ideas! Love the balloon boats especially!

    Erin    Thursday, November 4, 2010
  2. Thanks for sharing all your creative and fun ideas!! <3 them!!

    adriana    Thursday, November 4, 2010
  3. These games look like a lot of fun! The pumpkin roll is right up my alley, since the floor will get cleaned as a bonus!! Thanks for sharing, Brittany!

    Karen ~ lillybelle Custom Designs    Thursday, November 4, 2010
  4. What clever ideas!

    michelle    Thursday, November 4, 2010
  5. Love the boat race! I included a link to this post in a roundup of Thanksgiving ideas on my other site ( Hope that’s OK! :)

    meaghan (the decorated cookie)    Monday, November 8, 2010
  6. I love these ideas. We have huge family potluck thanksgiving, its more like a family reunion this will def help us keep the kids entertained

    Anel    Monday, November 8, 2010
  7. Thank you so much for all the great ideas! We did a variation of the paper turkey and the boat race, and we borrowed from the Pioneer Party for ideas on making our own bread & butter. You’re so clever!

    SoKnitpicky    Thursday, November 25, 2010
  8. Found your game on Pinterest and used it today for our 3rd grade class Thanksgiving party! Was a great success! One note though — the kids had trouble with blowing up the balloons, so I think when I reuse the game next year, we will puff the boats across with straws and I’ll just make a simple paper sail for the boats instead. But what a WINNER of an idea. :)

    Amy    Tuesday, November 22, 2011
  9. I’m not sure what we did wrong, but the balloons don’t seem to be powerful enough to move our boats-unless we put them in water :(
    We modified and made sails to blow the boats instead. We used bendy straws and an index card to stabilize- for added fun I put a skewer through the straw and let them design flags to go on the top. They turned out cute. We used them for pirate ships, but if you want to use the boats for Thanksgiving you may want to label it the Mayflower just to be more Pilgrimish.

    cindy    Friday, March 2, 2012
  10. Hi cindy–Thanks for the tips. I think we used a full size balloon for the boats. I know that Sara tested them out several times, so I’m not sure what the difference would be. I’m glad you found a solution though! xo

    Brittany    Sunday, March 4, 2012

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