Inside: Here are 7 Thanksgiving activities to do with kids & grandkids in preparation for the holiday. Lots of exciting ideas and activities to help children understand the importance of gratitude.
Thanksgiving is a special holiday where we pause to show and express gratitude. Unfortunately, it’s crunched between two BIG holidays—Halloween and Christmas and is many times relegated to the sidelines.
However, it’s still an important holiday because it gives us poignant reminders to be grateful and mindful of our blessings large and small.
Throughout the month of November, the whole family can engage in different thanksgiving activities to show and express appreciation and gratitude.
I’ve written 2 other blogs on thanksgiving gratitude that include many ideas to develop this virtue. Click here to access:
Thanksgiving Activities for the Whole Family
Here are 7 additional thanksgiving activities for the whole family–parents, grandparents, children, and grandchildren. Each of these activities will help teach your family the importance of having a thankful heart.
#1: Making Birdhouses & Feeders: Gratitude for Birds
Remind your kids/grandkids to be grateful for even the smallest of creatures and show your gratitude by making an outdoor birdhouse and feeder.
Many birds fly south for the winter, but other birds do not—cardinals, finches, sparrows, woodpeckers, chickadees, owls, etc. When the snow comes it’s more difficult for these birds to find food.
One way to help the non-migrating birds is to make a birdhouse filled with birdseed and a bird feeder.
This birdhouse is made from a milk carton, so when the snow starts to fly—cover it with heavy plastic, leaving an opening for the birds to access the food.
Supplies for Birdhouses
- Milk carton
- White acrylic paint
- Tempera paints & paintbrushes
- Popsicle stick
- Small branches
- Outdoor bird seed
Directions for birdhouses:
- Thoroughly clean out the milk carton and allow to dry
- To cover the writing on the carton, paint one coat of white acrylic paint over the surface. Let dry.
- Cut a round opening on one side of the carton (to put the bird food into)
- Have your kids/grandkids paint and decorate their birdhouses
- Attach a popsicle stick as a perch for the birds
- In the hole of the carton, put in a tree branch. We found branches from chokecherry and crabapple trees
- Secure a wire to the back of the birdhouse to attach to a tree or backyard fence.
- Fill with birdseed
Watch for birds that come into your yard to feed. They will return again and again—so keep the feeder full. Inspiration for birdhouses: Art Bar
For years, my kids made pinecone bird feeders in preschool. We hung them outside and watched as birds came flocking to eat from the birdfeeder.
Here what you do:
- Peanut butter
- Wire or string to hang
- Generously spread the peanut butter over the pinecone
- Roll in the birdseed
- Attach a wire or string
- Hang outside near the birdhouse
To learn more about birds, their habitats, and birdwatching, click here: How to Teach Your Kids About Awesome Birdwatching
#2: Gratitude for Others: Baked Apple Donuts & Apple Butter
A fun way to show gratitude to someone is baking something yummy for them.
Gather your kids/grandkids in the kitchen and whip up these apple donuts and apple butter. I saw the recipe for baked apple donuts on Biz n’ Giggles.
To add to the fun, make a batch of apple butter for donut dipping. I’ve been making apple butter for 25 years—first with our sons and now with our grandkids. Click here for my recipe for crockpot apple butter.
Once you’ve made the donuts and apple butter—think of people to give it to—teachers, friends, neighbors, loved ones, etc. Be prepared–your kids/grandkids will want to give these yummy gifts to several people.
Wrap everything in cute bags; include personalized tags and notes (see below) and deliver them to the lucky person(s).
#3: Make Gratitude Notecards
Make a fun personalized notecard for someone your kids/grandkids want to say, “thank you.” Using a toilet paper roll and a pipe cleaner, stamp pumpkins on a notecard, and add a personalized message (see below). Also, stamp the bag you are going to put all the goodies into.
These are simple and fun to make.
- Toilet paper rolls
- Pipe cleaners
- Premade notecards 5×7” (Michaels)
- Brown paper bags (Dollar Store)
- Orange and green tempera paints (Dollar Store)
- At the opening of the toilet paper roll, press one side inward to form a heart-shape
- Dip the roll in orange paint
- Stamp several pumpkins on the notecard
- With the pipe cleaner, form a pumpkin stem
- Dip the pipe cleaner in green paint and stamp on the top of the pumpkin
Next: your kids/grandkids need to write a note of gratitude.
Inspiration for pumpkin stamping: OT Toolbox
#4: Write a Note of Gratitude
Once the notecards are made, the next step is to write a note of gratitude to the people your kids/grandkids are giving the donuts and apple butter to.
For young grandkids in K-2, help them write a simple note of gratitude. Something like:
- “Thank you for being my teacher,” Love_______
- “Thank you for being such a kind neighbor.” Love ________
- “Thank you for being my friend.” Love ____________
If they want to draw a picture illustrating their gratitude—encourage it.
Tuck the notecards inside the bag and with your kids/grandkids, deliver the items to their friends, teachers, etc.
Afterward, ask them how they felt about doing something nice for someone else. Help them to understand:
- It’s one thing to talk about gratitude–it’s another to actually do something to show gratitude to others!
- Showing gratitude is a year-long activity and not something we just do at Thanksgiving.
#5: Thanksgiving Activities: Make a Gratitude Chain
To help your kids/grandchildren think each day during the month of November about gratitude–make a paper gratitude chain with 30 links–one for each day of November. Something like a Thanksgiving Advent Calendar!
Supplies & Directions:
- Download some Thanksgiving clipart
- On a sheet of paper, put the clipart and the words, “I am thankful for____________” on one line. You should be able to get 5 per page. I created 15 of these on 3 sheets of paper (5 per sheet). And then I made double to make 30 strips of paper for 30 days.
- Make enough copies for each child/grandchild
- Using a paper cutter, cut each strip of paper for a total of 30 strips
- Write one thing on each strip of paper they are grateful for
- Create a chain and staple each link of the chain
- Hang in a visible place and clip off one each day
To help my grandkids with ideas of things to be grateful for, I made a list of different things (teachers, parents, siblings, grandparents, toys, friends, neighbors, etc.) to stir their thinking and imaginations.
#6 Thanksgiving Activities: Gratitude for Our Hands
I used this activity to teach our grandkids the importance of being grateful for our hands–we can use them for so many different things–to pound, to paint, to create, and more! This activity also helps kids with proprioception.
Proprioception is one of our 9 senses and has been defined as our “sixth sense.” It is an awareness of the position and movement of the body.
Kids who have difficulty with proprioception can have balance or coordination issues, poor posture, clumsy, or have problems climbing or walking downstairs for fear of falling.
Activities to help improve proprioception include yoga, tai chi, balancing on a balance board, and even using a hammer to pound things. I chose this weight-bearing and resistance activity to help my grandchildren with:
- body awareness
- fine motor coordination
- Mallet hammer (Dollar Store.) This is a heavy hammer and works perfectly for this activity
- Styrofoam pumpkins (Walmart)–to keep with the theme of Thanksgiving
- Golf tees (Walmart)
- Using the mallet, pound the golf tees into the pumpkin
- These look like little art creations when done!
Our grandkids LOVED this activity! When they had used all 90 tees, I made pumpkins out of playdoh and had them pound the pumpkins.
They told me this was their favorite activity of the day!
Inspiration: Montessori Dad’s Way
#7: Painting Fall Leaves: Gratitude for Nature
Don’t you just love the different seasons; the changes in nature and fall leaves? This is a fun activity to learn gratitude for nature. We’ve gathered tons of leaves with our grandkids and with them we’ve
- Traced them
And now we’re ready to PAINT them and create a leaf picture!
- Tempera paints (Prang at The Dollar Store)
- Leaves—dry leaves are easier to paint
- Cardstock paper (11×14)
- Paint the leaves with a paintbrush
- While the paint is wet, sprinkle glitter
- Create a fall setting with a tree on cardstock paper
- Glue the dry painted leaves on the trees
All of these 7 activities pointed in some way to expressing gratitude–to others, to birds, for our hands, and for nature.