What better time to teach kids about gratitude than at Thanksgiving! Here are some ideas for teaching kids how to be thankful from ideas that came from parents like you:
When Kids Serve
The Sunday before Thanksgiving, we take our older children (ages 6 and above) to a local ministry to help serve a meal to the homeless. They are proud to serve, and they come home with stories to share — what they did for others and how much they appreciate what they have.
Links of Thankfulness
I cut out strips of paper in three different colors. Each color corresponds to a different category of something the kids are grateful for. Red stands for a person, yellow is for a place, and orange is a thing.
I mix the strips in a bowl. My children close their eyes and pick a strip. With paper in hand, they say something they’re grateful for, based on the color they picked. I write it on the paper, and we repeat until the bowl is empty. Then we make a “gratitude chain” from the paper strips and display it during Thanksgiving as a reminder of our many blessings.
Toys for Charity
Each August, we complete a “gratitude give.” We go through all my kids’ toys and decide which ones to donate to charity. During the process, we talk about how thankful we are for these toys and the people who gave them. While my children may not always be excited to give their belongings away, they’re always excited to go with me to donate their toys — and to think about the good times other children will have with them.
Gratitude Treasure Hunt
To encourage sibling appreciation, my daughters and I wrote clues on note cards, such as “You’ll find me where we scrub-a-dub-dub.” Then we brainstormed qualities the girls love about their brother and wrote them underneath the clue, such as, “Bates is compassionate.” After reading the card, Bates ran to the bathtub to find the next clue — and the next compliment. By the end of the treasure hunt, Bates’ heart was filled by the kind words and gratitude of his sisters.
A String of Thankfulness
One fall, I made leaf templates from cardboard and enlisted the kids’ help
in tracing them on yellow, orange and red construction paper and then cutting them out. Then we each
took several leaves and wrote what we were thankful for and strung our leaves across the dining
room. It’s become a tradition. Every October, one of the kids reminds me, “Mom, it’s time to make
our thankfulness leaves!”
When my children were young, I set up a small tree in the dining room on Nov. 1.
Then I made tags out of cardstock, punched holes in the top of the tags and tied a loop with yarn
through the holes. Every day in November, each family member had to come up with one thing he or she
was grateful for that day. The one rule was that they could not repeat something they had previously
written. On Thanksgiving Day, we read each of the tags on the tree and observed how God had truly
A Contagious Attitude
As my kids made place mats for our Thanksgiving table, my 5-year-old daughter sighed dramatically. She loves to color but complained about having so much to do and how she’d never be able to finish in time. Yikes!
I realized she was mimicking me. So instead of obsessing about my to-do list, I started focusing on how much fun it would be to see our friends and family during Thanksgiving. As my attitude changed, so did hers.
In my family, we call complaints and bad attitudes “turkeys.” So it only seems natural to use this concept to encourage gratitude at Thanksgiving to turn those turkeys around! We draw turkeys on colored paper and cut them out. On the back of each turkey, we write a Bible verse about gratitude or blessings. Then when one of us says something ungrateful, that person writes or draws something he or she is thankful for on the front of a turkey. During Thanksgiving dinner, we read the turkeys aloud and thank God for our blessings.
—Mary Ann Romans
A Thankful Feast
To help us learn to give thanks in all circumstances, my family started a new tradition: a weekly “feast of thankfulness.” Throughout the week, we write down things we are thankful for in a family notebook. One night a week, we pull out the fancy china and enjoy a meal that we prepared together. We discuss the items we’ve written in our notebook as we celebrate all that God has given us.