My local multicultural moms group is holding a Thanksgiving party for our little ones, and I wanted to create a fun activity that would help them understand the concept of gratitude.
While we do have some preschoolers in the bunch, many of the kids are younger, so I was looking for a way to really bring the concept to life for them. Also, I wanted an activity, not just a craft, so here is what I came up with! I love that it is simple and requires very little in the way of space or supplies. Just some imagination and a willingness to stand up in front of a bunch of kids and make a fool of yourself! (What’s new, right??)
Creating a Thankfulness Tree
Step one is to create a thankfulness tree – that is, a tree whose leaves represent things the kids are grateful for. This simple but powerful activity is not a new idea. In fact, Enable Me to Grow included it as an activity in their lesson plan for little ones on Thankfulness. And Tender Sapling recently suggested it as a way to help kids cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
For older kids, you could write (or have them write) something they are thankful for on each leaf. Preschoolers could draw a picture, whereas you could draw pictures for younger ones, based on what they tell you.
I tried it out with my Monkey today and was pleasantly surprised at how much he enjoyed it. In the interest of
being cheap making this craft accessible, I used a paper grocery bag to draw our tree. I then cut some leaves out of construction paper and had him tell me things that make him happy, explaining that we are grateful for these things. He needed some prompting to get started, but he soon got the idea and had fun thinking of new leaves to add.
If you can’t interpret my drawings, our leaves are (clockwise from top): Daddy, racecars, trains, fire trucks, letters and numbers (he dictated these to me – looks like he’s been studying Hebrew behind my back!), jumping, ice cream, berries (okay, I might have suggested that one – had to balance out the ice cream!), and dancing.
Journey to the Gratitude Garden
And now for the main event. You can always do this activity alone, but I think creating the Thankfulness Tree first helps kids start thinking in the right direction, plus it provides a visual reminder during the game of things they are thankful for.
This is intended as a group activity. You can try doing it with just your child, but unless yours has a very different temperament than mine, s/he will be more distracted, and plus it won’t be nearly as fun!
- Start the Journey: Stand up in front of the group, with the Thankfulness Tree in clear view. Explain that you are all going on a trip to the Grateful Garden, but to get there you have to go through three dangerous places! (Insert a word other than “dangerous” if more appropriate to the age group). The Thankfulness Tree will help you get through each one so you can make it to the Grateful Garden.
- The Frowny Forest: The first stop is the Frowny Forest. Have the kids all mimic you as you frown, cross your arms, and hunch over. There is a lot of wind in the Frowny Forest, so mimic being tossed about by the wind, turning back and forth as if you are trying to fight it. The only way to leave the Frowny Forest is to feel happy again, so ask the kids to shout out things they are grateful for (using the Thankfulness Tree as a prompt). After they have named a few things, mimic great relief, with a big smile.
- The Sad Swamp: But, oh no! Just beyond the Frowny Forest is the Sad Swamp! Hunch over again, swing your arms down low, and walk (in place) in big, heavy steps, as if walking through mud or water. Again, have the kids shout out things they are grateful for, so you can all leave the Sad Swamp.
- The Mad Mountain: Past the Sad Swamp is the Mad Mountain. Have them imitate you as you pretend to climb up the mountain with great effort, making angry faces. Again, have the kids shout out things they are grateful for, so you can all feel happy again.
- The Grateful Garden: Finally, you have all arrived at the Grateful Garden! What a good job they have done! To celebrate, everyone can do a Happy Hop!
How do you teach your kids about gratitude? What are YOU thankful for?
This post has been shared at Wonderfully Messy Mom’s Turkey Day Linkup.