5 Creative Ideas to Make Thanksgiving
Last All Year Long
When we became moms, we began our own family traditions. Warm recollections of childhood Thanksgiving played in our minds – as we created new holiday memories
We planned and cooked, using long-loved recipes passed down for generations, welcoming family and friends to our home. The day was filled with delicious smells, tastes, laughter, and grateful prayers. An annual pause to count our blessings – a uniquely American experience.
Then a global pandemic changed everything.
Family disagreed with whether to gather – and if we were going to attempt Thanksgiving in 2020, would we mask, distance ourselves, refrain from hugs? It was a surreal moment when long-held traditions were bypassed. Meanwhile, isolation was encouraged as we longed for the normality we presumed would never be in jeopardy.
Who thought this could happen in America? But it did.
That year the fabric of American culture began to fray – as citizens divided along many lines. Accusations flew – racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and white privilege became buzzwords. Using the wrong pronoun equaled “violence.” People became polarized over how to respond to Covid. Free speech was squelched, vaccines were mandated for many, churches were shuttered, and friends became enemies.
The nation seemed to embrace a sort of victimhood mentality in many arenas, stripping our national psyche of the gratitude passed down by our forefathers.
After a long dark season in our nation – it’s 2022, and we say Thanksgiving is back!
Let’s face it, we have a lot to be thankful for.
We still live in a nation where we can speak, celebrate and worship as we choose. We have the right to raise our children as grateful patriots honoring the God who authored both life and American freedom.
We think it’s time to take it to the next level, mamas. Why not turn gratitude into a lifestyle for your family with 5 creative ideas to make Thanksgiving last all year long.
Idea #1 Giving Thanks Every Week
You know that sometimes-awkward moment at Thanksgiving gatherings where someone has the idea to go around the table, having everyone share something they are thankful for?
We say lean in!
It’s only weird because we relegate it to once a year. Make it a regular weekly moment at your family’s dinner (or breakfast) table.
Challenge your kids to think about something that they appreciated during the week. It could be a teacher’s kind gesture, getting to build a snowman on an unexpected day off school – or ketchup (a personal childhood favorite). Encourage each child to think of something new to share at the dinner table on the weekday you choose. This should take you well beyond condiments.
This idea is super-easy to implement, and you will set the tone with what you share. Hearing parents express sincere gratitude can create an atmosphere of thankful expression in your home and will impact your children for a lifetime.
Idea #2 Gratitude Tree
It sounds crazy, we know, but stick with us.
This idea is fun and engaging for kids and is a hands-on way to practice giving thanks all year long. Find a small tree to put in a particular spot in the house. Don’t think 8 ft. fir, here, rather something like a tabletop size – and it doesn’t need to be an evergreen. You could use a “spring tree,” the ones you can find during the Easter season or even some branches in a vase that you pick up from Hobby Lobby. (Is that anyone else’s happy place, or is it just me?)
Identify a theme for your Gratitude Tree each month. First, it might be family, and you can have the kids help make “ornaments” out of photos. You’ll enjoy those smiling faces all month long.
Then, each month, trade out the decorations on your little tree.
Next, you might celebrate God’s gift of nature with pinecones, rocks, flowers, or tiny seashells. You could even take your kiddos on a nature walk to collect items to display. In July, you could turn your little tree red, white, and blue with flags and family-made ornaments celebrating gratitude for our nation. It’s a great time to teach your kids about the gift of citizenship in our great United States.
Let your kids have input in selecting those monthly themes. Ask what they are thankful for – pets, pizza, the moon? Guide the discussion, but remember, it’s okay if Fido is featured one month. Why not? He’s been a faithful friend to all!
Idea #3 Pay it Forward as a Family
Serving others will encourage gratitude in your children. Don’t take our word for it– try it for yourself!
Create a monthly project. It doesn’t need to be daunting or complicated. No need to raise a barn at a neighboring farm. Plan something doable for your family to help someone.
Is there someone in your office who just got out of the hospital? Why not gather the kids, plan a meal together, and brighten their day. Plan a menu together with an eye to making it memorable. This might be a good time to bake a cake! As you prepare the meal with your kids, talk about things you’re thankful for together. You might thank God for the blessing of health in your family and that you can do something for someone who is struggling.
Or maybe you could plan a trip to a nursing home or retirement facility to deliver cookies or a small craft (made by your kids). The real gift is the visit from your family. Your children can learn to appreciate family by reaching out to those who often don’t have loved ones nearby.
Here are some more ideas to pay it forward as a family:
- Mow a neighbor’s lawn
- Shovel someone’s snow
- Join in a church food distribution or other outreach in your community
- Bring baked goods (or purchased ones) to your local police or fire station
- Gather books you no longer need to share with a family shelter or ministry in town
- Write a letter to your grandparents if they live far away
- If they live close, invite grandparents over for a kid-prepared lunch
- Pro-tip: Have your littles make cards to share love and appreciation and have them on the table before they arrive.
- Volunteer together at a local food pantry or other charity on a weekend
Brainstorm different ideas with your crew. There are countless ways to pay it forward as a family. Make sure to check out what will be age-appropriate for your kids. Then, call ahead and make arrangements so no obstacles will derail your day of giving back!
Idea #4 Monthly Snail Mail Thank-You Notes
Have each member of the family pick out one person to thank. Then, go old-school and write a note of thanks to that person. It could be a teacher, your pastor, or anyone who comes to mind that was kind to you or your kids.
Pop the popcorn and pour the hot chocolate and provide blank notecards, colored pencils, markers, or whatever is needed for them to make a creative expression of thanks. Art is lovely, but if your kids are old enough to write, encourage them to express their thoughts in words.
Keep the creative session short and sweet. Try to select only one person per family member each month. It should be something fun that doesn’t become an ordeal. Of course, feel free to write notes at any time, but you’ll thank us later if you keep this monthly note-writing session simple.
Writing physical notes and putting them in “snail mail” can seem a little outdated. Don’t underestimate how that effort can provide encouragement to someone while also teaching your children the importance of saying thanks.
Your family will be deeply impacted by this practice of blessing others with monthly snail-mail thank-you notes. It shares genuine gratitude in a way that a text with emojis can never do.
Idea #5 Gratitude Journals
Buy your children their own gratitude journals. If any are not old enough to write, get one for your littles anyway- and a box of crayons.
Once per week – or more, just before bedtime prayer, invite them to write one thing or draw a picture (for the younger kids) in their gratitude journal. Whatever works for your nighttime ritual can be daily or weekly. You can help the smaller ones, while your teens or tweens may wish to do it independently. They may even prefer privacy in recording their thankful thoughts. Consider honoring their desire as you encourage their participation.
Make sure you are modeling it with entries in your own journal. Each time you record a blessing – make it something timely – something that happened that day or week – then date it and make yours available for anyone to view. That way, your kids will see you living a life of authentic gratitude. It’s a great way to model a healthy attitude toward life- not denying trials but approaching life with a grateful heart.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ( 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)
Giving Thanks All Year Long
Gratitude pushes out troubling thoughts from a stressful week and turns our focus to God and His goodness. There are always good things to appreciate– even during difficult times. The home you live in, the clothes you wear, and the plentiful food we enjoy in our bountiful land.
By giving thanks all year long, you are giving your children the gift of resilience by teaching them to turn their eyes to appreciate blessings in life. It will help them resist those who push victimhood and negative attitudes and strengthen their resolve to look at life through a lens of thanks.
The Bible says, in Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
Even one of these five ideas to make Thanksgiving last all year long can transform the holiday from a fleeting annual moment to an ongoing culture of gratitude in your kids – and a legacy for your family.
We’re Here for You
Stay connected with other like-minded moms for even more ideas, inspiration, and encouragement. Consider joining one of our Moms for America Groups; there are different kinds depending on your specific interest. Don’t miss any podcasts, blogs, and educational series on our website. We want to help as you raise the next generation of young American patriots!