Thanksgiving is almost here and during this time of year we try to focus on recognizing the things we are grateful for. Did you know that gratitude doesn’t always come naturally to kids? It’s something that we, as parents, need to teach them — so doing this should be at the very top of our parenting to-do list. Children who express gratitude are often kinder, more appreciative, empathetic, and happier. Grateful children also have an understanding that other people have needs and they look outside themselves. They often are more polite, usually better behaved and generally more pleasant to be around. We all aspire to have kind, well-rounded and happy kids, and teaching them gratitude is one of the first steps!
Teaching gratitude shouldn’t only be done during the holiday season, of course, but it’s a great jumping off point with younger kids. By teaching some important lessons during Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, you can use them during the rest of the year to have your kids continue to be grateful people. There are many ways to teach gratitude, but number one is modeling it. If we want our children to really learn this important trait, we have to show them what it means. We can do little things like helping our friends, family or spouses, just to be kind, or we can write thank you notes, use basic manners and also remember to criticize less, complain less, and try to point out the positives in people and in situations. Remember that children often do what their parents do, which is why gratitude has to start with parents, in our homes. While there are many ways to teach gratitude, with little kids, it’s best to start simple and fun. Thanksgiving is a great time to allow young children to use developmentally appropriate ways to share about the things that they are grateful for- thus beginning to spur a love of showing thankfulness all year round!
Have everyone create an award for someone else in the family (be sure everyone gets one!): “best sister”, “world’s greatest cookie maker”, “silliest laugh”- have fun with it! Share them around the table during Thanksgiving dinner.
Turn your thankfulness into a cute fall decoration! Cut out some paper leaves and have the whole family write or draw different things the are grateful and write them on each leaf. Hang them on a piece of yarn and decorate your mantle so everyone can see what you are thankful for, or turn them into a wreath!
Have each member of the family write or draw (for younger kids) about what they are grateful for and then bind them into a simple book. You could do multiple pages for each family member and bind them with yarn or at a local printing place, or you could put them all in a 3-ring binder and add to it each year.
Go kindergarten style and have your kids trace their hands to make some handprint turkeys. Decorate them with markers, crayons or glitter and have each child write one thing they are grateful for on each finger feather. Take turns sharing them with one another.
During Thanksgiving dinner go around the table and starting with A, take turns naming things you are grateful for that start with the next letter in the alphabet. Try to get all the way to Z! This is a great game for any night of the week too and a wonderful way to reconnect at the family dinner table.
Think: Advent Calendar, but for Thanksgiving! Create a countdown calendar from the first day of November until Thanksgiving Day. Keep it simple by taking some manila envelopes and clip them to some yarn, one envelope for each day of November. Cut some strips of paper for each member of the family, choosing a different color for each person and have everyone write one thing each day that they are thankful for and place it in the envelope for that day. On Thanksgiving, look back and share all the things you have to be thankful for!
This is along the same lines as the grateful countdown, but in a jar. Take a pretty jar and set it in a place where everyone can reach it. Place some paper and pencils near it and encourage everyone to jot down some things they are grateful each day in November. Kids can write down one a day or more than one! On Thanksgiving Day, take turns pulling each note out of the jar and sharing each other’s joys.
Have family members or friends that live far away and that you can’t be with for Thanksgiving? Mail some Thankful Postcards to them to tell them why you are grateful for them! Not only is this a wonderful way to reconnect with someone you may not get to see that often, but it also gives kids a vital lesson in the long lost art of letter writing and how nice it is to give and receive a handwritten note in the mail.
Need something to decorate a door this fall? Make a thankful wreath! Take a piece of cardboard and cut it into a 1 1/2 or 2 in cardboard “donut”. Then paint a bunch of clothes pins whatever fall colors you choose. When they are dry, have the kids write one thing they are thankful for on the clothes pin in marker and clip them onto the circle to make a wreath! Add in a bow and some string to hang it and proudly display it all season long.
Kids can be naturally self-centered in their thoughts but also love helping one another too. Latch onto that love by showing them how wonderful it feels to give as well as receive. Pick a charity that is meaningful to your kids- perhaps animals, sick kids, homeless, or food banks- and gather some donations and bring them to the charity of your choice. By involving your kids in giving, they will be passing on their gratitude to others in your community and it is sure to bring a smile to everyone’s faces!
With Thanksgiving on our minds, use this special time of year to help jump start our kid’s view of the world. Living in a busy electronic world of constant in-your-face messages, it’s so important to take a step back and remember how important all of the little things in life are. We know raising grateful children is important because we’ve seen what the absence of gratitude looks like— kids throwing fits in the toy store because they can’t have all of the toys or entitled tweens and teens constantly demanding the next best thing. Parents everywhere want kids to be thankful for what they have, and these simple ideas are a great way to get started. If you begin these types of activities when your kids are little they will be more likely to carry on these feelings of gratitude as they grow.
Photo Credits: Our Three Peas, The Art of Making a Baby, Michael Verhoef (CC) modified, Judy Merrill Smith (CC) modified, Vanessa (CC) modified, San Jose Library (CC) modified
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Tags: arts and crafts, crafts, DIY, gratitude, holidays, home, kid’s, little kids, make, nest, nurture, older kids, parenting, preschoolers, school-aged kids, teaching gratitude, teaching thankfulness, thankful, thankfulness, thanksgiving
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