Thanksgiving is coming – one of our favorite times of the year here at KidSnips because it’s always a good time to remember how grateful we are for all of you. We’re so thankful that you trust us with your precious little ones and their hair. November is also a great time to try some new ways to help your kids learn the importance of saying Thank You. Read on for ideas!
You’ve probably heard that giving thanks is good for kids…and parents…and everyone! There is definitely a lot of research out there showing that expressing gratitude reduces depression and anxiety, improves relationships, builds self-esteem and develops resilience. The author and social scientist Brené Brown discovered something else surprising about being thankful – it goes hand in hand with joy. “In my 12 years of research on 11,000 pieces of data, I did not interview one person who had described themselves as joyful, who also did not actively practice gratitude.” She concludes: “Practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives.”
But have you noticed how giving thanks doesn’t always come naturally to kids? Or to us parents either, at least on a regular basis. We all get caught up in the daily stuff we have to get done, the expectations and the obligations, the minor annoyances and sometimes major difficulties in our lives.
Perhaps one reason we have a whole holiday devoted to giving thanks is so that we remember how important thankfulness is. “Thank you” are two little words that can make a huge difference. In fact, as children’s book author Alicia Ortega has written, gratitude is a superpower.
Just in case you need a little help teaching your kids thankfulness here are five parent-tested ways to do that – that also often turn out to be very fun.
1. The “Thankfulness” Tree
This is a simple way to remind you and your kids to be grateful all through the month of November and for them to see how beautiful it is when thanks grow. And it makes a festive fall decoration for your dining table. Gather some empty branches and place them in a big container (one that won’t easily tip over). If you have any of that green florist foam, you might want to place that at the bottom of your vase or jar and to make it easier to anchor and arrange the branches.
Ask the kids to help you cut some fall-colored leaves out of construction paper. Put a small hole in each and run some string through it. Leave these leaves and a pen or pencil near the jar of branches and encourage everyone in your family to write down things they’re grateful for every day, one on each leaf, and hang them on the tree. Reading all these leaves together could be a fun – and heartwarming – Thanksgiving Day activity. Find more detailed instructions here.
2. A Walk on the Thankful Side
Nothing improves a mood like a walk outdoors. When you go on a walk with your kids you can also make it into an I-Spy kind of game centered around gratitude. Your child might say, “I spy something brown and red that I’m grateful for.” And you might guess, “Is it that tree with the red leaves?” This is a wonderful way to teach our kids to be thankful for and take care of the earth…and to leave things better than they found them. While on your gratitude walk you might want to bring a bag and pick up any trash you see along the way as a way to teach your kids that the earth is grateful when we treat it with care.
3. Great Gratitude Reads
November is the perfect month to read some new books with your kids. We recommend Gratitude is my Superpower by Alicia Ortega. The book follows one little girl’s journey learning the power of being thankful for her toys and friends, for the rain and her pets…even her parents! Plus, there’s a “magic stone” involved. You can hear it read aloud on video too.
Thanks a Million is another awesome book, this one by acclaimed poet Nikki Grimes and award-winning illustrator Cozbi A. Cabrera. Written in a variety of poetic styles, including letter poems, haikus, and riddles, it’s a beautiful celebration of the joy of family, friends, and of feeling thankful.
Check your local library for these books if you don’t want to buy them.
4. Gratitude Change Jar
You know all that spare change that collects at the bottom of purses and on tops of dressers? What if you put it to good use, by both reminding your family to be grateful and also to share with those who may have less than you? Just put a jar on your dining table or kitchen counter and at the end of each day, maybe right before bedtime, take a moment to bring out the change you’ve collected that day and invite everyone in the family to think of one thing they’re grateful for, for each coin you find. Let the kids toss each coin into the jar and at the end of the month your family can decide what charity to share it with. One local Chicago nonprofit you might consider is ShareOurSpare.org.
5. “I’m Thankful for You…” Place Cards
If you’re having family and friends over for Thanksgiving dinner, you can ask the kids to help you make place cards that will not only tell people where to sit at the table, they’ll also let everyone know something you (and your kids) are grateful for about them. So, when people around the table unfold or turn over their name card they might read: “Aunt Lynn, I’m grateful for how you like to be silly.” Or “Dad, I’m thankful that you like to play games with me.”
However you decide to express your thanks this month, we hope it brings you joy. And from all of us at KidSnips, we really, really hope you have an amazing November and a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with loads and loads of gratitude.