Thanksgiving season is here, and while I am a huge proponent of being thankful year-round and not just during Thanksgiving, this holiday gives an extra special opportunity for us to teach our children gratitude (and let’s be honest—most adults could benefit from the refresher too!). There are many wonderful ways to encourage an “attitude of gratitude” during your family Thanksgiving celebration. Here are a few simple ideas that any family can easily incorporate.
#1- Institute round robin gratitude sharing. While a very simple exercise, simply taking the opportunity to go around the dinner table and allowing each guest to share 1-2 things they are thankful for prior to digging into your Thanksgiving meal is a fabulous start. You can take things a step further by adding some rules such as “no repeating something that has already been said”. This encourages everyone to dig deeper and look beyond the obvious blessings we all share in common.
#2- Create a thankful tree. Children love art and creating. Visual activities are a wonderful reinforcement when it comes to teaching a concept that you want to last. This simple activity can take place while the meal is being finished in the kitchen or when the pumpkin and apple pies are being sliced and served. You will need to have a few basic supplies on hand. Grab a few bare tree branches, and display them in a sturdy vase. Using vibrant colors of cardstock or construction paper, cut out a variety of leaf shapes or use a leaf-shaped craft punch (make the leaves large enough to write simple phrases on them.) Punch a hole in the tops of the leaves and use yarn, twine, string or ornament hooks for hanging. Invite guests to create a beautifully full, colorful fall tree by filling up the paper leaves with things for which they are thankful.
#3- Keep a family gratitude journal. Traditions are a wonderful part of every holiday, and the great thing is, it’s never too late to start a new one. Purchase an inexpensive journal or notebook. If desired, add simple decorations to the front cover. Each Thanksgiving, snap a photo of every Thanksgiving guest to include on a page where they share the things they are grateful for that year. Little children may need help writing some simple ideas. As they grow and mature, however, they can record their own thoughts and feelings. What a fun keepsake to review from year to year!
#4- Play gratitude Bingo. There is always plenty of wait time on Thanksgiving Day. Fill the wait time with an exciting game of gratitude Bingo. Print out blank Bingo boards. Invite guests to fill in their boards with things they are thankful for this year. Have guests record these same items on small slips of paper or post-it-notes which the game keeper can draw from when play begins. Use small candies such as M&Ms, pennies, beans or nuts as game markers. This is a fun way for guests (including children) to hear all of the many things for which people are grateful.
With these ideas in mind, make a goal to add the “thanks” in your Thanksgiving this year and help teach children gratitude.