As a parent, you know that children are naturally self-centered. Those tiny humans have some very big feelings and needs, and it’s hard for them to look outside of themselves. So, as we head into the Thanksgiving season, let’s have some fun fostering grateful hearts and making other people feel loved and appreciated while we’re at it. Focusing on gratitude a bit every day will remind us of the sweet blessings all around us, even in the chaos, and teach our kiddos how to appreciate the important things in life, big and small. Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity to find fun and educational Thanksgiving activities for kids, so I’m here to brainstorm with you!
An attitude of gratitude sparks joy, contentment, generosity, mindfulness, and selflessness. In turn, you may find that your kids can better cope with their own emotions and have a healthier overall outlook on life. Studies show that “gratitude not only improves your physical and mental well-being; it may also improve relationships too. Gratitude plays a key role in forming relationships, as well as in strengthening existing ones.” Plus, it can increase optimism (Healthline Mental Health).
Here are a few interactive Thanksgiving activities for families that spark gratitude:
1. Volunteer Together.
Find a local food pantry, nonprofit organization, church program, or school event and volunteer together as a family. Your kiddos are watching you. Instead of going through the motions, intentionally chat and get to know those you are helping. Before and after you volunteer, discuss what that particular organization does, and explain the importance of helping others.
Show your children how their involvement directly helps others, and let them take the initiative if they’re old enough. For instance, you might give them a list of volunteer options to pick the volunteer opportunity. Or let them choose ways they would like to contribute. Give your children a voice in it all so they can be active participants instead of simply giving them tasks to complete.
2. Write Thank-You Notes.
Without making it a chore, choose 3-5 people to write thank-you notes to during November. They can decorate them with turkeys, feathers, glitter, construction paper designs, paint—whatever they enjoy. Consider writing letters to bus drivers, teachers/coaches, family, and friends. Consider writing thank-you notes for those who often get overlooked, like the grocery bagger or cart collector. It could really make a big difference.
3. Make a Thankful Tree.
This activity often turns into one of those crafts you end up keeping forever. Gather enough leaf-shaped cutouts for each child to have one paper leaf per day in November. Each day, ask them what they are thankful for. (Or have older children write their own.) Have them glue their leaves to the thankful tree. I like to use fall-colored leaves for added color. Toddler responses will likely keep you laughing, and older kids will surprise you with their big hearts.
4. Do Random Acts of Kindness Together.
Brainstorm acts of kindness together as a family. Set a goal, perhaps ten acts of kindness for November. Or, you could play Acts of Kindness Bingo. Make your own, or check out these printable sheets by Highlights. They have preschool, classroom, family, and general kindness bingo games available. (Highlights offers printable thank-you cards as well.)
5. Paint Kindness Rocks.
We all need a little pick-me-up now and then. Turn your Thanksgiving activities into rays of hope for others. Paint inspirational and encouraging messages or pictures on rocks and take them to the park or place them along sidewalks so they can brighten someone’s day.
6. Bake Treats for a Neighbor or Friend.
Who doesn’t love a homemade chocolate chip cookie? (Pillsbury slice and bake cookies are pretty tasty, too!) Bake some delicious goodies for your neighbors. If you have the time (and patience), you could also make Thanksgiving sugar cookies and decorate them with festive icing and sprinkles.
7. Play the Gratitude Game.
Make gratitude fun (and add a bit of friendly competition if you’d like). Get those little brains ticking with these Thanksgiving activities. Try the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt or Cards of Gratitude by CB Inspired Printables on Etsy. Here’s a free “Roll the Dice” version by Playful Notes.
8. Host a FREE Lemonade Stand.
You’ve heard the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Help your kids visualize the concept by making a few batches of sweet lemonade and serving them up for free to share some love with others.
9. Find the “Extra” in the Ordinary.
We’re surrounded by technology and convenience. With everything right at our fingertips, it’s easy to get bored or forget just how much we’re blessed. Encourage your kids to see the good and the special in everyday circumstances.
Each day, maybe on the ride home from school, ask your little ones what today’s “wow factor” was. What was something they noticed and thought was pretty cool? For instance, maybe they noticed the colorful fall leaves on the way to school. Or perhaps they served your child’s favorite option in the cafeteria today. Maybe a stranger or classmate did something unexpectedly kind.
If they’re having trouble with this concept, lead by example. Talk about how beautiful the sunrise or sunset is. Or take note, and say, “Wow! Did you see that young man hold the door open? That was so thoughtful and kind.”
After reading a fun book together, ask, “Aren’t you glad we can share fun books like these together?” Another idea is to turn on a fun song and dance together. Ask your kids, “Isn’t it awesome that we can listen to music and dance along? It makes me feel so happy!”
The key here is to simply look out and appreciate what’s around them—the things that make everyday life so beautiful.
I Hope you enjoy these Thanksgiving activities! I’d love for you to share your photos by tagging Dazzling Diva on social media and spread an attitude of gratitude. You can find me on Instagram @dazzlingdiva.photography and Facebook @DazzlingDivaPhotography.
Kelley & the Dazzling Diva Photography Team Appreciates YOU!
It’s truly a joy photographing so many wonderful families like yours. Thank you for trusting me to capture priceless moments for you. I love I do because of YOU—thanks for sharing these moments with me and supporting local businesses like DDP. From my family to yours, we wish you a very happy Thanksgiving!