I should start by saying that Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday of the year. It could be for all that it is: a wonderful meal, quality time with friends & family and most importantly a time to reflect on all there is to be thankful for. Or it could be for all that it's not: no pressure to find the perfect gift, no rushing through holiday crowds at a mall and no stress. Now that I have two little ones of my own it is even more special to me and more important to instill my love of Thanksgiving and showing thankfulness.
Teaching children, especially preschool age children, about an abstract concept and feeling like thankfulness can be tricky but I've compiled 7 practical ideas to help you teach your own kids thankfulness:
1. Mind your P's & Q's. When my two little girls began to talk it was the perfect time to start practicing manners. Learning manners and saying "please" & "thank you" are important words to learn and fun to practice when they are very little. The more they say it ~ the more it will stick! And an extra sweet bonus is hearing them say it, like my two year old's, "peace" and "tank u".
2. HeART Felt Thank you notes. In a world where a text or email is common place, teaching children the art of the thank you note is so important. My little girls LOVE to draw thank you notes to friends & family members, adding stickers, odds and ends for flare to create an artistic masterpiece. Engaging your kids creative spirit lets them create a heartfelt note to say thank you and one they can't wait to send to their loved ones.
3. Create Thankful Placemats. We absolutely adore these super easy DIY thankful placemats from Jamie at C.R.A.F.T! This craft is easy to make with items you already have lying around the house & a great activity to engage kiddos at the dinner table!
4. Give Back. What better way to show your children first hand the value of thankfulness and giving back than by taking them to volunteer. Here in Austin, TX Little Helping Hands is one organization in particular that provides opportunities to volunteer specifically geared towards families with little ones. Another option is to reach out to your local United Way chapter, church or school to ask about volunteer opportunities for you and your kiddos!
5. Find the Perfect Gift. Young kids and gift giving don't always seem to mix. I have seen my own kids temper tantrums first hand when picking out gifts for someone else at the toy store. Despite what might be a touch and go situation, it is an important lesson and can be fun! Prepare your kids for it by talking about the situation, what you are going to go do and who you are going shopping for. Make it an adventure! It can be a fun and rewarding adventure to go to the store, find the perfect gift, wrap it up and go to the post office to mail it to your loved one. So many place to go and things to see along the way, make it fun!
6. Share Your "Top Three". Why is it when kids come home from school and you ask them what they learned at school that day, the answer is always, "nothing". Always. A great way to break the ice at the dinner table is to go around the table as a family and share the top three things you are thankful for that day! Not only does it instill an attitude of gratitude but it gets everyone sharing what happened during their day and what was meaningful to them. The most important part is that everyone is sharing, having fun and talking about what they are thankful for!
7. Our Cup Runeth Over. At our house we love to "count sleeps" or participate in count downs to special events! Turn the tables on a count down and do a "count up"! All you need is a mason jar, a few pieces of paper and a marker. Start by cutting the paper into small strips. Each day write down something that you are thankful for. Watch over the days, weeks, and month how the jar fills up with all that you are thankful for! It creates a daily conversation about what everyone is thankful for, allows them to make note of it on a piece of paper and put it in the jar! Watch together as the jar continues to fill up with gratitude! We love Becky's, from The Realistic Mama, Thankfulness Jar we found via Pinterest.
Katie Hall, is owner & founder of WynnRuby.com, an online children's boutique based in Austin, TX.