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Putting the Thanks in Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is traditionally a time when family and friends gather to share good food, stories and memories together. Many folks enjoy a game of touch football and the always-pleasant Macy’s day parade as well. Most of all, it’s a day of giving thanks for all the blessings and challenges we each face throughout the year- knowing we face them side-by-side.

For kids, the message of Thanksgiving may not have quite sunk in yet, but there are several ways you can help teach your children how Thanksgiving and gratitude go hand-in-hand.

Several experts offer these tips for putting the thanks in Thanksgiving:

Playing the gratitude game!   Kids love games and this is one that can make them think about the things they are thankful for and have fun at the same time. Lennay Chapman, author of "Secrets to a Rockin Life”, has created "The Gratitude Game."  It’s pretty simple and will keep the kids on their toes! The game needs ideally three or more players and one person to serve as a timekeeper. Have everyone sit in a circle with one person starting off saying, "I am grateful for [fill in the blank]." That person has five seconds to come up with something for which they are thankful, whether it be their favorite stuffed animal, food or activity. As soon as the first person finishes, the person to the left goes. "The key is to say what you are grateful for without repeating, and without pausing for more than five seconds," says Chapman.

Create a Thankfulness jar! Robert Nickell, a well known syndicated columnist for national newspapers, parenting magazines and family oriented websites as well as creator of Daddy & Company, suggests creating a “Thankfulness Jar” for the family.

Have the children decorate a jar or basket, placing a notepad and pen next to it. Leave the jar out the week before Thanksgiving and have family members and caregivers write down things for which they are thankful. They can be big things, or small little gestures. This gives people time to think about it and write heartfelt answers. During the Thanksgiving meal, have the children pull them out and read them during dinner.

“Thankful Turkey” decorations! Another creative idea Nickell shares are "Thankful Turkeys." "Draw the old-fashioned hand turkey or be more elaborate, but have children write something they are thankful for on each of the turkey's feathers," he suggests. They can be used as place cards or decorations on Thanksgiving Day.

Thankful Writing! Have each child write thank you notes to every family member who comes to share the meal with your family. In those thank you notes, have the children specifically focus on what it is about that family member that makes them so special.

It’s show time! What better day than Thanksgiving (with a captive audience) to put on a play or read poems? Encourage children to collaborate and put together a Thanksgiving show or write a Thanksgiving poem about thankfulness. Have them perform the show or read their poems after dinner.

Be an example! Another great way to teach children gratitude is to model thankfulness. Volunteer with your children at places where, not only can they help others, but see how fortunate they are.

Create a family, “giving fund” so that everyone chips in, and then uses the money to donate to a charity.

Children are often grateful, they just don’t have a name for the feeling they are experiencing.

These simple tips are fun ways to give gratitude a name and expression.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Story source: Alaina Sullivan,


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