As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s easy to get distracted by the excitement of delicious food, football games, Black Friday shopping, and the quest for the perfect table settings. As people gather with family and friends, they may pause to acknowledge their blessings; but what can families do to inspire thankfulness in kids all year long?
The most effective way to teach children gratitude is to model it. Let children hear you talk about things you’re thankful for. When kids recognize the blessings in their lives, they begin to appreciate them.
Teach Kids to Say Thank You
From a young age, teach children to say thank you for any acts of service or gifts. Even toddlers can be taught to sign “thank you.” Write thank-you notes as a family. Encourage an “It’s the thought that counts” philosophy.
It isn’t healthy to say yes to every request a child has. “No” or “not right now” teaches children the value of delayed gratification and encourages thankfulness for occasional treats. If a child is allowed to purchase something every time he visits a store, it becomes expected.
Serve Others as a Family
Families who do service projects together tend to appreciate what they have more. When children see that some people are less fortunate, they develop a desire to help others and become more aware of blessings in their own lives.
Opportunities to Serve with Kids
- Organize a collection drive for those in need (jackets, hats, blankets, toys or clothing).
- Take the kids shopping for non-perishable foods and/or collect items from neighbors to donate to a local food pantry. Find other ways to support families experiencing food insecurity in the article, "Unique Ways to Volunteer with Kids: Help Feed Your Neighbors."
- Fill shoeboxes with items for children overseas through Operation Christmas Child. Visit www.samaritanspurse.org for more information, including dates and locations.
- Bake cookies for friends, neighbors or take them to a local police or fire station.
- Send care packages, cards and letters to soldiers overseas. Learn more by reading the article, “9 Ways to Thank a Veteran”.
- Make cards for seniors and deliver them to an assisted living center.
- Plant flowers or trees.
- Clean up school grounds or a local park or beach.
- Have a lemonade stand or garage sale and donate proceeds to a favorite charity.
- Get more ideas from the article, "Doing Good Deeds: 21 ways kids can help the community."
It’s not necessary to wait for a big turkey dinner to express gratitude. Take time to inspire thankfulness in children for the blessings that surround us all year.
Sarah Lyons is a freelance writer and mom of six children, including 3-year-old triplets. Her family enjoys doing service projects together.