The Ultimate Long-Distance Thanksgiving

This Week

Thanksgiving in Canada is a time for family, food, and giving thanks for all we have. But many people live far from their families and are unable to travel long distances to see them. Sometimes a phone call will suffice, but in today’s age of technology, video can make it almost as though they are in the room.  Here are some ideas to create The Ultimate Long-Distance Thanksgiving.

When I think of including travel-impaired family at Thanksgiving dinner, the Sheldon Robot from The Big Bang Theory first comes to mind.  But having Cousin Gerry or Grandma seated at the table with a scarecrow body and an iPad for a head might be a bit ridiculous. These images have the right idea though: video calling.

Video Tech

Now, we are going to assume a computer or tablet equipped with video and speakers, plus a high-speed Internet connection are already in hand for both parties.  The next step is software. Skype and ooVoo are both free to use with a quick download.  (Note: they each have additional paid features for frequent or business users but basic personal service is free.)  Both software work on PC, MAC and mobile devices.

Each software has it’s own benefits, depending on your Thanksgiving needs.  Skype’s free version includes the “screen sharing” feature.  So, if the kids want to show grandma their latest class photo stored on the computer, it can be easily shared.  ooVoo’s great free feature is group video.  Up to 12 people, in separate locations, can all participate in the same video call.  Uncle George, Cousin Gerry and Grandma can all chat with the kids at the same time.

Now let’s spice up that video call!

Holiday Decor

A little holiday decoration for your video call will make long distance relatives see and feel the spirit.  And decorating will keep the kids busy, possibly for days, or just while parents cook.

First, choose a spot for the video call.

Next, make note of how far in each direction the video camera can see.

Finally, decorate the background. There are lots of simple craft ideas for the kids to try ahead of time to decorate with; many have printable elements to make it even easier. Some neat ideas are:

  • At Second Street has a free printable banner to try.
  • Silver Box Creative Studio offers a printable “I Am Thankful” paper chain template.  These can be customized by each family member writing what they are thankful for on individual chains.  Stickers would look great too!
  • Paper Glitter created a downloadable, free Thanksgiving kit.  It includes templates for place setting markers, activity sheet, crafts and more.
  • Finally, All Kids Network has a variety of craft ideas for kids.  My favourite is the Leaf Turkey for a little extra fall spirit, but the super-easy Handprint Turkey is excellent as well.

A Shared Meal

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without a shared meal. So unless Scarecrow Grandma is going to roll up to the feast, some tiny video call snacks are in order. has fantastic, Thanksgiving themed, easy-to-do snacks. Choose a couple snack recipes head of time and email them to all callers.  Have the kids prepare their creations ahead of time to show off during the call. If there are many kids who want to speak with Grandma, she will need a snack prepared ahead of time. Check out Teeny Turkeys, Turkey Tracks and Gobble Me for some healthy ideas.

Conversation Starters and Talking Points

Last but not least, if there is a lull in conversation Thanksgiving talking points can be found all around the web.

  • Always remember to ask what each person is thankful for.
  • Turkey Trivia can get things going again! (Did you know, wild turkeys can fly?)
  • A slide show of digital pictures can be shared (if using Skype) to help family members catch up with the goings-on of recent months.
  • And, the ultimate trivia tidbit…

The first Thanksgiving celebration in North America was in, what would become, Canada!  “English navigator Martin Frobisher held a celebration of thanks in 1578, in what is now Newfoundland, as he had survived the long journey over the seas.”  You can read more about Martin Frobisher and Canadian Thanksgiving history here and here. (But read up ahead of time as these are grown-up articles.)

With a little effort, the long-distance Thanksgiving video call will be a highlight of the day for family members who can not join the celebrations in person.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

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