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New Thanksgiving Traditions: Teaching Children Thankfulness

Teaching our kids to be thankful is very important in our house. Thankfulness is something that can be taught no matter the age of your children. We try to give them the tools to express themselves positively when they receive things and to be aware that it is a luxury in some cases. I feel lucky and grateful everyday for what I have, but I grew up very differently than my children will. So while I do not want my children to struggle and suffer to appreciate what they have, I can make them aware of the world they live in. Showing them how fortunate they are to have some of their everyday comforts and in turn how they can help others in need. 

With Thanksgiving starting off the holiday season, its the perfect time to include new “thankfulness” traditions. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Collecting and Donating Food

We start the month of November by placing a large box somewhere that the kids can see it every day. The box will be filled all month with food we plan to donate. We clean out our cabinets, pulling out anything that we do not plan on eating soon. (All non-perishable items of course) Explaining as we go along, that if this is something we are not eating, we can give it to someone else that might not have many as many food choices as we do.

Each trip to the grocery store will include my children picking out a few items as well. They get excited to buy things they think other children might like. It could be their favorite cereal or snacks, whatever they choose. For them, it becomes fun and they get excited to shop for someone else! 

About a week before Thanksgiving, as a family, we drop off the food to a local food bank. It is so impactful to have your children with you when the donation occurs. Last year, my son was only 3 years old and very shy. He wanted no part of walking into the donation center or speaking to the volunteers. But I can tell you he came out so excited and he looked so proud. The volunteers thanked him for bringing in the food and he still talks about it today.

Participate in Coat Drives

Every year our kids get bigger and even our own styles change. If your closets look anything like mine, we have entirely too many coats not being used. So we go through them each year and decide if there is anything that we do not need anymore. That is the key word, NEED.

This can be a harder one for children, they will want to keep everything that was theirs. But an honest conversation is always the easiest way to handle this in our house. We openly discuss that other children do not always have coats. That means that they can be cold walking to school or may not be able to play outside. Logically they do come around. They consider that maybe this older coat is too small for them. Realizing that they have another one, it is easier to pass the older one along. 

Researching local coat drives in your area is key. I almost missed ours last year! But if you cannot find a coat drive, donate to a church or call a local youth center. There are always places willing to take donations if you look for them. For our family the most important part is finding one that does not require the recipients to pay for the items.

Start a Thankful Jar

Starting the first day of November we start our Thankful Jar. After dinner, when everyone is still hopefully sitting together, we talk about one thing we are thankful for that day. We write them all down and add them to our jar. The jar stays out all month long, mostly so we don’t forget to add to it!

Then at the end of the month or on Thanksgiving, we dump them all out and read them out loud together. It is a great way to remember the happy parts of our month and the things we value.


There are so many wonderful ways that we can teach our children about giving and appreciating the world around them. Little things can become bigger things, no gesture is too small. As my children grow, I hope they will come up with their own ideas and activities for us to include in our pursuit of Thankfulness!

What Ways Do You Teach Thankfulness In Your House?

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