But because I'm a sucker for filling my too-full plate up just a little bit more, I came up with a list of 5 very simple ways to give and express gratitude in ways that your kids can get involved. These are really simple, and some of them are absolutely free!
1. Operation Christmas Child
I wrote about this cause recently - you can check out that post right HERE to see what they do and how you can help! This is a really great program to help get your kids involved in giving to other kids who are less fortunate, and to bring the idea of gratitude to their minds. Discussing the process and needs of the kids who benefit from this program helps them see how much they have and how important it is to help those that have much less. It's also really fun to collect the little gifts that will mean so much to a child on the other side of the world! Kids can help choose gifts, draw pictures and write notes, help package up the box, and tag along to deliver it to a drop off point. We are right in the middle of the drop off week, so you have a few more days to get involved in this! It's so easy!!
2. 15 Cans Project
I just heard about this cause for the first time this year when I was invited to a Facebook event for it. The idea is that for 15 weeks, you grab a can of soup or veggies or fruit and add it to your weekly grocery shopping. Then you set the cans aside through this process, and later donate them all to a food pantry. I started this project a little late, so I purchased 2 cans each time I went. I actually exceeded my amount and continue to add to it, and I will be donating them during the first week of December to help stock food pantries for the holidays. This project is designed to have minimal financial and physical impact because you do so little for it each week, but you can also just pick up all 15 cans at once if you want to! Or maybe get 5 a week for the next three weeks and then donate them. It's such a small thing we can do, but it all adds up!
3. Gratitude Paper Chain
My kids were all home sick from school last week, and I wanted to do something more worthwhile with them than just vegging out to tv. It helps that I wasn't sick along with them - had I been, it would have been a 200% veg day. We had a big book of adorable Thanksgiving stickers I wanted to use, but I wasn't sure what to do with them. Then the idea of making a pretty paper chain for Thanksgiving came to mind, and what could make it more fitting for the holiday than to cover the chains in lists of things we are thankful for?? And that's what we did!
It's such a simple craft, it's not messy in the least, and we all get to see this reminder of gratitude and blessings for the next couple weeks. I'm sure it will get smushed in our bin of fall decorations, but I'm hoping we can hang onto this!
4. Homemade Cards with Kids
Speaking of easy and neat kid crafts - homemade cards! I was in newborn Lala land for last year's Thanksgiving, but in 2012 I printed out postcards that said "We are thankful for YOU!" and had the kids scribble all over them. We sent them around to family for the holiday, and some of them still have their cards displayed! I wanted to do the same thing this year, so while the crayons and stickers were out for our gratitude chain, I had the kids decorate these postcards, too. They even helped me make the list of who we would send them to! Sorry if we just spoiled your mail surprise, family and friends ;P
5. Do something for a stranger
This doesn't have to be big, complicated, or awkward at all - there are so many little things you can do! Spend a day holding the door for everyone you come in contact with, and do it with a smile. Stop and let every driver you see trying to get get out of a parking lot go ahead of you for a day. Pay for the person's coffee that's behind you in the drive-thru. None of these are grand gestures, but they are so satisfying to do, and will likely brighten everyone's day!