While Thanksgiving naturally lends itself to a lesson on thankfulness, parents don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to foster at attitude of gratitude in their children. In fact, gratefulness is a lesson worth teaching yearlong. Fortunately, there are fun activities that everyone in the family can take part in anytime of the year to cultivate thankful hearts and minds.
If you’re looking for something fun your family can do together that will double as a lesson on thankfulness, try out one of these family friendly activities.
Create a jar full of thanks. Gather a bunch of craft sticks or tongue depressors. On one side of each stick have the kids write what they are thankful for and on the other, what they’ll do to show their thanks. One stick may say “I’m thankful for my family” on one side and on the other “Bake cookies for a neighbor who doesn’t have family” or “I’m thankful for good food” on one side and “Gather canned goods to bring to the local food pantry” on the other. But the activities can be even simpler. The front of one stick could say “I’m thankful for friends” and the back could say “Say something kind to a friend today.” Fill a tall glass or plastic container with the sticks. Each night at dinner select a member of the family to choose a stick out of the jar. The family can then commit to completing the activity together.
Design handmade thank you cards. Get out some card stock, non-toxic pants, markers, stickers, glue and embellishments. Have the children decorate a stack of cards. Encourage them to give the cards to people in their lives they’re thankful for. Older children can write a short note in each card and parents can write out the thanks that younger children verbally express. Keep a few cards on hand that the children can use later to give as thank you cards for gifts.
Make a gratitude tree. Draw or trace small leaves on fall-colored construction paper. Cut out the leaves. Use a paper punch to put a small hole in the top of each leaf. On each leaf have family members write what they are thankful for. Go for a nature walk and gather up small twigs and sticks. Attach the leaves to the twigs and sticks using twine or ribbon or by sliding them onto the branches. Put the sticks and twigs into a tall vase for display.
Cook a surprise meal for another family. Perhaps there’s a family in your community who has a hard time getting a hot meal on the table. Or maybe there’s someone who lives alone and would appreciate a home cooked meal. Prepare your family’s favorite meal to deliver to another family together. Even the youngest children can help stir ingredients together or decorate cupcakes or cookies. From drinks to dessert, bring everything the family would need to enjoy the meal.
Meet a community need together. Sometimes seeing life from a different perspective can help kids to gain a new appreciation for the things they have. Clean up a neighborhood park, serve in a soup kitchen, purchase holiday gifts for a family or donate clothes to the needy. Foster an attitude of thankfulness by helping children see their blessings more clearly and to give back to those who don’t share in the same ones.
It’s important to remember that regardless of how many thankfulness-themed activities a family does together, it’s important to remember only thankful parents can raise thankful kids. Expressing thankfulness and letting your kids see you doing so is the most powerful way you can help your kids be grateful.