Thanksgiving’s drawing near! What’s the first thing you do to get ready? Do you phone loved ones to decide who’s hosting this year, and who’s travelling from where? Do you leaf through your recipes, starting to plan a yummy meal? Do you clean the house from top to bottom, preparing to welcome guests? All these things are good. But what about your kids? What do you do to prepare them for Thanksgiving?

We’ve got six fun ideas that will enrich your Thanksgiving celebration. But more than that, these ideas will also help you cultivate thankful attitudes in your children as you work together to prepare these little Thanksgiving "extras."

Read on for ideas for building a welcoming scarecrow, creating discussion-enhancing adornments for your Thanksgiving table, and preparing a "thanks for coming" gift for each guest – all simple ways to remind your kids, The Lord is the source of the blessings we enjoy; let’s always be thankful to Him.

Scarecrow greeter*

Help your kids build a cheery scarecrow to welcome Thanksgiving guests to your door. As you build your scarecrow, talk about how much you have to thank God for as a family. Then share these concepts with your kids:

  • Scarecrows were originally designed to scare away birds that would otherwise "steal" the gardener's harvest.
  • Satan is like those birds: he wants to steal joy from our lives by making us ungrateful for all that we have. Instead of showing gratitude, Satan wants us to have "sad-itude" (John 10:10).
  • Discuss ways that being ungrateful can take the joy out of blessings. (For example, whining about not getting two scoops of ice cream can steal the joy of having any ice cream at all.)
  • Our scarecrow is a reminder that thanking God "scares" away an ungrateful attitude (a "sad-itude"). Pin a large "grateful heart" on your scarecrow as a reminder to thank God in all circumstances.

Sidetable decor - decorative block set

Purchase a set of unpainted wooden blocks from a craft store and decorate one face of each block with a single letter, to spell out a simple phrase such as "Give thanks to the Lord." Let your children use felt-tip markers to draw pictures on the remaining faces of the blocks, illustrating some things they are especially thankful for.

Thanksgiving place cards

Help your kids make some cheerful place cards to complement your Thanksgiving tablecloth and place settings. At the top of each place card write, We give thanks for . . . before adding the name of each guest.

As you make your place cards, play this simple game called, What’s the Bright Side?* Begin by saying, "I don’t like ___________. What’s the bright side?" Then, have your children suggest aspects to be thankful for anyway. For example, you might start by saying, "I don’t like cleaning toilets." The response might be, "You can be thankful we don’t have an outhouse . . . with spiders!" Take turns suggesting less-than-welcome scenarios, plus their bright sides.

Many thanks*

Prepare a bowl of small paper scrolls – one for each person present at your Thanksgiving meal. (Curl strips of paper by dragging them across a scissor blade). On each slip of paper, write a single instance of "thank you" in a foreign language. (See the list at the end of this article for ideas.) As you sit down to dinner, have everyone pick a scroll. For the remainder of your meal, as you are passed various dishes, each person must say thank you in the language they chose. (Alternative idea: Instead of making the scrolls, simply write a unique translation of thank you underneath each place card.)

Thanksgiving prayer

Considering all the Lord’s blessings to us, a simple prayer of thanks before the meal may seem a little inadequate at Thanksgiving. Here’s an idea for a more extended prayer of thanks that everyone can participate in. It’s not a before-dinner grace, but would instead fit well between the main course and dessert.

You’ll need to prepare ahead of time by purchasing (or making) some small favor boxes – at least one for each guest at your Thanksgiving meal. Invite your kids to help you decorate the boxes to resemble a small gift. (The intended contents of the boxes, however, must remain a mystery to your kids for now.)

In secret, write down a number of "prayer prompts" and slip one into each box. For example, the first "prayer prompt" might say:

God gives us the ability to learn new things. Thank Him for something you enjoyed learning this year.

During your special time of Thanksgiving prayer, invite someone to open any box and read the prayer prompt; take turns around the table thanking God for that specific thing. Next, open another box to review a new prayer prompt, and repeat the process of offering prayers of thanks. (See more ideas for your "prayer prompts" at the end of this article.)

Farewell gifts

If you’d like to give your Thanksgiving guests a simple parting gift, how about a pair of socks each? Help your kids make a little card to attach to each pair that says, Blessed down to my socks! For a fun hostess gift, add an attractive beret or toque to the pair of socks and attach a small gift card that says, Blessed from head to toe!

May you and your loved ones enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving, however you choose to celebrate it!

Some new ways to say "Thank you!"

Afrikaans: Dankie

Albanian: Faleminderit

Arabic: Shukran

Bosnian: Hvala

Chinese: Xie xie (pronounced "Shyeh shyeh")

Czech: Dekuji

Croatian: Hvala

Danish: Tak

Dutch: Dank je (pronounced "Dannk yuhh") or Bedankt (pronounced "Buh dannkt")

Filipino: Salamat

Finnish: Kiitos (sounds like "Kee-tos")

French: Merci

German: Danke (informal; pronounced "Dahn-kuh")

Hebrew: Toda (pronounced "Toh Dah")

Icelandic: Takk Fyrir

Italian: Grazie

Japanese: Arigato (informal; pronounced "Ah-ree-gah-toh")

Maltese: Grazzi

Norwegian: Takk

Polish: Dziękuję

Punjabi: Dhannvaad

Romanian: Mulţumesc (pronounced "Mool-too-mesk")

Russian: Spasibo (sounds like "Spa-see-boh")

Spanish: Gracias

Swahili: Ahsante

Swedish: Tack

Thai: Khawp khun khrap (if you’re male) or Khawp khun kha (if you’re female)

Welsh: Diolch

Vietnamese: Cam on (pronounced "Caam-ungh")

Prayer prompts

God gives us the ability to learn new things. Thank Him for something you enjoyed learning this year.

The Lord gave us times of rest and relaxation this year. Thank Him for a special memory from a vacation, or special day of fun.

Even when we faced some difficult things this year, the Lord was with us. Thank Him for something that lead / is leading you to trust Him more.

God blesses us with surprises. Thank Him for something new and exciting that happened this year.

God has blessed us with a beautiful world. Thank Him for a place that’s special to you – whether you made it there this year or not.

God gives us the gift of progress. Thank Him for something that makes life easier than it was 100 years ago.

God gives us the gift of friendship. Thank Him for a new friend you made this past year.

God gives us the gift of laughter. Thank Him for something funny that happened recently.

God satisfies us with good things. Thank Him for a goal or dream you realized this year.

God gives us the gift of creativity. Thank Him for something you made, or an event you organized, that turned out well.

Close your time of prayer with Thanksgiving for the gift of forgiveness through Jesus, and the gift of His presence with us, through the Holy Spirit.

*Thanks to Laurel Kirchner, author of Focus on the Family Canada’s
Kids of Integrity, for three of the ideas presented here: the scarecrow "greeter," What’s the Bright Side? game, and the "many thanks" idea, including multi-language translations of "thank you." For more ideas on nurturing contentment and other positive attitudes in your kids, visit

© 2012 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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