As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family, many of us — myself included — will turn our thoughts to the abundance of blessings we enjoy.

I must admit, sometimes I worry about how much my children have. Because it's so important to Jonathan and me that our kids take nothing for granted, we make a conscious effort to instill in them a sense of gratitude. Throughout the years, we have created some "gratitude projects" that give us an opportunity to think and mediate about the things we are grateful for.

Gratitude Jar

Each member of the family writes on a small piece of paper something for which he or she is grateful and places it in a special jar or box. At the end of the year, the whole family gathers to read them out loud. The jar or box is placed in a prominent location in the home so that all can see and contribute it regularly. Reading everyone's gratitude notes on New Year's Eve is a beautiful way to ring out the year!

Gratitude Journal

On a selected day of the week, the family gathers together to express the things they are grateful for, and one family member documents each person's expressions in a special journal or notebook. This does not have to be a formal event — it can happen right before or after dinner — and the journal makes a beautiful family keepsake.

Gratitude Party

Gather your loved ones for no real reason except to say "I'm grateful for you and want to spend time with you." You can make a gratitude project together to create gifts for your guests, or you can present each one with a specially decorated gratitude jar or journal. Children love to give homemade gifts!

Blessings Poster

Get "crafty" with your gratitude! Gather and cut out pictures of things your children tell you they are grateful for — family members, teachers, pets, friends, your house, ice cream, etc. Then create a collage on a piece of poster board and mount it in a prominent place as a constant reminder of your family's many blessings.

A Gratitude Tree on Thanksgiving Day (or any day!)

Need an activity to do while others are cooking, or watching football, or talking about politics? Gather kids and grownups to collaborate on this fun gratitude exercise:

  1. Cut a simple tree out of brown construction paper, and cut out leaves using orange, red, brown, and yellow paper. (You can play your favorite Music Together® CD while you do this!)
  2. Place five leaves and a pencil at each person's place setting on the dinner table.
  3. Before dinner begins, have each person write one thing he or she is grateful for on each leaf.
  4. Go around the table and have each person read his or her leaves, and let the kids stick them on the tree with tape or glue.

Our family has done this several times, and I was shocked at how much people wrote on their leaves! We always enjoy lots of laughter and even a few tears. As I write this, I'm planning on doing it again this year!

Create your own special tradition to help cultivate a sense of gratitude in your family, and stick with it. Not only will you encourage your children to appreciate their many blessings, but you'll find yourself living a more grateful life.

Some Final Thoughts on Gratitude

When it comes to material possessions, remember that children need for us to keep things simple. They don't need elaborate things to thrive. They need love, safety, and a sense of belonging. Your gratitude projects will inspire great conversations about where true happiness comes from.

I highly suggest taking action with gratitude. What can we as parents do to teach and show an attitude of gratitude? To me, the answer is service. Try a service project with your children, and remember to keep it simple. Keep granola bars in the car and share them with the homeless people you see at traffic lights. Or you can create "care packages" for the homeless: fill a small paper bag, decorated by your child, with a toothbrush, toothpaste, granola bars, an orange or apple, and water. You can do this by yourselves or partner with another family.

From all of us here at Prelude, we wish you a joyful, blessed, and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving celebration!

What are your favorite "gratitude projects" in your family? Please tell us about them in the comments below — we'd love to hear from you!

Blessings and peace,

Ana

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