Thanksgiving is a treasured family holiday basted in tradition, conjuring visions of turkey, mashed potatoes, parades, and yes, football. But it can also be nerve-racking and a little boring. A few simple ideas can help families have their pumpkin pie and eat it too, while making sure every family member plays a part and finds some meaning. Plus, the whole day won’t have to be timed down to the last second.

1. Push Record!

Remember there is a record button on your DVR remote. Just hit it a few times and your family won’t miss the fun balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the touchdown pass in that traditional football rivalry. Recording events lets you have family time for food and fellowship, and then watch holiday TV fare together. It cuts down on distractions and makes concentrating on the meal – and the family – so much easier.

2. Football on TV Isn't the Only Game

When the festivities bog down and the meal is having its effect on droopy eyes, try a family game like turkey tag. Three or four brightly colored clothespins fashioned into turkey beaks with a little construction paper can make for a fun activity. Or consider any favorite family game — blind man’s bluff or touch football or hoops outside on a pretty day — as long as they involve physical activity. Kids will enjoy burning off the dessert sugars, and adults will appreciate burning a few calories.

3. Little Chefs

Wrangle some help in making appetizers, but don’t make the work or the food too heavy! With the aid of some pre-made deviled egg filling or pimiento cheese and celery, along with an old vinyl tablecloth, you can turn coffee tables and the kitchen table into work stations for your little helpers. Kids of all ages will enjoy making easy, healthy snacks with little or no supervision. Teenagers may even enjoy the challenge of helping to cook parts of the meal, as long as you don’t make it seem like a punishment.

4. Artistic License

Why dirty Mom’s fancy tablecloth? Every family has a resident artist or two. Hand out the color crayons and butcher or craft paper and let the kids come up with place mats. Creative kiddoes can search for pine cones to turn into place-card holders for all the guests. Have them take Popsicle sticks and glue them into the pine cones, then attach construction-paper cut into the shape of turkeys or cornucopias. Label the paper with names of friends or relatives, and voila, you have holiday-themed places at the table for Aunt Violet or Cousin George. Older children can decorate a basket for the foyer where everyone can put their keys and cellphones. It’s family time, so keeping devices away from the dinner table can become a treasured tradition, too.

5. Actually Give Thanks

The day is, after all, Thanksgiving, a time to express gratitude for all of our blessings, whether or not we’re particularly devout. Go around the table getting individual expressions of gratitude. Remember to invite a lonely neighbor or friend to your celebration. Your pastor or a service organization could probably suggest someone. There are also tangible and helpful ways to say thanks for your bounty. Some 18 percent of Arkansans live below the poverty line — about one in six. Consider donating to charities of your choice or aiding groups like Arkansas Foodbank or the Little Rock Compassion Center. The center provides food, clothing and shelter. These forms of thanksgiving can leave a long-lasting impression on young ones.

A simple pine cone, painted or plain, can serve as the starting point for some crafty place-card holders. The kids can glue a Popsicle stick into the pine cone, then attach construction paper cut into the form of a turkey or cornucopia. They can write guests’ names on the paper, and, voila! You have personalized place cards for Aunt Violet and Cousin George.