Thanksgiving is about more than just turkey and mashed potatoes. (Though let’s be real: it is about turkey and mashed potatoes, too!) It’s a time to celebrate family and appreciate the little and big things in life.

In short, a day to be thankful! The holiday is a great opportunity to teach kids about showing appreciation for others. Here are some meaningful traditions to incorporate into Thanksgiving with your family.

1. Say what you’re thankful for.

A popular tradition in many families is to go around the Thanksgiving table and say what you’re thankful for. Simple but effective.

2. Create a thankful keepsake.

Why not make those “I’m thankful for…” statements into a keepsake so you can look back on what you and your children said for years to come? Here are two ideas:

  • Give each person a piece of paper to write down the five things, then make it into a book with photos from the day—either a scrapbook, or use a photo-book service.
  • Or, make thankful pumpkins by spray painting pumpkins in a solid colour and writing what you’re thankful for on the pumpkin in permanent marker. This great idea comes from Kelly at Eclectically Vintage. (We love that her daughter is thankful for Mommy and Daddy, pasta, and Taylor Swift. Keepin’ it real!)

3. Give back.

Many organizations hold food drives around this time of year and you can always donate money to an organization like the Daily Bread Food Bank, which works to end hunger in local communities.

Or learn about kids in need in other parts of the world, through an organization like Canadian Feed the Children, and know where your money is helping as you give.

4. Volunteer.

Getting kids involved in giving in a tangible way to those less fortunate shapes character at a young age and helps kids to appreciate what they have. You don’t have to volunteer on Thanksgiving itself—instead you could use that day to choose and schedule what you’ll do as a family in the next month or so.

Here are some options for family volunteering in Toronto.

5. Make or do something for a friend or family member.

Bake cookies or make a Thanksgiving craft and bring them to someone who may be lonely or down. Trim an elderly neighbour’s hedges or do their grocery shopping. Or just visit with someone. The key is to think about what that person needs and fulfill that need.

6. Be social.

Social media can be used for good! Express gratitude and/or say something kind about people who mean something to you on social media. Thank a teacher, friend, or family member for the work they do or the support they give.

7. Make a family cookbook.

Compile all your favourite family recipes. Ask everyone to nominate a favourite dish and put together a recipe book you can use for years to come. Ask kids to tell you why they love the dish and write down their quips. (They’ll be fun to read in later years!)

8. Plant something.

Much of the holiday is about eating, so why not plant something and give kids a feel for how food comes to their plate? See What Can I Plant Now? for crops to plant in October.

You can also plant trees in the fall—a nice tradition that you can literally watch grow with your children.

9. Learn about Thanksgiving.

How much do you know about the holiday and its origins? Did you know, for instance, that it wasn’t always a single day, but held on General Thanksgiving Days throughout the year? And that there are documented reasons for each Thanksgiving Day going back to 1799?

Sit down together and learn about the history of Thanksgiving and how Thanksgiving as we know it came about. (Find a kid-friendly version here.)

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