I know it’s only October 1st, but believe it or not, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. In less than eight weeks from now, we’ll be gathering with family and friends around a carved turkey, and partaking of a yummy meal, and if you’re anything like me, scrambling at the last minute to use this wonderful holiday as a teaching opportunity! Why not take the whole autumn season to highlight thankfulness, rather than just reserve it for the last week of November?
I think Thanksgiving gets short-changed in the holiday department. It’s squashed so closely to Christmas, that by the time the fourth Thursday in November rolls around, the Christmas displays have been in stores for MONTHS and we’re thickly into Christmas sales, plans, projects and shopping. The last few years, we have tried to make autumn all about Thanksgiving, and it’s been wonderfully fun!
Here are some of the things we have tried:
- Go on a nature walk and gather things like leaves, sticks, acorns, seeds and make a thankfulness banner. I used some cardstock and twine for this project and the kids went to town gluing their nature treasures onto the pages to spell out “Give Thanks.”
- Some inexpensive burlap, craft paint, and a homemade stencil can be used to make an autumn banner spelling out “Rejoice” or “Give Thanks” or something similar.
- We try to make a “Thank-you” gift for Sunday School and Junior Church teachers. I select something that is easy enough for the kids to largely do by themselves and then they practice their handwriting by writing a thank-you note to each one.
- Make treats like caramel apples, bags of caramel corn, or another fall-ish cookie or dessert and give them to loved ones, teachers, friends, and shut-ins as a special Thanksgiving treat!
- Take a trip to a pumpkin patch and then come home and make pumpkin pies from scratch! This is a fun way to show kids where their food comes from, and helps them to appreciate all that goes into what they eat. And don’t forget the pumpkin seeds…make them into a yummy snack, too!
- The same goes for the apple orchard. Pick apples together, and then spend time on another day making yummy apples sauce and pies! If you do this a few weeks in advance, freeze your pies for Thanksgiving…and when the big day comes, you’ll be all set! Jars of homemade applesauce make great gifts!
- Make a count-down chain so little kids can visualize how many days there are until Thanksgiving.
- Select some Thanksgiving books from the library to read aloud and spend these weeks sharing our heritage with your children. Dress up and act out the stories!
- Involve your children in the Thanksgiving preparations, as much as possible. Teach them that hospitality is all about serving others, and they can do that by helping to clean the house, set the table, and prepare the food. Let them use the fancy dishes and make place cards for guests. Our girls especially love this activity!
- One year on Thanksgiving we decided to act out a Bible story about thankfulness. Here are the kids and their cousins pretending to be thankful or unthankful lepers after being healed by Jesus! It was a lot of fun, and the kids still talk about it. There are several different Bible stories that would be appropriate!
- Thanksgiving is usually a time to get together with family. But don’t stop there. Include some singles, college-students, couples or families that don’t have family in the area. Invite some of these folks over too! There is always more than enough food to feed a few extra. And it’s a wonderful way to show your children how to reach out to others. Not to mention that it’s a lot of fun…the more the merrier!
- Last year, I printed out little “I’m thankful for…” cards and the kids placed one on each plate. Each guest then wrote something that they were thankful for. After the day was over, we gathered them up and I slid them into an inexpensive photo album. It’s neat to see everyone’s words in their own handwriting. And it’s a great reminder of the sweets souls that we shared Thanksgiving with last year! We often page through and look at what each person wrote. And this year, we can add more cards to the book!
- Try to include your children in as many activities as possible. I know that children are often “in the way” and it would just be easier to do some of those monumental preparation tasks without them underfoot. But they really can learn a lot as they work for others!
- Try to keep Thanksgiving as simple as possible by planning ahead now. Put some pies or side dishes into the freezer. Start making crafts or a banner or printing name cards weeks in advance. It will teach your children to anticipate the holiday and the people they will serve, and it will also relieve some pressure from your shoulders the week of Thanksgiving.
- One thing that I did last year that helped tremendously was to make the turkey the day before Thanksgiving. I know, it sounds silly. But I baked the turkey, made some stock, sliced it, and placed it into the stock, covered it and put it into the refrigerator. The next day, all I had to do was pop it into the oven about an hour before the guests arrived and it was tender and moist! There was no messy clean-up or last minute carving, and the oven wasn’t tied up all morning. It was one of the best things I have ever done to prepare for Thanksgiving!
- Make the big day all about your guests rather than having an immaculate house and a perfect meal. Spend time focusing on people on Thanksgiving and enjoying their company…the little ones that God has put in your home and also the ones He brings across your doorstep on Thanksgiving Day!
Leave a comment with some ways that you encourage a spirit of thanksgiving in your home!