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Thinking about Thanksgiving? Here are 5 Simple Ways to Make it More Meaningful & Fun for Kids

by | Oct 25, 2023 | Parenting

November is here and Thanksgiving will be here too before we know it. And at KidSnips we’re thinking about how grateful we are for our KidSnips family – those of you who we are honored to call our customers, as well as our staff who share their hair-styling, kid-loving selves on a daily basis around here.  November is also a great time to help our kids understand the importance of gratitude in their lives, which is not only good for them, it’s good for the world. 

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and you know what that means – turkey, pumpkin pie, and family and friends squished together around a table to celebrate all we have to be thankful for in our lives.

It also presents a great opportunity to work on teaching our little ones more about why giving thanks matters so much.

Gratitude: The Secret Ingredient to Happiness

So why is being thankful so crucial? Gratitude isn’t just some fluffy concept; it’s the secret sauce that can make life taste better, sweeter, and more fulfilling.

Studies have shown that gratitude is linked to increased happiness, better mental health, improved relationships, resilience, and even physical well-being. So, by instilling gratitude in our mini-Me’s, we’re essentially handing them the keys to a more satisfying life, one thank-you at a time.

Plus, as parents most of us have that secret fear of raising ungrateful kids, right? Because we’ve all seen what happens to kids when they don’t learn to be thankful. We find ourselves surrounded by crabby little people who are demanding and entitled, always expecting more and never happy with what they have. We find ourselves with tiny human tornadoes who seem to believe the universe revolves around them, leaving a trail of scattered toys and chaos in their wake. We find ourselves with kids who tend to take everything they have for granted, and who walk around feeling like they never have enough.

One of the big surprises of parenting for many of us is realizing how hard it is NOT to raise ungrateful kids.

We live in a world that pushes the “you need more,” “you deserve more” and “you won’t be happy until you have XYZ” messages on us and our kids all the time. So, there’s that…

And the fact is, saying thank you and giving thanks doesn’t come naturally to humans (young or old). It must be taught. And practiced. Which is one of the reasons we have a whole holiday devoted to giving thanks!

So, if you’d like to take advantage of this Thanksgiving month to teach your kids to be more thankful and help your whole family get more fully into the spirit of the holiday, fear not, because we’ve got some tips for you.

Get Ready for Thanksgiving Day…One Thank-You At a Time.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff – some things you can do this month to inspire more gratitude in your kids. Ideas that can also foster a lifelong attitude of gratitude in your children in a fun and nurturing way.

1. Model Gratitude

Kids are like sponges, absorbing everything they see and hear. So, if you want them to be more grateful, a good way to begin is to lead by example. So, what if you committed yourself, starting this month, to expressing your own gratitude more openly and frequently? Whether it’s thanking the barista for your morning coffee or appreciating the person who made space for you to move into their lane of traffic, a “Thanks so much” can go a long way.

You could also say thank you to your partner more often and tell them specific things you are grateful for about them, like: “I’m so happy that you fixed dinner tonight.”  And you could thank your children for kind things they do, and give them specifics, like “Thank you for holding your little sister’s hand when you’re crossing the street.”

To teach your children to be grateful for the beauty in the world, you could take the time to stop and notice an incredible sunset or the smell of leaves in your own backyard. And you could also express your appreciation for people outside your family who are doing good things in the world – “I’m so grateful for the relief workers who are getting food and medical supplies to people who need it so much now.”

Gratitude Jar photo by Katja Linders, Flickr, some rights reserved.

2. Have a Family Gratitude Time

What if this month you started a daily or as-many-days-of-the-week-as-you-can-manage tradition of sharing what you’re grateful for at your family’s evening meal. This not only reinforces gratitude but also brings your family closer together. There are lots of fun ways to do this. You could each take a moment to say at least one thing you were grateful about that day. Or you could all write down the things you’re grateful for from the day and add them to a Gratitude Jar or a Gratitude Tree, or you could turn the front of your fridge into Gratitude Central and fill it with sticky notes of thanks.

Another option would be to pick one day of the week and one meal to be the Gratitude Party Meal. At that meal, along with sharing what you’re each thankful for from the week, you could also let each of the family members take turns choosing what you’ll eat for the meal that week – they can pick a food they are especially thankful for (of course you may need to add a boundary that it has to be something that you can buy easily locally or make together at your house versus having lobster flown in from Maine, or shrimp flown in from Louisiana…)

3. Create a Family Thankfulness Book

What if this month you get a scrapbook and tell your kids this is a place to collect and remember all the good things that happen in your family that you are thankful for. You could include photos with notes like “I’m grateful for when we all hiked up this beautiful mountain…” as well as ticket stubs from plays or movies you particularly appreciated, as well as the kids’ drawings, awards, and other milestones. It’s the kind of thing you can add to all through the years and have an annual tradition of looking through the book as a family on Thanksgiving Day.

4. Start Young, Make it Musical & Fun

Thankfulness is something it’s important to start early and do often. Teaching our kids to say “Please” and “Thank You” is a great way to introduce the idea of gratitude in a very simple way, with even with our littlest ones.  And music is a one of the best ways to make the habit of saying those magic words more fun and more memorable. So, perhaps leading up to Thanksgiving this month, you and your child could learn a special thank you song together and sing it whenever appropriate.

Here’s one example from CoComelon Nursery Rhymes & Kids Songs.

Of course, you might also want to create your own catchy song that reinforces “Please” and “Thank you.” You can sing it together when you’re in the car, at the dinner table, or just because. (Bonus points for goofy dance moves that go with it!)

If it feels too hard to make up something totally from scratch, start with an easy tune like the classic nursery rhyme Frere Jacques and make up your own words or use these:

Please and thank you.

Please and thank you.

That’s what we say,

Every day.

We say please and thank you

Makes us happy to do

Every day. Every day.

We also love the sweet and gentle Thanks A Lot song by Raffi from the Baby Beluga album, in which he shares his gratitude for the sun and the clouds and the wind and the birds.  You and your child might enjoy watching this video of the song, made by a classroom of 1st and 2nd graders, as a part of your nightly bedtime ritual before coming up with some things you’re grateful for from the day.

5. Give to Others to Give Thanks

There’s nothing quite like giving to others who may not have as much as we do to help our kids remember to be thankful. Perhaps you start a tradition in your family that every November leading up to Thanksgiving, you and your child clean out their toy box and find at least 5 toys or games that they could give away for someone else to enjoy. Then you take a trip to the Toy Box Connection or another local charity that will accept gently used kids’ toys. 

You could also go on a shopping trip with your child to purchase a new toy or stuffed animal for a child that needs one. Lurie Children’s Hospital and The Sharing Connection are two local organizations that accept new toys, games, crafts and more. Many organizations let you do this by shopping through Amazon – so you and your child wouldn’t even need to leave home to help.

Volunteering as a family at a local charity like the Greater Chicago Food Depository or Meals on Wheels is another great way to let your kids experience the warm fuzzies of helping others… which is like sprinkling magic gratitude dust on their little hearts.

Giving Thanks –  The Gift that Keeps on Giving

As Thanksgiving approaches, let’s embrace the spirit of gratitude and make it a year-round affair. Raising grateful kids is not only a gift to them but to the world. They’ll grow up to be appreciative, compassionate, and happy individuals who spread positivity and kindness wherever they go.

After all, gratitude is the real pumpkin spice of life, and we could all use a little more of it.

And from all of us at KidSnips, we can’t say it enough – we are so THANKFUL for each and every one of you in our KidSnips family.  And we are wishing you all a Thanksgiving filled with love, laughter, and lots of gratitude!

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