Encourage an “Attitude of Gratitude” this Thanksgiving!

Here are some ideas I shared with you last year. More Thanksgiving songs, rhymes, books, and more to come! Enjoy, and pass along…

Thanksgiving is such a great time to SLOW down and enjoy some time re-connecting with your kids and family. Here are few ideas from my family to yours:

Encouraging an Attitude of Gratitude

1. “What Are You Thankful For?” I’ll never forget my first fall teaching music to young children years ago. I led some little ones in a this simple song: “What are you thankful for? What are you thankful for? I’m thankful for _________, that’s what I’m thankful for.” We sang everyone’s answers in the song. We also drew pictures of our answers. There were the sweet predictable answers like “my family”, “my house”, “my dog Molly”, “my baby Jackson”, “cookies”, “my toys”. Then there was little Trebor (“Robert” backwards) who said with his little gravelly 3-year-old voice, “I’m thankful for ware wolves.” And he handed his mommy a nice picture of a family of ware wolves when she picked him up. When I sang the sang the same song with my kids at breakfast the other morning, Ellie genuinely answered (with no prompting), “I’m thankful for Brother.” And grinning sweetly, MJ said, “I’m thankful for Ellie.” Ahhhhhh!  Alas, for me, the song will forevermore replay each Thanksgiving in my head, not with the voices of my children, but remembering little Trebor: “I’m thankful for ware wolves, that’s what I’m thankful. for.”

2. Our friends the Markhams taught us the ritual of holding hands around the table, and saying something on their plate they are thankful for, then squeezing a hand to pass the turn. Take it a step further, and be thankful for the aunt who made the cranberry sauce, the farmer who grew the cranberries, the hard workers who harvested them…

3. Our favorite Thanksgiving book for teaching gratitude is The Thanksgiving Bowl by Virginia Kroll. Grandma shares the tradition of having all the family members write down something that they are thankful for, and after their meal, before they eat their pumpkin pie, they each pull one out of the bowl to read and try to guess who wrote it. Then, the bowl has its own adventure until the next Thanksgiving comes around. Take this ritual and make it musical with a sung response “Now Thank We All Our God with hearts, and hands, and voices.” see MJ demonstrates the motions and song, 2011

4. Turn your little one’s hands into turkeys! (2 ways) When your child is seated in your lap, or in the grocery cart, or while you’re tucking them into bed, try this simple ritual for intentional touch: Have them spread their fingers to make a turkey. Then, you massage each finger starting with the turkey’s “head” (thumb) and ending on the baby pinky, saying one word for each “feather”: “I -am-thankful-for-YOU!” Then end it with a silly gobble and a tickleor hug. Time taken: 10 seconds; message of love: lifelong!

Handprint Turkeys

We like to turn this into a craft for sharing with people we love, also. Get a little messy doing Thanksgiving turkey handprints, add a warbler, beak, and legs with crayon, add a google eye, maybe even some feathers with glue. And write the words on each finger; “I -am -thankful-for-YOU!” Then let the children hand them out to teachers, grandparents, babysitters, etc. What a great way to share your love and gratitude! (And see the cute pinecone turkey in the photo made by MJ at school? Sure, it’s another great craft idea, but I included it to remind you that I do NOT have the perfect family life. This is the pinecone turkey that hit me upside the head as I was driving him home from school the other day, and he will NOT be coming out of confinement until Thanksgiving Day – the turkey, not MJ.)

5. Five Kernels of Corn: This is a tradition of gratitude that dates back to the 1st Thanksgiving, or so the story goes…Read about it what the kernels represent, and let your kids help place 5 kernels at everyone’s place this Thanksgiving, and explain the story…http://www.poofcat.com/thanks7.html

6. Not everyone has a “Happy” Thanksgiving. Teach your children to think of others by taking goods to a food bank, or share a “Thanksgiving Basket” with someone who’s had a particularly rough year. Could be socks and toys, or just a ziplock with cookies and cuties – just something to let them know someone is thinking of them. We like to do an anonymus drive-by delivery, ring the doorbell, then sneak away quickly  for added excitement! Sign your note from the “Turkey Fairy“.

Reconnect Outside Together!

<p>Leaves! Leaves! Leaves!</p>Got a little time off? How about enjoying a”Leaf Walk” together? MJ and I had a special “Mommy and Me” date doing this after school one day this week, and it is definitely one of my “good things” for the week. He had the idea to use his empty “Trick or Treat” bag to collect the leaves, and we brought along our favorite lead book as a reference guide, Leaves, Leaves, Leaves!, a Scholastic book by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. (Buddy Bear and his mama do a leaf walk during each of the seasons to learn about trees. It tells you how to do leaf rubbings, includes a tree diagram and poems about leaves, too.) After our walk, MJ said, “We should do this every fall!” I agree. We sorted by color, shape, size. We counted, added, subtracted as he took stock of his “loot”. We ran into the “Bird Man” who is often seen feeding the pigeons and squirrels at “The Lakes”. And MJ was brave enough to feed the birds right out of his hand, letting one land on his arm, leg, and even his head!

Tell a Story, Listen to a Story.

Did you know that the Friday after Thanksgiving has been declared the “National Day of Listening“? Listening is truly an act of love (not to mention a learned skill), so how about sitting down for a meaningful conversation with your own family and friends. (Doesn’t that sound so much more relaxing and rewarding than “Black Friday” at Wal-Mart?) Ask them to tell you about their favorite Thanksgiving memory, tradition, etc. Tell your own children a story from your childhood. I like to tell about the time my extended family went for a long walk after our Thanksgiving meal, following the rail road tracks from Heimat (our German family “Home Place”) along the Guadalupe River down in Gruene, TX. We came across a rope swing, and all my older boy cousins took a turn swinging out over the river and back to the bank. When I took a turn, I fell into the cold water, and cousins Ethan and Matt dove right in to “save” me! I remember feeling so loved and so close with all my cousins on that walk. And then there was the Thanksgiving that we spent up in Seattle with Aunty Ann’s family. We drove up into the snowy forests of Mt. Rainier to chop down a 20-foor Christmas tree!


Go for a “Listening Walk” to hear birds, children laughing, leaves rustling, squirrels chattering.

 The Listening Walk By Paul Showers Illustrated by Aliki The Listening Walk by Paul Showers
Please share with each other by commenting: What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions and memories? Be intentional about your time together this holiday, and give thanks with a grateful heart and joyful spirit. Your kids will catch on!


  1. Cathy Sweeney says:

    Don’t forget “Thanks and Giving,” a great book sponsored by Marlo Thomas and benefiting St. Jude’s Hospital for Children. The CD is a wonderful listen in the car, with songs of thanks and stories of gratitude to share (although the first story is a bit strange, and I’d pass on it for younger children). You’ll have them singing along to Jimmy Buffett’s “Attitude of Gratitude” all year!

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