Teaching Thanksgiving Thankfulness All Year Long
By: Chelsi Hickey @MotherhoodUnmastered
Being thankful is something we obviously try to teach our kids all year, but during the end of year holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, we want to make sure they really understand all they have been given.
For us, it's more than just a one-time conversation, however. Every night, when we sit down to dinner, my family has chosen to carry on a tradition my parents did with me growing up. I had heard it somewhere in middle school that one of the best ways to connect with your family when you don't think you have anything to talk about, is to ask each person to say one good thing, one bad thing, and one funny that happened to them that day. My family decided to try it.
You don't have to come up with a bad thing each day, but you do have to say a good and funny thing. When we first started out, someone would always say, “I don't think anything funny happened today.” To which we always replied, “You didn't laugh even once?!” Usually, everyone could come up with that funny thing, and if not, that let to other conversations that were worth having. Those good things we mentioned happening, always led us to talk about things we were grateful for.
I always loved getting to hear about my family's day, and as time went on, I would even think throughout the day, “Oh this is definitely going to be my funny/good/bad thing tonight!”
There were definitely days (especially as I got older) that I didn't want to participate, but every time, I always ended up feeling better, getting the bad stuff off my chest, and using the good stuff to put things back into perspective.
This is a tradition, Cody (my husband) and I have chosen to carry on with our kids. Right now, our kiddos are three and one years old. Obviously, Mayla (the baby) can't participate quite yet, but Cambri loves being able to tell us about her day. It's been a great way to instill gratefulness in her without her even realizing it.
Another important thing for our family during the holidays is giving back. We attend a local church that participates in the Operation Christmas Child program. This program collects items for kids in countries less fortunate than ours. Many of these kids don't have access to toothbrushes, socks, or any kind of toy.
Every year, Cambri heads to the store with me. She takes a little more active role each year she gets a little older. This year, she loved picking out toys for a little girl her age, and we chose a boy slightly older (people love to shop for the tiny kids, but try to remember the big kiddos need our love too!). She picked out colored socks, a toothbrush with a cover, hair bands, a baby doll, a football with a pump, matchbox cars, and more!
We have a conversation while we're shopping about all the things we take for granted that other kids would love to have. She now understands and loves picking out things for others, even while knowing that she doesn't get to keep them. We absolutely adore this program if you're looking for a way to give back this year.
Here in the US, and I'm sure in your own hometown, there are also kiddos that need a little extra love. Check with your local shelters for items they need, or if your family is able, you could even adopt a local family for the holidays. I think it's so important to instill in our kids from a young age to give back to others. It's never too late to start!
Switching gears, but staying true to our Thankful theme, Cambri and I did a fun and easy, little craft to help remind us everything we have to be thankful for this year, even if it's in the middle of a pandemic.
For this activity you'll need construction paper, a black marker, and some glue, that's it!
I started by cutting out the shape of a turkey body, as well as the pieces for his eyes, mouth, feet and feathers. We chose traditional fall/Thanksgiving colors with brown, red, orange, and yellow, but feel free to change it up based on your child's taste! If your kiddo is old enough to do this part on their own even better!
Cambri then helped me glue the pieces in place. We put the colored feathers randomly so all one color wasn't clumped together but if that's your thing, go for it!
Next, the best part. Cambri and I talked a little bit about Thanksgiving and what it means to be thankful. I asked her what are some of her favorite things she's thankful for. She told me she was thankful for me and her daddy, her sister, her two dogs, her friends, her teacher, her house, and her Christmas tree (not sure where that came from but we rolled with it haha).
It's so fun to hear what their minds come up with. I tried to avoid giving her examples and instead just listened to what she thought based on our conversation about being thankful.
Write those things on the feathers of your turkey, and ta-da, you have a thankful, Thanksgiving turkey to display on the fridge for all to see!
I've included a couple of other great ways to help instill gratefulness in your kiddos if the above aren't your thing.
Bedtime is a great time to talk about things you’re thankful for. Have your child list a few things before they go to sleep. They may even sleep better because their heart is going to bed happy and thankful.
Another option is to start a gratitude journal. If you have older kids who can write, they could make a list, or write a story to tell what they're grateful for. Is your child too young to write? Have your kiddo draw a picture and explain what it means!
Finally, do the ABC's of gratitude. Start with A and have your child name something they're grateful for that starts with A, then B, so on and so forth, until you get all the way to Z. They might have to get a little creative, but this is a fun one to do with the whole family. It's also a great way to help teach letters to your youngsters!
So there ya have it, my favorite ways to teach thankfulness to my kids.
During times like today, when our minds and hearts are filled with worry and doubt among a National pandemic, it can be easy to forget everything to be thankful for. Not only can these ideas help you teach your kiddo all they have to be grateful for, but it's also a great way to shift your mood and perspective as we head into the holiday season with so many unknowns.