By Alyssa Jones
Recently, my husband and I took our kids trick-or-treating. Our 7-year-old skeleton, 5-year-old princess-fairy, and 1-year-old cow dashed from neighbor to neighbor to collect their favorite sweets (Snickers, Skittles, and suckers—respectively). And house after house, I found myself shouting toward them as they descended from each porch: “Say thank you!”
Why is “thank you” so hard to remember? Whether it’s a sense of entitlement or general forgetfulness, we aren’t nearly as thankful as we ought to be. Teaching our kids to be thankful isn’t a lesson given at one point in time. Thankfulness is an attitude, a right posture toward God and others, recognizing that every good thing is ultimately a gift from the Lord.
We practice giving thanks as a family because without practice, we’d forget. We’d start believing we deserve what we worked hard for or that the world exists to serve us. We can encourage our kids to practice thanks in daily exchanges (“Thanks for putting your shoes away, buddy,” “Thank you for the hug,” “Thanks for spending time with me today”) or in prayer—before meals and at bedtime.
As Thanksgiving approaches, find time to practice thankfulness in explicitly intentional ways. Try this simple craft.
Supplies: construction paper (brown, red, orange, yellow), scissors, glue stick, markers
- Provide a brown piece of construction paper to each family member. Guide each person to lay his hand flat on the paper with fingers spread. Trace the hand to make a tree. Extend the outline past the wrist as a tree trunk.
- Family members may choose to cut out their tree outline. Distribute red, orange, and yellow paper for children to cut out leaf shapes. Leaves can be simple ovals or ornamental like maple leaves.
- Let each family member choose several leaves of various colors. For each leaf, encourage them to write or draw something they are thankful for. Instruct them to use glue sticks to attach the leaves to their trees.
- Invite family members to take turns sharing what is on their thankfulness tree.
Open your Bible to Psalm 107:1. Read the verse aloud or, if your child can read, encourage him or her to read the verse aloud.
Lead your family in a time of prayer:
Father God, we come to You with thankful hearts. Year after year, You are faithful to us. You give us good gifts—far more than we deserve. Most of all, Lord, we are thankful for You. You love us so much that You sent Your Son, Jesus, to save us from our sins. Thank You for welcoming us into Your family. We give ourselves to You. We pray all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Alyssa Jones worships and serves with her husband at Refuge Franklin, a church plant outside of Nashville, Tennessee. They have three children.