Ask any child about Thanksgiving and you’re likely to hear about pilgrims and Indians and turkeys. Wouldn’t it be nice if the first thoughts that came to mind were about being thankful? After all, that’s why those pilgrims and Native Americans got together and shared some turkey for dinner back in 1621 – because they were thankful for a good harvest. Those early settlers found value in taking time to be thankful for the good things in their lives. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s still worth taking time to teach our children to be truly thankful for the good things in their lives.
Creative ways to teach thankfulness
Just how do you go about teaching children of different ages to be thankful? You can make it a topic of conversation around the dinner table – perhaps going around the table and having everyone share one thing from the day for which they are thankful. You can talk to your children when you receive a gift or an unexpected surprise. You can walk the talk and thank them when they help or do something special. But let’s go beyond the idea of just talking about being thankful and get into action.
Here are some great ideas from local elementary teachers that can be used in or out of the classroom to help children of all ages understand the concept of being thankful and its importance:
- A Scroll of Thanks: a list a child keeps at their desk or perhaps their bedside table where they can write down things for which they are thankful whenever they think of them.
- Good Deed Slips: small coupons with good deeds that the child can do for their family and friends - encourages children to appreciate the things that are done for them.
- Gratitude Journal: start a daily routine of writing three things – big or small – for which your child is thankful. You could even make this a family journal.
- Poetry: using the word “thanks” have your child think of something for which they are thankful that starts with each letter.
- Books: there are lots of great stories out there for all ages that help teach the importance of being thankful. Here’s a short list:
o The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
o I’m Thankful Each Day by P. K. Hallinan
o Biscuit is Thankful by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
o An Awesome Book of Thanks! by Dallas Clayton
Ideas specifically related to Thanksgiving, a great opportunity to get your kids focused on being thankful:
- Thankful Turkey or Tree: make a turkey head/body and ask the kids to write something for which they are thankful on the feathers. Alternately – draw a tree trunk with branches and have children write things for which they are thankful on the leaves. Display the finished creation in a public place so the class or entire family can see everyone’s gratitude.
- Hostess Gift: make a centerpiece, a picture frame or other small gift and give it to the host/hostess of your Thanksgiving dinner. Helps your child recognize the hardworking hostess who prepares the Thanksgiving feast your family is fortunate enough to enjoy!
Don’t stop thanking after the holiday
Kelly Anthony, first grade teacher at Lake Street Elementary in Crown Point noted, “Activities like these help children recognize that others around them work hard to make sure they have warm beds, food to eat & all of the other things that keep them going all year round!”
Being thankful isn’t just limited to holidays or gift-giving occasions. Children need to learn to be thankful for all the blessings of life - including those that they may take for granted. Thanksgiving happens once a year but good things are part of our lives all year round.
Let’s use this Thanksgiving to jump start being consciously thankful in every season – a lesson that’s good for children and grown-ups alike.