By Amanda Causey Baity
Over the past few years you may have noticed a social media trend that happens during the month of November. I’m not talking about “No Shave November,” though that appears to be alive and well, but “30 Days of Thankful.” I’m sure you’ve noticed friends posting
something they’re thankful for each day of the month. Even if you or your children don’t use social media, we can still give thanks each day and start an interactive holiday tradition the whole family can cherish.
Thanksgiving is a great time to teach children what it means to be thankful, as well as ways they can show their appreciation. While younger children might have trouble understanding the concept, your older children can help them grasp it. One creative way to illustrate the lesson is by making a “Thankful Tree,” which your family fills with leaves that list all the things for which they are thankful.
Variations on designing your tree and leaves are nearly limitless. Each year I come up with a new way to create and decorate our tree to make it a little different and special. I’ve included instructions for a basic tree, but you can also see different examples of Thankful Trees by visiting pwliving.com and clicking “Craft Corner” under “Family Living.”
To keep the project simple, create an actual “tree.”
- Collect small branches from your yard that range from 12-24 inches and have offshoots. Be sure there are no spiders or other insects that have made a home in the branches, giving them a good shake before bringing inside.
- Place them in a vase and arrange them to resemble a tree.
- For the leaves you can use construction paper, artificial leaves from the craft store or decorative paper cut into circles or
squares. I do not recommend using real leaves as they can be hard to write on as well as fragile once they start to turn colors.
- Punch a small hole in each leaf and run some baker’s twine or string through, knotting the string so that it can be used for hanging.
- Give each family member leaves and have them write down things they appreciate. This can be done all at once or on a daily basis. We like to sit down together and write ours as a family. We then take turns reading what we are thankful for and why.
- Hang your leaves on the branches and, voilà. You have a personalized and unique decoration for your Thanksgiving dinner that’s more than just for looks.
Teaching children to be thankful promotes sensitivity to the feelings of others and encourages a healthy attitude focused on all the positive aspects of their lives, rather than dwelling on what they may not have. Here are a few tips on how to teach your children to view the world from a place of gratitude:
- Write thank-you notes: Any time your child receives a gift, have them write short thank-you notes. If they’re too young to write, ask them what they would like to say while you write it down. These little ones can even draw pictures to accompany thank-you notes you wrote down for them.
- Donate old toys and clothing: With Christmas (and cold weather!) right around the corner, many organizations in our community are looking for new and gently used toys and coats for children in need. Have your children help prepare their old clothing for donation. Older children can even help you select the charity.
- Lead by example: Children learn by following their parents’ example. Make a point of saying “please” and “thank you” when you interact with others and when you talk to your children. Let them see you volunteering your time in the community and tell them about your charitable contributions, as well as why you choose the causes that you do.
- Let kids contribute: Encourage your children to make get-well cards for a sick family member, help you set the table or volunteer. Helping others will help them to feel thankful for all the things that you and others do for them, and teach them that you’re never too young to make a difference.
- Make small sacrifices: Practice making sacrifices with your children such as not driving the car short distances and walking instead, or donating leftover change from the grocery checkout to people collecting outside. This serves as a reminder of things we all take for granted every day and teaches your children to be more humble.
- Reflect together each night: Before your kids go to bed at night, talk to them about their day and reflect on the good things that happened. By doing this you’re encouraging them to actually think about what they should be grateful for and it ends the day on a positive note.
Amanda Causey Baity, Prince William Living’s marketing director, lives in Montclair with her family. She also blogs about thrifty family activities and recipes on her blog GreenOwlCrafts.com. She can be reached at [email protected]