Teaching Kids About Giving Thanks: 5 Fun, Non-Crazymaking Activities

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it's hard not to be overly focused on fine-tuning menu plans and strategizing how to complete any last-minute grocery runs without getting stampeded in the baking aisle. We all know Thanksgiving's about much more than the food, it's just tempting to get caught up in all the logistics. Like, say, how to keep dotty Aunt Martha out of the kitchen during that critical moment when everything comes out of the oven at once.

I was thinking of how we teach our kids about thankfulness during this season, and while there are plenty of time-tested traditions out there -- going around the table one by one to give thanks, for instance -- I wanted to round up some lesser-known, less-intimidating ideas for families with young kids (or kids/adults who are painfully shy about speaking in front of a group).

Here's a list of 5 easy, kid-friendly, non-Martha-Stewart-y thanks-teaching activities to try this year:


Write them down. This is an activity that can be done right at the Thanksgiving table (or beforehand, or whenever): have everyone write down what they're grateful for on slips of paper. During the meal, one person can read each slip out loud. Family members can even try and guess who's thankful for what.

Make a gratitude chain. We just did this one last night in our house and it was a really nice activity. You cut strips of paper, write one thing that the family's thankful for on each strip, then connect the papers together to form a chain. I plan to have us sit down and add to the chain off and on during the whole holiday season, and see how long it gets.

Create thank-you notes. Have your child write thank-you notes for people they're grateful to have in their lives. One variation on this is to make up a sort of Secret Santa thank-you list -- each person selects a name from a hat, then sends the recipient a thank-you card in the mail.

Contribute to a Thanksgiving family tree. Here's a neat idea I read about recently: make a tree out of construction paper and attach it to the front door. Cut leaves out of colored pieces of paper and leave them by the front door along with a stack of pens. Whenever someone leaves or comes home, ask them to write down something they're grateful for on one of the leaves and add it to the tree.

Design a tablecloth. Give kids an inexpensive tablecloth (or maybe some butcher paper?) and give them a ton of crayons, pens, or paint. Ask each child to draw their idea of a thankful day, whatever that might be. Alternately, they can write down things they're grateful for. Either way, the tablecloth can be on full display during the big meal, so everyone can talk about its contents.

What giving-thanks traditions does your family enjoy?

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