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15 Family Bonding Activities You Can Do Instead of Black Friday Shopping

Do you really want to deal with those crowds? Didn't think so.

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Have a DIY extravaganza

Get a start on your gift list without stepping foot in a mall on Black Friday. Gather craft supplies and let your kids get to work creating homemade presents for everyone on their lists. Your kids will love rolling out clay ornaments or putting together Mason jar snow globes. Better yet, find a craft you’ve all been dying to learn, like knitting or scrapbooking. Get inspired by these cheap Christmas decorations you can make yourself. (Plus, get our FREE guide for an unforgettable Thanksgiving. You’ll get easy recipes, kid-friendly crafts and games, inspiring traditions, and more ideas for the best holiday yet.)

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Interview family members

Have extended family in town? Now’s your chance to delve in to your family’s history. Pull up your phone’s video or audio recorder, and sit older relatives down for an interview. They’ll love reminiscing, and you’ll get to hear fascinating firsthand stories about what the world was like when they were growing up. Here are more fun activities to add to your fall bucket list.

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iStock/Steve Debenport

Serve at a soup kitchen

Volunteers are often so excited to pitch in at food banks during Thanksgiving and other winter holidays that there are too many cooks in the kitchen—while other days go ignored. Indulge in your regular feast on Turkey Day but spend your time volunteering the next day, when soup kitchens are in more need of helpers. Here are the important things food banks want you to know during the holidays.

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Host a potluck

You aren’t the only one who will probably have weeks’ worth of leftovers that you’ll never be able to finish (at least without getting sick of turkey sandwiches). Gather a few friends you didn’t get to see on Thanksgiving for a potluck of leftovers on Black Friday. Even if you don’t stuff yourself as much as you did the day before, it’s a great excuse to enjoy good company and make sure your bounty doesn’t go to waste.

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Head to a museum

With everyone flocking shopping centers, your local museums may be less crowded on Black Friday. Take advantage by guiding your kids through the quiet exhibits, spending as much time as you want at each display without craning your neck around other visitors. For some ideas, here’s the best free tourist attraction in every state.

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iStock/Tashi Delek

Stock up on reading

Another spot you can bet won’t be busy the day after Thanksgiving? Your local library. Take advantage of the extra time your librarian will have by having each of your kids ask for recommendations.

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Before the holiday stress really sets in, reserve Black Friday as a quiet day with the family. Pile on to the couch to read out loud or in your heads with your library haul, or dig out the colored pencils and get everyone (kids and adults!) coloring.

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Have a board game marathon

Who needs to get up at the crack of dawn for the latest and greatest new video game console when a deck of cards can entertain for hours? Dig out your playing cards and favorite board games, and challenge your family to a tournament. Winner gets rights to the last piece of pumpkin pie. If you don’t own these classic board games, you should!

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Write letters

Keep the thankful spirit strong with a letter-writing workshop. For an even more heartwarming take on holiday greeting cards, have your kids draft handwritten notes to family members and mentors they’re grateful for. While your kids are writing, use the chance to write your own letters to reconnect with loved ones you’ve lost touch with.

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Binge on holiday TV

Get in the holiday spirit by parking in front of the TV for an all-day Netflix marathon. Pick out a few Christmas flicks, or hunt for the holiday episodes of your favorite TV shows. Don’t forget the popcorn balls!

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Go for a drive

Avoiding shopping centers doesn’t have to mean you’re stuck in the house all day. Pile into a car for a Black Friday drive. Explore the area beyond your city limits, and admire any gorgeous leaves left on the trees. Don’t miss these other fun and frugal fall family activities.

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Take a hike

Your final destination on your drive? A long walk with the family. Once you’ve slept off the food coma, everyone will probably be anxious to burn off some of that turkey and pie. Escape to nearby woods or a local mountain to enjoy the crisp fall air while you enjoy a family hike—much more pleasant than walking the stretches of crowded Black Friday shopping malls. (Here are some secrets park rangers wish you knew.)

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iStock/Bart Sadowski

Visit some animals

Stay away from the crowds of people in the mall, and surround yourself instead with some furry friends at a zoo or local farm. Your kids will love learning more about the animals, and will come away with memories that last way longer than anything you’d buy on Black Friday.

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Feed the ducks

You’ve fed your family for Thanksgiving—now head to a local park to feed the ducks. Instead of bringing a loaf of packaged bread (it’s not good for them!), toss the birds some natural oats or corn.

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Decorate your home

Holiday décor doesn’t have to involve the latest home accessories you’d normally pick up on Black Friday. Head to the park with your family to gather pinecones, leaves, and berries that you can turn into a nature-inspired winter wreath or centerpiece.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.