5 EASY Ways to Put the THANKS in Thanksgiving



It’s the week of Thanksgiving. I feel hard pressed to find ways to put the THANKS in Thanksgiving. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been scrambling all week to prepare for a  glorious, Pinterest-worthy holiday with family (Ok, Pinterest-worthy may be shooting a little high at this point – but at least memorable). The turkey is thawing in the fridge.  Aunt Hilda is bringing the pies. I’ve only got three bathrooms left to clean until my house is passable. While it’s hard to be thankful

Then it hits me: It’s THANKSgiving.

What am I going to do to help ensure a spirit of true gratitude in my kids (and myself) this Thanksgiving?  I start to feel a little sheepish as I wonder why I am thinking of this very crucial thing last.

Don’t worry. With only three days to go, I’ve prepared for you five easy, free, no-prep ways to make Thanksgiving truly a time of giving thanks…even for your tweens and teens who are at that age when gratitude is NOT so habitual!


These ideas are so easy, you’ll call me later and THANK ME for the help (no really, don’t worry about it. After all you’ll have a mountain of dishes to do!).

ways to put the thanks in thanksgiving easy ways for children


  1. A quarter for your thanks

Set a jar on the counter first thing Thanksgiving morning. Tell your family you are playing a day-long game. Anytime someone says something that is critical, a complaint or not encouraging, they must put a quarter in the jar (yes the quarter should come for their OWN piggy bank). BUT, as they place the quarter in the jar, they must ALSO name something new and not yet mentioned that day for which they are thankful. This means that every time someone whines about the turkey being a bit on the (eh, eh) dry side, the potatoes being cold, or cousin Billy getting the bigger piece of pie, you are making cha-ching. Go momma!


Of course, this also means that YOU must not complain about being on your feet all day, Aunt Hilda’s fifth time repeating her childhood story or when the dog jumps on the table and starts eating the turkey carcass. Oh yes – and it would be most generous of you to take those coins at the end of the day and donate them to the charity for which you are most thankful.


If you have competitive kids in the house, you could set a piece of scratch paper next to the jar and keep tallies on who chips in the most coins over the course of the day (the most coins would technically mean you are the biggest whiner in the house). Or, if you find this game truly improves the mood of the whole house, stretch the game out for the full long weekend.

Or forever. It’s an easy way to put the thanks in Thanksgiving all year round.

  1. Pray like Abe

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln set the last Thursday of November aside as a national day “of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Read President Abraham’s Thanksgiving Day proclamation to your family and have them identify the specific things for which he was grateful. Then take this opportunity to offer your own prayer of thanks to God for the many blessings He has given you.

  1. Three kernels

Once the meal is finally on the table and mostly consumed, pass out three kernels of flint corn aka colored harvest corn or three M&Ms or whatever else you have on hand to each person. Pass around a small bowl and have everyone share three things they’re thankful for as they place their kernels into the bowl. This is super simple, and a fun family tradition to keep going year to year. You can always find an easy way to put the thanks in Thanksgiving.(Note to Mom:  jot down people’s comments for the family scrapbook).

  1. Fishbowl of thanks

Once the feast is over and people are starting to nod off from all the tryptophan, you need a fun and engaging game to rouse the gang (at least the half of the gang not interested in watching the football games). Fishbowl is a fun game for all ages (send non-readers up with a helper) and requires no special supplies. Find the general Fishbowl rules here.

To make this a “Fishbowl of thanks,” in step one, have each person write down some random yet specific things for which they are thankful.  It could be modern day conveniences (i.e., running water), stress relievers (say Yoga class) or things you just wouldn’t want to live without (Starbucks peppermint white chocolate mocha). I like to have each player contribute five to ten things to make the game a little harder. Put all these “thanksgivings” into the fishbowl (or bucket or whatever you have on hand) and proceed according to the game directions.family photo walk and talk easy ways to be thankful on thanksgiving

  1. Photo walk and talk

If you are a packrat like me, pull out last year’s Christmas cards you received in the mail and look through them. Or pull out an old family album that includes family and friends you don’t see often. Take turns giving a reason you are thankful for these special people in your lives. And while you’re at it, give them a call (gasp…an actual phone call and not a text!) and tell them how thankful you are for them. Maybe even use this time to start compiling a family photo album for the year.

5 ways to put the Thanks in Thanksgiving teach kids gratefulness


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