Don’t let this month’s focus on food – and football – overshadow the spirit of thanksgiving. Show kids how to express their thanks with these inspired ideas. Because actions really do speak louder than words.
1. Apples for the teacher. Take the kids on an apple-picking expedition at a nearby orchard or hit the farmer’s market for fresh fruit. Then get in the kitchen and bake cinnamon-apple muffins together (try this 5-star recipe from Robyn at Addapinch.com). Give the muffins to your child’s teacher with a hand-written note that says, “I couldn’t have picked a better teacher! You are the apple of my eye.”
2. Word up. Boost your brainpower by learning how people say thanks in a load of other languages. You’ll find written words for thank you with pronunciation tips at Factmonster.com and a video presentation of 29 thankful expressions on Youtube.com. Set a goal to say “thank you” three times each day in a foreign language and soon these expressions will feel familiar.
3. Picture it. Take a photo of your child with something (or someone) he’s grateful for – like a loving grandparent or an awesome bus driver. Post it on Facebook for others to see and challenge your friends to catch your attitude of gratitude and share their own images of appreciation. Let’s make gratitude go viral.
4. Pay it forward. You’ve undoubtedly heard that money talks. This month, make it say “thanks!” by donating to charitable organizations in your community. Not sure where to start? Donations to the Feeding America BackPack Program are used to give weekend eats to 230,000 children who get free lunch at school but go hungry at home.
5. Rake it up. Grab a rake and a pack of paper leaf bags and head outside to haul in the harvest. Kids can scoop up neighbors’ leaves for free or ask for a small donation to pass on to a community garden or green space. When the work is done, take the leaves to your city’s drop-off site or to a garden center for composting. Then enjoy a cup of cocoa together. You’ve earned it.
6. Talk turkey. In the US and Canada, many food banks serve traditional Thanksgiving dinners to people in need. Find a food bank near you using the search engine at FeedingAmerica.org and volunteer to work at an upcoming turkey drive. There, you’ll have the privilege of saying thank you to the generous people who bring in the birds, and all the side-dish fixings.
7. Express your good fortune. Bake your own fortune cookies with personalized messages inside to remind your kids just how lucky you are to have them in your life. Find simple recipes at AllRecipes.com or order fancy custom cookies at KCFortuneCookieFactory.com.
8. Give the gift of time. Start a family time bank to give kids a chance to help one another. Your teenager might spend an hour designing student council campaign posters for your middle school student who pays it back by folding his big brother’s share of the laundry pile. Pitching in on family projects lets everyone experience the joys of teamwork. Learn more about time banking at timebank.org.
9. Launch an attack. Of appreciation, that is. Pen a heartfelt thank you note to hide in your husband’s wallet or brief case. Leave a lipstick kiss on his side of the bathroom mirror in the morning. Text thank you messages to his cell phone throughout the day. Your goal: To remind him (and yourself!) how grateful you are to have a sweet and supportive partner.
10. Fill everybody’s bucket. Teach young kids the value of good deeds with the book Fill a Bucket by Carol McCloud and Katherine Martin. To reinforce its message, ask kids to write down good deeds on slips of paper and put them in small tin buckets labeled with family members’ names. Pretty soon, kids will be clambering to see who can fill up their bucket first. And everyone will be happier for it.
Heidi Smith Luedtke is a personality psychologist and mom who is grateful for knock-knock jokes and bedtime stories. She is the author of Detachment Parenting.