Thanksgiving and Occupational Therapy: Embracing the Festivities Through Meaningful Activities

Festive cornucopia arrangement with copy space

As the warmth of Thanksgiving surrounds us, there’s an undeniable sense of gratitude and community in the air. While the holiday is centered around hearty meals and shared stories, it’s also an opportunity to incorporate therapeutic activities that not only foster connection but also engage and challenge our physical, cognitive, and sensory capacities. Let’s explore how the principles of occupational therapy can be woven into our Thanksgiving celebrations.

1. Crafting Together: Fine Motor Skills & Creativity

Engage the family in crafting activities like making decorative placements or handprint turkeys. Not only does this spark creativity, but it also aids in refining fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and cognitive functions. Using tools like scissors, glue, and colorful markers can make it a therapeutic and delightful exercise.

2. Cooking as Therapy: Functionality & Task Sequencing

Preparing a Thanksgiving dish involves several steps: measuring, stirring, and following a recipe. These tasks engage cognitive processing, executive function, and bilateral coordination. Additionally, the sensory experience of handling different textures and smelling various aromas can be stimulating.

3. Sensory-Friendly Spaces

For family members or guests with sensory sensitivities, Thanksgiving can be overwhelming. Consider setting up a quiet zone with soft lighting, weighted blankets, and calming sensory tools. It can be a retreat for anyone who needs a break from the hustle and bustle.

4. Gratitude Journaling: Emotional Well-being & Handwriting Practice

Encourage everyone to write down what they’re thankful for. This activity promotes emotional expression while doubling as a handwriting exercise. Plus, sharing these notes can be a heartwarming end to the day.

5. Movement Breaks: Gross Motor Skills & Energy Release

Intersperse the day with fun movement activities. A game of charades, a dance session, or even a backyard catch can help release excess energy, enhance gross motor skills, and provide a therapeutic respite from prolonged sitting.

6. Story Time: Cognitive Stimulation & Social Interaction

Sharing stories of past Thanksgivings or discussing what everyone is thankful for can be mentally stimulating. For older adults, it can be a trip down memory lane, aiding cognitive recall and processing, while for children, it’s an opportunity for language development.

7. Remembering Independence & Adaptations

Thanksgiving, with its emphasis on meals, provides an occasion to reinforce independent eating and self-care skills. For those who need them, ensure adaptive tools like angled utensils, plate guards, and nonslip mats are available.

In Conclusion

Thanksgiving, at its core, is a celebration of togetherness and gratitude. By integrating occupational therapy principles into the day’s activities, we can ensure that everyone, regardless of their therapeutic needs, can participate meaningfully and joyfully.


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