Grateful Hearts That Last: 5 Ways to Keep Kids Thinking about Thankfulness by Kathryn O’Brien

thanksgiving-fallI love this time of year, don’t you? Leaves are falling. Temperatures are dropping. Cozy scarves, pumpkin spice lattes and brisk walks are once again an integral part of our lives. Hallelujah! And isn’t it nice, before the stockings are hung and the lights are strung, that we are able to pause as a nation, as families, and as children of God, to give thanks?

It’s that sweet time of year when we collectively stop to focus on our blessings before the flurry of the season hits. An entire day to focus our attention on family and friends, concentrating on the abundance of goodness in our lives. The chance for kids to make November lists of all they have before starting those December lists of all they want.

And then, just like that, it’s gone. We pray, we eat, we do the dishes. So long turkey, hello tinsel. Goodbye gratitude, bring on the garland.

Wouldn’t it be nice to keep our Thanksgiving thankfulness a bit longer? Hang on to those grateful hearts even after the gravy is gone? Try these five autumn activities at home to encourage your little ones to maintain an attitude of gratitude throughout the year.

1. Verse of the Month

  • Help your children create a list of twelve passages related to thankfulness (the book of Psalms is a terrific place to start or try www.biblegateway.com or www.biblestudytools.com). Assign each verse to a month of the year. Using construction or printer paper, create posters for every verse and decorate with crayons, marker, watercolor or paint. Each time the month changes, place a new poster on the fridge for a monthly memory verse and daily reminder to give thanks!

2. Thank You Notes

  • paper-thanksgivingDiscuss the important people in your children’s lives. Think grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, classmates, friends, teachers, coaches, neighbors, and pastors. Guide your children in writing good old-fashioned letters to each one (you remember, the kind with a real envelope, mailing address, and stamp!). Kids can share a favorite memory, retell a holiday or special event spent together, or simply express appreciation. On the first day of every month drop a
    letter or two in the mail to prolong a spirit of gratitude for those who mean the most.

3. Helping Hands

  • There are usually many opportunities in November to help at a local food bank, retirement home, or donation center. Have a discussion with your kids about the needs of others that we often take for granted: food, clothing, shelter, blankets, toys, books. Those needs may be more publicized around this time of year, but they don’t stop once the holidays are over. Make a commitment to serve at least once a month with your kids through the year, as a continuous reminder of our daily blessings.

4. Wreath of thanks

  • Ask your children to trace their hands on red, brown, yellow, and purple construction paper. Carefully cut out the shapes, labeling each with something for which to be thankful. Ideas can be serious, like doctors and warm beds, or silly, like chocolate cake and funny jokes. Glue the edges of the hands together to begin your wreath. Every month, ask for more ideas and keep attaching more hands of blessing. Watch the wreath grow bigger and bigger as thankful hearts grow!

5. Thankful Jar

  • Get a jar (or basket or box) and a post-it notepad. Keep the jar in an accessible place, like the kitchen table or counter. Every time someone in the family relays a blessing, an answered prayer or piece of good news, write it on a post-it note and place it in the jar. Kicked a goal at the soccer game? Put it in the jar! Got an A on a math test? Write it down! Kids will be amazed at how fast it fills up, and whenever a bit of encouragement is needed, you’ll know just where to look for reminders of God’s faithfulness. Oh, how He deserves our thanks!

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is almost here. Such a joyful time! Here’s to the food and the fun, the family traditions, and keeping our kids focused on thankfulness all throughout the year.


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Kathryn O’Brien has been published in numerous parenting and teaching magazines, including ParentLife and Shining Star. As a former elementary school teacher, Kathryn continues to write on education topics and blogs regularly at kathobrien.com. She is an award-winning author of two children’s books, including I’d Be Your Princess, which won the 2005 ECPA Christian Book Award for Best Picture Book. David C. Cook recently invited her to join their writing team at HomeFront Magazine. Visit Kathryn at her website, or find her on Facebook or Instagram.


One of Kathryn’s newest children’s books, Give Thanks, presents the powerful verse Psalm 136:1 (“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!”) in a way that helps lay a foundation for a love and comprehension of Scripture in young readers. Purchase your copy today at Tyndale.com!