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Teaching kids how to be thankful is a group effort

There are reminders of thankfulness everywhere this month, but growing gratitude in children doesn’t just happen on a Thursday in November. Shifting it from an event to an ongoing practice can plant seeds that will last a lifetime. It’s never too early to begin modeling gratitude for children and helping them understand how it can be a source of joy for all ages.

“We really emphasize Thanksgiving in November, but we do thankfulness year-round,” Debbie Patterson, Resource Coordinator and K4 Teacher Aide at Shannon Forest Christian School, said. “We try to integrate thankfulness throughout the school year.”

Patterson said the school highlights something to be especially thankful for each month, such as grandparents, friends, veterans and more.

“It’s something you can celebrate all year,” she said. “When you show love, you show thankfulness. It’s easy to say something, but the real showing of your gratitude is when you do it. We teach them to put action behind their words.”

Patterson said parents can cultivate gratitude at home as well. Simple, age-appropriate activities can make expressing thankfulness fun and memorable.

Patterson said a great hands-on activity for winter that shows gratitude for animals is making a pine cone birdfeeder with peanut butter and bird seed.

Older children can “adopt” a senior citizen at a local senior living facility or community center. Patterson said students at Shannon Forest will visit their new friends throughout the school year and provide cards and gifts at holidays all year. “They go to show love and thankfulness to them,” she said. “It’s to extend friendship and appreciation.” Patterson suggests making a special effort to visit at non-holiday times of the year when seniors might not get as many visitors.

Patterson said age-appropriate volunteering and service opportunities help students show gratitude through service. Students can serve at a food bank, women’s shelter or an animal rescue organization. High school students may even be able to serve at a Habitat for Humanity build or on a service or mission trip.

No matter what the age or how parents teach children to express it, gratitude spills over into all areas of life. Ultimately, it sustains individuals and the community they share.

“When we know there’s a need, we rise up to show gratitude and meet it,” Patterson said.

Resources for teaching children ages pre-K and older about the first Thanksgiving are online at www. teaching-about-first-thanksgiving.

Turkey on the Table is part decoration and part remembrance that engages children in considering what they are thankful for. It was created by two moms who wanted to teach their children the importance of daily gratitude.

The knit turkey comes with double-sided, customizable feathers and a marker. As Thanksgiving Day approaches, children (and parents) write a blessing on a tail feather each day and make gratitude part of the holiday. Part of the Thanksgiving celebration can include reading the expressions of gratitude. A bonus for parents: save the tail feathers from year to year and remember what touched your child’s heart. The turkey also comes with a book that explains how to remember blessings in this way and it helps children understand the company’s partnership with Feeding America. Each turkey purchase provides 10 meals for people in need. To learn more, visit