The more I learn about, think about, and practice gratitude, the more I realize it is one of the best ways of demonstrating our faith in God. Thanksgiving week provides an opportunity to teach your children about the value of showing gratitude as a way of life—all year long.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” Gratitude is a mindset to be cultivated and grown. The more you focus on gratitude, the more you truly desire to give thanks in all things, the more it becomes a practiced way of life every day.
Here are some ideas for helping you and your family cultivate and train your hearts and minds to be more grateful: two new resources from our Etsy store, five Thanksgiving crafts for kids (from my friend Janel Breitenstein), and then six ideas for practicing gratitude every week.
Ready to grow in gratitude this season?
Two new Thanksgiving resources from the Ever Thine Home Etsy store:
- I promised my family that I would create a shorter version of my book, Thanksgiving, A Time to Remember, which tells the story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. So this year we present a 10-15 minute version that can be downloaded and read on a tablet. You can also print hard copies, which is what I’m doing for our family this year. Reading the story of the Pilgrims every year at Thanksgiving encourages gratitude both for all they sacrificed and for all the benefits we enjoy today. I hope this shorter version makes it easier for your family to add this reading tradition to your Thanksgiving Day every year. You can find the ebook here.
2. Another new item in our Etsy store is a template for a “gratitude tree.” This is a really fun way to get your whole family involved in writing down what you are grateful for! The leaf template is easy to print at home and then add to a branch from your yard or a cutout tree from construction paper.
Use this leaf template to create your own gratitude tree! You can cut as many leaves as you want and have each family member write what they are thankful for each day. Punch a hole in the leaves and tie a string on to hang them, or simply use tape or glue to hang each leaf.
These are just two of our Thanksgiving resources in our Etsy store. You can find all of them here.
5 Easy Crafts to Encourage Your Children to Be Grateful on Thanksgiving, by Janel Breitenstein
- Create a paper chain to countdown to Thanksgiving. As the links are removed each day, kids can write something new for which they’re thankful. Keep the slips in a jar and have them read random selections at Thanksgiving dinner.
- Craft thank-you cards together to send to meaningful people in their lives. Use a 3-D material, like felt or craft foam, to add excitement and sensory interest for younger children. Or use vibrant colors clipped from magazines to form the feathers of a funky turkey on the card front.
- Create a “Give Thanks” banner and hang it in your home to remind your whole family to give thanks during this season. You could even encourage each family member to write specific things they are grateful for on the back of each letter. Click here for a free download.
- Use construction paper to cut brightly colored turkey feathers large enough for children to write on. Then, let your children write things for which they’re thankful (help younger children write their thanks), or Bible verses on thankfulness they find from the Psalms. Finally, let them hide the feathers all over the house for a few days of extended gratitude as the feathers are found and read aloud.
- One harsh winter, early pilgrims had to survive on only five kernels of corn a day! Hand a child five kernels of corn and discuss what this must have been like. Gently explain how easy it is for us all to complain … but simple reminders can encourage us to turn complaining into thanks, trusting God even when it is hard to see good things. Let your child glue the kernels in a row on plain cardstock. If you want, provide a few verses from which they can choose, writing one beneath the kernels. Then frame the dried creation simply and display it in their room.
6 Ideas for Practicing Gratitude Throughout the Year
- During dinner, every day, see if your family can collectively think of 10 things you are grateful for. Keep a running list or make a new list each night. You’ll be surprised how transformational this practice will be for your family.
- Type out a few texts, emails or even a handwritten thank-you note to express gratitude to someone who you appreciate and value once a week. This would be good for kids, too, even though they’ll likely complain initially! Or write a thank-you letter or email to someone in your past who had a significant influence in your life. Perhaps a high school coach or teacher, or a small-group leader, or a friend or relative who did something special for you.
- Read aloud a Psalm of thanksgiving to your family every day before school or during dinner. Here are a few: Psalms 89, 92, 95, 100, and 111.
- Start the habit of genuinely thanking people who help and serve you throughout the day: the librarian, the cashier, the waitress, the janitor in the restroom, the Sunday School teacher, even airport security agents. And whenever possible, make sure your children see you do it. Dennis started thanking airport security workers a few years ago, and watching him has motivated me to notice the many people in service jobs who are usually overlooked. Thanking them is actually fun! They are often genuinely surprised and smile in return.
- On the back of an interior door, post a piece of poster board and keep a pen attached with adhesive Velcro. Make it a family goal to fill the poster with drawings of things you are grateful for. Or start a “blessings journal” for yourself and for your family. Make it a goal to write and remember at least one way God blesses you each the day. Even recognizing God in ordinary things like seeing a rainbow or watching your toddler’s admiration for a caterpillar is evidence of God at work.
- Write a list of circumstances in your life that concern you. Then thank God for each item on the list knowing that you are obeying the command to “Give thanks in all circumstances.”
Gratitude is contagious. The more you cultivate it in your life—not only during Thanksgiving week but the remainder of the year as well—the more you’ll see others follow your lead!