Everyone knows Thanksgiving is the holiday for gratitude, but in all the efforts to cook, host, clean, and prepare, it can be challenging to actually focus on thankfulness. With a little bit of effort, parents can help children engage in activities which will emphasize this all-important character quality. Doing so will not only enhance family cohesion and children’s learning, but will make Thanksgiving more meaningful! Here are some ways to focus on gratitude with your children this Thanksgiving:
- Keep a journal and have family members write down things for which they are thankful, the week prior to Thanksgiving. Pull out the journal at the Thanksgiving meal and read not only the most recent entries, but the lists of gratitude from previous years. This not only helps family members focus on thanksgiving, but is a wonderful way to highlight the seasons of life the family has experienced throughout the years.
- Make a gratitude tree. Why not look at the things for which you’re grateful all through the month of November? Find some branches outside and put them into a vase, or pot with floral foam. Have family members write down their “thankful items” on tags, and hang the tags on the branches. Add more tags throughout the month, and review them on Thanksgiving Day. Click here to see a sample gratitude tree.
- Create a time capsule. Decorate a shoebox or other small box to serve as the family time capsule. Have children put something in the box which explains what they are thankful for (this can be something the child writes, a picture the child draws, or a representative item). Then have children write down a goal for themselves for the upcoming year. Keep the time capsule in the attic and review it each year to see what goals were met, and to be reminded of how your lives have been blessed.
- Read the story of the first Thanksgiving right before sitting down to the feast. Focus on the ways the Pilgrims gave thanks and how that set the stage for a holiday based upon gratitude. For toddlers and very young children, consider reading The Story of Thanksgiving by Nancy J. Skarmeas. For elementary aged children, consider The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgleish, and for all ages, including older children, consider Thanksgiving, A Time to Remember by Barbara Rainey.
- Write your children a letter of what you love and appreciate about each of them, and have them do the same for each of their siblings. Give each person his/her letter on Thanksgiving Day. Do this each year, and put the letters in an album for each child.
- Make a garland of gratitude that you use to decorate the dining room. Cut out leaves from construction paper or cardstock, and have each member of the family write on each leaf something for which they are thankful. Click here for instructions. Use the garland to decorate the dining room. As the years progress, your family will have more garlands to use for decoration; as you decorate with each, take time to review the past years’ blessings.
- Surround yourselves around those who have less than you do. This is one of the best ways to experience gratitude. Take the children to volunteer at the local rescue mission (click here for Roanoke Rescue Mission Ministries or here for Roanoke Area Ministries) or food bank. Doing this in conjunction with times children receive much (such as Thanksgiving and Christmas) can help provide children with a proper perspective and sense of thankfulness for what they have and are receiving.
MORE THANKSGIVING RESOURCES:
For an overview of resources to use with children for Thanksgiving, click here!
For Thanksgiving arts and crafts, click here.
For Thanksgiving coloring pages, click here
For Thanksgiving games and activities, click here.
For Thanksgiving interactive online games, click here.
For Thanksgiving books, click here.
For resources to teach the history of Thanksgiving, click here.
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