by Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S

Thanksgiving is just around the corner; we can practically smell the pie! And, with that, comes gratitude: this is a time of year to give thanks to everything that helps make us us: our challenges and successes, our sores and our soars. Of course, it’s also about giving thanks to the more tangible items in our lives – the food on our plates, the roofs over our heads, the paper turkey made from our child’s handprint that hangs on our refrigerator doors.

Yes, gratefulness is something that’s wonderful to possess. It’s also something many of us want to instill in our children.

This may be easier than assumed. It turns out, there are a lot of ways to cultivate thanks, including activities that are fun, impactful, and unique. Sometimes, appreciation means thinking outside the box of stuffing.

So, if you’re looking for some gratitude games and thankfulness tricks, consider the following:

Make a gratitude jar: A gratitude jar is something you and your kids can create together. Allow your son or daughter to decorate it however they want, then encourage them to fill it each day with a slip of paper noting something for which they’re grateful. Do this for as long as you want – a week or a month or a year – and then take some time to pour out the jar, explore its contents, and experience gratitude all over again.

Volunteer: It’s difficult for many people to find the time to volunteer, but the holidays allow for temporary opportunities: if you have an hour to spare, many organizations will gladly welcome you with open arms. Some also allow you to bring your child (if they’re of a certain age). Volunteering with your kid is one of the easiest ways to perpetuate gratefulness and a love for giving back. The best part is knowing you’ve impacted someone’s life; these memories tend to take root for a long time.

Create something for a loved one: Another way to express gratitude is to help your child create something for someone they love. This can be anything – a seasonal card to a holiday wreath – and for anyone – a relative or neighbor or friend from school. You may have to take the lead, depending on your child’s age. Supervision will help keep glue on the art project and out of the dog’s fur.

Play the Turkey Toss game: This game takes minimal preparation: buy a crystal bouncy ball (you can find them at dollar stores), stick in some feathers, grab a Sharpie, and give the ball a turkey face. Then toss the ball back and forth, with each person naming something they’re thankful for each time they catch it. This isn’t only a great way to express gratitude, but it’s also a great way to hone motor-skills. Kids were made to move and groove!

Spend time doing your child’s favorite activity: Sometimes, the best way to cultivate gratefulness is to give people something for which to be grateful. Allowing your kids to pick a day filled with one of their favorite activities does just that. We know that children learn from observation. Thus, it comes as no surprise that generosity from adults begets generosity in the young.

Find gratitude in the challenges: It is easy to find gratitude in the experiences that feel good, but cultivating gratitude for challenges is just as important (if not more – these experiences are the ones that tend to shape us!). Spend time talking to your child about something over this past year that they experienced as “challenging.”  Help your child think of at least five ways that challenge helped them –  what did it teach them? How did it help them grow?  You can talk this out, make a list, write the answers on the feathers of a handprint turkey or draw a picture of the response.

The holidays remind us to be grateful, but gratitude is certainly not a “once a year” thing. It’s always in season if we know where to look.

We don’t have all the answers to parenthood, but we have some. Check out our Online Parenting Class – Managing Your Child’s Moods and Behaviors. Buy now for 40 dollars off!