Thanksgiving Posts

5 Ways to Cultivate Grateful Hearts That Last by Kathryn O’Brien

Tyndale Kids

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This article originally associated gratitude with Thanksgiving. Now after the holiday, we encourage you to read it with Christmas in mind. We can be grateful every day of the year!

Ah, the wonder of fall. Crunchy leaves. Pumpkin pie. All of those forgotten fuzzy socks and flannel jammies pulled from the bottoms of dresser drawers. And most glorious of all, our kids, our busy, bustling, blessed kids are asked to turn their hearts and minds to living with thanksgiving.

At least for a few days. All over America, at this time of year, children are presented with activities, assignments, and lessons that center around gratitude. As they learn about the hardships of colonial life, they discover the joy of simple things, such as enough food and a warm bed. They make lists of blessings for which to be grateful. They read books about Plymouth Rock and make turkeys out of clay. They wear Pilgrim hats and reenact friendship feasts, remembering those who faced dire circumstances yet continued to praise God for His provision.

All too quickly, though, the big day comes and goes; and along with our harvest décor, the Thanksgiving focus of our nation, community, and family is put away for another year. To help the thanks keep on giving throughout the year, try these simple tips and activities with kids of any age.

Point out blessings. Invest in a spinning globe or world map. On the first day of every month, let your children take turns spinning the globe or pointing to a place on the map. Then do some research together on that nation or city. What are the people, customs, and culture like? What issues do they face? How can we pray for them? In what ways could we help? Allow your kids to see the many ways they are blessed by being interested in the needs of others.

Model a life of thanks. Be a daily reminder to your children to live gratefully, by living gratefully! At the dinner table, share blessings from the day. Start bedtime prayers with a list of gifts from God. Get in the habit of saying thank you to your kids, your spouse, your friends, and complete strangers for kindnesses big and small. Write thank you notes or e-mails with your children. Bring flowers or treats to neighbors, teachers, coaches, or friends—just to say thanks!

Frame the discussion. Buy or choose a special frame, and set it in a place of honor in your home. Fill the frame with the photo of a person, place, or event that your family loves and appreciates. If there isn’t a photograph readily available, spend some time with your kids drawing and coloring it yourselves! Change the picture on a regular basis, by the month, holiday, or season; and use the frame as a reminder to give thanks for that person or place in their lives.

Give thanks write now. Purchase a journal, or even make one from blank paper bound with pretty ribbon. Title the book, We Give Thanks, and every year, ask family members to jot down the things for which they are most thankful. Let even the smallest children participate by dictating their words to an adult or older sibling. Store the journal with your autumn linens so that each year you can bring out the book, reminiscing about past blessings and adding new blessings for generations to come!

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Create a plateful of grateful. Buy a uniquely colored dinner plate (or decorate an old plate with safe markers), and add it to your set of dishes. Let different family members use the special plate at least once a week. During mealtime, give the honoree encouragement by sharing the ways in which they are a blessing to those around them. Mention their God-given qualities, abilities, and talents that you are most thankful for, and say a special prayer of praise for them.

Hopefully, this Thanksgiving—as the last of the cranberry sauce is gobbled up and the cornucopia is tucked away—we will hang onto gratitude for God’s goodness in our lives . . . and our children’s thankful hearts will remain.


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Looking for books that encourage little ones to live with a grateful heart? Check out Give Thanks by Kathryn O’Brien, part of the Sit for a Bit series from Tyndale.


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Kathryn O’Brien writes books for kids and has a heart for moms. She’s published five children’s picture books, including her latest series (Sit for a Bit, Tyndale) and serves as a contributor for several publications. When she’s not writing or enjoying her day job as a Christian school administrator, Kathryn can usually be found texting her three grown children, hanging on the front porch with her husband, or hiking the canyons near her home in Southern California. To learn more about Kathryn, visit her at her website, www.kathobrien.com.


For more tips from Kathryn O’Brien on how to help your kids think about thankfulness, check out this post!

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

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I 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

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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

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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

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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 writes books for kids and has a heart for moms. She’s published five children’s picture books, including her latest series (Sit for a Bit, Tyndale) and serves as a contributor for several publications. When she’s not writing or enjoying her day job as a Christian school administrator, Kathryn can usually be found texting her three grown children, hanging on the front porch with her husband, or hiking the canyons near her home in Southern California. To learn more about Kathryn, visit her at her website, www.kathobrien.com.


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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!


 

Over the River and through the Woods: 6 Fun Tips for Holiday Travel

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Now that Halloween has passed, we are hearing Christmas songs coming through TV ads, and turkeys are flying off the shelves at the grocery store. It’s officially the Holiday Season! And for many of us, that means holiday travel. For those with kids, this may elicit nightmares of cross-country airplane trips with screaming toddlers or hours packed into a van with siblings whose inability to form a peaceable coexistence makes hours stretch into days. Is it possible to arrive at your relatives’ front door on Thanksgiving or Christmas with your holiday cheer intact? “Sure,” you say, “but that means gluing my kids’ eyeballs to the iPad.” While a little extra screen time on long trips is a good way to pass the time, here are some tips for surviving the holiday travel season with your sanity and without screens.

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  1. Play visual games. This works better for road trips than air travel, but especially with new flyers, there is a lot to observe in airports and on planes. Games like I Spy, the License Plate Alphabet Game, and Twenty Questions occupy a lot of time and will have your whole family engaged together. Click here for a great list of twenty car games.

 

  1. Bring new-to-them books. Hit the library before a big trip and pick out several books. Pack them away so kids are not able to read them before takeoff. The novelty of new reads will be well worth the wait.

 

 

  1. Dig out your favorite old-school toys. There’s a reason toys like Etch A Sketch, Magna Doodle, Wooly Willy, and Rubik’s Cube are classics. These timeless games are durable, easy to pack, and tons of fun. Introduce them one at a time to maximize your mileage with each.
  1. Provide a variety of snacks. Think mess-free and slow-to-eat when it comes to travel snacks. Ideally, a snack break will pass time without leaving crumbs and sticky fingers. Suggestions include day-old bagels (a little dryness means slower snacking), raisins, granola bars, string cheese, carrots, and apple slices. Steer clear of sweets to avoid a sugar rush hitting while you’re confined to a small space.

 

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  1. Pack simple craft items. Stickers, coloring books, pipe cleaners, yarn, construction paper, and a little creativity can go a long way. For road trips, cookie sheets can be used as lap trays; the rim will keep supplies from rolling off the edges.
  1. Listen to audio books and radio theater. Dramatic readings of old favorites and new stories are sure to provide hours of entertainment. A bonus is that most are captivating enough to entertain even the adults! For plane trips, load audio onto your phone or even pick up a cheap CD Walkman for kids to operate themselves. An earphone splitter is a good solution to evade fights when everyone wants to hear the same story.

 

Will you be traveling this holiday season? What tricks and tips do you have for passing the time?

 

radio-theaterExperience an audio movie that plays on the biggest screen of all … your imagination. Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre has been entertaining and enriching the lives of both young and old for decades. From timeless classics like Dicken’s Oliver Twist, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, and Ben-Hur, Radio Theatre makes timeless stories come alive and real to a whole new generation of listeners. Radio Theatre features award winning actors, orchestral scores and riveting scripts that will draw in the entire family. Browse our Radio Theatre collection to unleash your child’s imagination today.

 

Kid Talk Tuesday: Teaching Kids to Be Thankful

Join us as Acquisitions Editor, Linda MacKillop, discusses ways to teach your kids how to be thankful.

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“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Let’s consider all the hardships in our lives and in the lives of our kids. Financial issues. Relationship struggles. Shattered dreams. Injuries. Attending a new school. Struggling with grades. Failing to make a sports team. Broken-down cars, bodies, houses, bikes, etc.

And then there’s the concept of giving thanks. How do we maintain an attitude of gratitude when times are hard, and most especially, how do we pass that attitude down to our kids? When our prayers are being answered left and right, no problem! We don’t hesitate to count off a list of blessings and attribute them to God. But what about the times when the heavens seem silent?

The longer you live on earth, the more likely you are to learn that we never get to a place where life is all smooth sailing, with all challenges vanquished. We might experience a moment or a season where the challenges subside, but remember it’s only a moment. Yet we’re not told to only be thankful in those moments. We are to be thankful in everything.

Certainly at the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims had much to be grateful for as they gathered on the shores of Plymouth, Massachusetts, for a feast. God had brought them over tumultuous seas to live in a beautiful and plentiful land. He had given them friendships with the natives. He had provided food and shelter and fruitful bounty. He had given them a new life, a new world, and a new beginning.

So they paused and gave thanks.

But I bet that in the midst of all that gratitude, some folks had achy backs, scary physical issues, bad coughs, concerns about the approaching hard winter, and longings for the home and family members they left behind. Yet they intentionally gathered with their new friends and, as a community, bowed their heads and gave thanks to God, the provider of all good gifts. We follow their model yearly as we pause to remember our blessings in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life’s good and bad.

We love to tell our children about the Pilgrims and all they had to eat that day. But we should also let kids know that life was hard for that small community.

In our own lives, teaching our kids to maintain a grateful attitude begins when they are young, steering them toward thoughts of God even when sickness or hurts invade our families. Practicing thankfulness in the midst of life’s challenges will storm proof our children’s faith by showing them God is not only in charge when they are singing and dancing through their days; he is in charge all the time. Looking for him in the hard days will train our children to look for his blessings, pausing to see how he has worked in the challenging moments, and keeping their hearts and minds in tune with his Spirit.

Point out people you know who manage challenges with thankful attitudes. Do you know someone who is going through cancer or a financial setback like unemployment, yet remains prayerful, grateful, and focused on God? Gently remind your children that our goal is to behave like those folks with grateful attitudes.

Talk to your kids about how they feel being around relatives or friends going through hard times with strength and faith. Can they see Christ in those people’s walks? Are those people enjoyable to be around even though they are hurting? Granted, some people have sunnier personalities and naturally lean toward thankfulness rather than cynicism, but we live in a cynical and sarcastic culture. Cultivating a different spirit takes focus and intentionality. And we begin by first becoming aware of our need to cultivate a different spirit—to choose the attitude we want to reflect.

Lastly, do you think God asks us to be thankful because it’s good for us, or because he delights in our gratitude? Maybe you can consider that question as you gather around your Thanksgiving table, enjoying a day of riches with family and friends.

Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the nations, and I will sing praises to Your name.” 2 Samuel 22:50

Be Thankful: A Note from Novelist Francine Rivers

With the holiday season upon us, it is easy to become caught up in the day-to-day flurry of shopping, planning, and decorating. But at this time of year, it is always important to take a moment to be silent and grateful. Today on the blog, bestselling novelist Francine Rivers has shared with us her plans for this Thanksgiving holiday.

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Thanksgiving is a wonderful celebration for those of us who have family. It’s a time to get together and share a big dinner and much laughter. But it is something far different for those who have no home or family. It can become a time of deep depression, a time of pain or longing. Some escape further into drugs or alcohol to forget their despair and loneliness.

Each year, our local mission offers Thanksgiving dinner at the fairgrounds. The number of attendees has grown every year. Last year, over five thousand people were served. It is a diverse crowd of men and women, some alone, some with families, many homeless, some with homes but living on small fixed incomes that don’t meet their needs. Others were in rehabilitation programs working one day at a time to overcome the effects of drug and alcohol addiction. Some came because they were living on the street and hungry and in need of a decent meal.

Hundreds volunteered to help set up, cook, serve, and hand out provisions. And Bibles. It is a blessing for those of us who can and have been involved in putting on the feast. Even so, it seems such a small thing in the face of so much need. But the homeless can come for a nice dinner with cake and get haircuts, fresh clothing, and a box of practical goodies as a present.

Frankly, Thanksgiving can bring an aftertaste of guilt for having so much when so many have nothing. It is a reminder that whatever we do have is on loan. Like a pitcher of water, we are filled in order to pour out blessings on others.

There never has been a time that there haven’t been the poorest of the poor among us. There was no room in the inn for Jesus. He was born in a stable and placed in a feeding trough. Jesus said we would always have the poor among us. Thanksgiving is a time to remember we are all created in the image of God. In Christ, no matter where we live or under what circumstances, we can be thankful for the hope He offers and the security that God keeps His promises, not just one or two days a year, but every day.

We can be prepared. We need to share: pint bottles of water, granola bars, and plastic ponchos don’t cost much and can be a great blessing when someone is thirsty or hungry or needs cover from the rain. Sometimes the best gift is time, a sincere smile and greeting.

Thanksgiving may be a one-day celebration, but it should be a state of mind we carry and share throughout the year.

Thanks to Francine for sharing with us such a beautiful tradition.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for Francine’s upcoming release, Bridge to Haven. Preorder your copy today!

Bridge to Haven

 

What about you, readers? Are you starting any new Thanksgiving traditions or practicing old favorites?