For the last eight years – since my oldest was about one year old – our little family has experimented with setting family traditions. At Thanksgiving the traditions seem easier because there wasn’t a lot for me to recreate from my childhood, and because I only have one goal: teaching gratitude. I remember years as an adolescent coming to Thanksgiving dinner and being asked what I’m thankful for before I had thought about it at all. SO, my singular goal for my kids is to spend the month of November thinking and talking and practicing thankfulness.
There are some traditions we have done for a year and then dropped, but one has stuck from the first time we did it. We call it a Thanksgiving tree. The first year my toddlers and I went out and gathered branches and spray-painted them gold and put them in a vase. (Later I skipped this step by purchasing something like this which is no longer available but you could make or find something similar).
After we have our centerpiece, we take pretty cardstock and cut it into small-ish squares — about 2″ x 2″. We put a hole punch in the corner and keep them in a jar on our dining table. When we sit down to eat together in November, we go around the table and say all the things we are thankful for that day or week. Toddlers are the best at this because they recognize some amazing things to be thankful for: that frog we saw on our walk, our back fence, that our house is made of brick. We hang the squares on the branches and add to them throughout the month. I didn’t start this way, but now I write the kids name on the back of the things that they say so that I’m able to remember who was thankful for what.
That first year I decided to keep all of our squares and I am so glad I did, because now the tree is sentimental as I hang the things we were grateful for in years past. I absolutely love that I have our family history on my table when I pull it out each year, and our whole family loves adding to it as years go by.
We often have Thanksgiving dinner at my mother-in-law‘s house, and I even bring the tree with us with extra sheets of paper so that people can add to it if they want. It makes such a great centerpiece, but it is sentimental in the same way that a Christmas tree ornament made by a toddler is. Now that my kids can write their own thankful cards, I also love tracking their hand writing through the years.
This is a precious family tradition and I would love to hear about yours — what do you do to keep gratitude front of mind with your children? What are traditions that you have loved and maintained through the years? Let me know in the comments!!