In the spirit of Thanksgiving, my family has an annual tradition in November to cultivate more gratitude in our household (because it’s not really just the kids; all of us need to do this more!). Our Thankful Turkey has become an important part of the way we talk about gratitude. We make a turkey from a brown paper bag and use painter’s tape to hang it on a wall. Each day, the kids write a gratitude on a feather and add it to the turkey. This allows my children to think about the wide variety of things they appreciate in their lives.The concept of gratitude is a pretty abstract idea for little minds, so we like to prompt the kids with questions about what it means to be thankful, what they are glad they have in their lives, and what does it look like to be grateful. This is a tradition my family started after I saw it from another mom and I’m hopeful my children will do it if they have their own families.
Prepping for our Thankful Turkey got me curious about what other families do to help cultivate gratitude in their children. So I did what any older millennial would do and went to Facebook to ask friends about the ways they fuse gratitude into their lives.
Here’s what I found:
Verbalizing gratitude in the moment. Say to your children, “I’m so grateful to be having dinner with you.” It will help them to pause and notice the moments where they find gratitude during the day.
Practice saying thank you to your children and/or partner. Not only will this help teach your children gratitude, but it will also fill your home with more appreciation for one another. It is easy to let the everyday tasks slip by unnoticed, but maybe if we were all expressing gratitude to one another for what we do in our homes and in our lives, we would all feel more seen.
Invite your children to consider their own gratitude.
Make a thankful object. If a Thankful Turkey isn’t for you, you could make a Thankful Tree. Get a small branch from your yard or a nature walk. Prop it in a container and cut circles or leaves and have family members write their gratitude. You could do this for the month of November or just on Thanksgiving Day. It would be a beautiful representation of all the appreciation in your family.
If you want something just for Thanksgiving Day, try a yearly cumulative Thankful Pumpkin. Write on a (fake) pumpkin what is bringing each of you gratitude. Keep the pumpkin year to year so you can look back and see your thankfulness.
Gratitude as dinner table conversation. Simply have each person share something that is bringing them gratitude that day. Here are a few other examples of ways to get at the same concept:
- Passing the acorn. Keep a small dish of acorns on your table. At dinner time, each person picks up an acorn, shares what they are thankful for, and puts the acorn back in the dish. Seeing the dish throughout the day is a reminder to be grateful.
- Best/worst/thankful. At dinner, have each person say their best, worst, and thankful for the day. It helps you learn about each other’s day and acknowledges the bad while keeping it sandwiched between the good and thankful.
Keep a gratitude journal. This is something you and your child could do together by sitting and reflecting each day. There are also a variety of gratitude journals you can purchase.
Filling up your cup. Talk to your kids about filling up their cup with things that make them feel content like sunrises, or reading, or spending time with family, and the gratitude that comes from these things.
Help your children express gratitude.
Handwritten thank you notes. The art of handwritten thank you notes is beautiful. It helps our children reflect on why they are thankful for a gift, action, or person. Often, my children draw a picture as a thank you. There are also really neat fill in the blank thank you notes that help children learn wording and format for notes.
Community helpers thank yous. Have your children make a list of helpers in their lives such as doctors, mail delivery person, garbage collector, teacher. Bake cookies or some other kind of treat to put in decorated brown bags. Attach a thank you note and deliver it to those people. It will be such a special moment for your child and the recipient.
Prayers and poems. Whatever your belief system, offering thanks through prayers, recited word and meditation can help grow the feeling of gratitude. Here is one I really love: “Earth who gives to us this food; Sun who makes it ripe and good; Sun above and earth below; Our loving thanks to you we show. Thank you.”