Why I wrote this themed guide: Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth resonates with me. In the middle of ugliness, neighbors help one little girl realize that something beautiful is something that makes your heart happy. Simple things are beautiful, like an apple or a smooth stone, because they make our hearts happy. These are the things we are grateful for every day. I remember walking a few blocks to play with my friend Vinny when we were in elementary school. I remember the graffiti and broken bottles on Vinny’s street. I remember swinging on Vinny’s old swingset and the chain link fence that reminded us that this was a rough neighborhood. But most of all, I remember Vinny. Vinny never knew he was a foster kid. Vinny never saw the graffiti in his neighborhood or the broken bottles. Vinny never knew because Vinny was autistic. Instead of seeing the ugliness, Vinny showed me plants and bugs in his backyard. From Vinny, I learned to look for the little things and be grateful for them.
Talk About It
During your afternoon routine or at a meal ask “What are you grateful for?” To get the conversation started, share something you are thankful for. For example, you could share, “Today, someone stopped to hold the door open for me when my hands were full. I’m grateful that there was a kind person nearby when I needed help.” Or, “My sister called today to say she will come visit us on Saturday. I’m thankful she’s going to come visit us.” Then ask, “What good thing happened in your day?” or “What beautiful thing did you see today?” and “Who said something nice to you today?” Jodie Rodriguez at Growing Book by Book has a fantastic table topics activity to help your family focus on gratitude. Print out her list of conversation starters, cut into strips, and place them in a bowl on the table. Each evening, pull out a conversation starter and talk about gratitude. One of my favorites items on the list is “Tell the person sitting to your right, one thing you are thankful/grateful for about them.” This is a powerful way to speak affirmation and confidence into the lives of those we are grateful for. Years ago, I started handing my students a sheet of paper & asking them to write what they were thankful for about each other. I get goosebumps when former student tell me how they treasure that sheet of paper.
Raising Grateful Children
Like many other parents, you are probably careful to teach your children to be grateful. In her article, Teaching Children To Be Grateful, Charlotte Latvala provides ideas for parents of preschoolers. Latvala says, “Grateful kids look outside their one-person universe and understand that their parents and other people do things for them…” The Chief Mom and Co-founder of Zoobean has shared on Neighborhood Parents Network. Jordan gives tips for teaching gratitude and three great books for helping us think and talk about gratitude, including one of my favorites, Boxes for Katje. I think I appreciate Katje so much because her gratitude prompts her to share with others. After all, you can’t help but be filled with gratitude when you are able to share with someone else. Finally, 10 Ways to Raise a Grateful Kid from PBS Parents gives us ten steps to take to help our families thrive by developing grateful attitudes. One of my favorite tips is the suggestion to practice being thankful through role play. Pull out some stuffed animals, set up a teddy bears’ birthday party, and practice saying thank you together.
Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth
A little girl longs to see beyond the scary sights in her neighborhood and decides to look for something beautiful. Her neighbors tell her about their own beautiful things. Her search for “something beautiful” leaves her feeling much happier. I love that she experiences the beauty of friendship and the power of hope. (Random House Children's Books / Zoobean)
Turn to the pages where neighbors share their something beautiful and share how you think the characters feel. You can begin by saying, “I think Mr. Sims is grateful for his beautiful, smooth stone.” Then ask your child, “How do you think this mother feels when she says her something beautiful is her daughter?” or “How do you think this girl feels about her beautiful beads?”
Extend the Story
Look for things in your home, yard, neighborhood, or area park that are beautiful to you. Share an item with your child, describe it as you look at it together and share why it is beautiful to you and why you are grateful for it. For example, “This tree turns a deep red in the fall. I’m grateful for this tree because it is so beautiful that it reminds me to look for other beautiful things in the park.” Pull out an old photo album and share the stories of the beautiful faces and places in your life, ending with, “This is my favorite picture of (you, our family, the lake, etc) and it makes me grateful for you.”
Ask your child to share something he or she thinks is beautiful and ask, “Why is this beautiful to you?” or “Why are you grateful for this item?”
Create a Tradition of Beauty
When we are grateful for the beauty around us and people help us to find the beauty within us, we want to create beauty for others. What can your family do to create a tradition of beauty?
Take some photos of your family and update family photo albums or frames around the house.
Plant seeds or flower bulbs to make a beautiful spot.
Many families participate in projects with the National Arbor Day Foundation to beautify their neighborhoods.
You can participate in shoreline cleanup or put together gifts for underprivileged children in the community and around the world.
The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
The Thankful Book celebrates daily things that we can be thankful for. From our hair and ears to our shadow and bubble baths, we all have a lot of everyday things we can be thankful for. I love the way Todd Parr makes concepts like thankfulness accessible for readers of all ages.
With your young listeners, point to the things the characters are thankful for as you read together. For example, as you read the page where the character is thankful for her hair you can fluff your hair up & say, “I’m thankful for my hair, too!” Wiggle your ears along with the thankful elephant or make shadow puppets along with the book.
Create Your Own Gratitude Project
Make drawings of the things you’re thankful for & create your own Thankful Book.
What you will need:
Construction paper, brown paper, or card stock
Magazines to cut up
Pictures of things you are thankful for
Markers or colored pencils
What To Do:
Fold paper in half and punch holes for yarn
Thread yarn through the holes to create a book
Decorate your cover
Make drawings and collages of things you are thankful for using pictures, magazines, and markers
To get your child started, ask him or her questions about what he or she is thankful for.
Are you thankful for family? Draw a picture of your family.
Are you thankful for strawberries? Find a picture of strawberries in one of the magazines to add to your book.
Are you thankful for your pet? Add a photo of your pet to your book.
Share your Thankful Book with friends and family members and ask them, “What are you thankful for?”
Gracias Thanks by Pat Mora
I love that this upbeat story of a bilingual boy and the many things he is thankful for in English and Spanish will get you listing the many things you and your family are thankful for. Friendship, the beach, and his pajamas are just a few of the things Pat Mora’s character is thankful for.
If your family does not speak Spanish, you can ask your child, “The title of this books is Gracias Thanks. What do you think gracias means?” Accept any answers and turn them into a segue for watching Rosita. If your child knows, say, “You’re correct. Let’s watch Rosita from Sesame Street pronounce gracias.”
If your child answers incorrectly say, “You think gracias means ____? Let’s watch Rosita from Sesame Street to find out if we’re right.”
After watching Rosita ask, “Before we watched Rosita, you thought gracias meant ____. What did Rosita teach us about the word gracias?”
Extend the Story
List some of the things you and your child are thankful for and get ready to sing “Thanks A Lot” with Raffi. Like the boy in Gracias Thanks, Raffi is thankful for many everyday things like the sun, clouds, his family, the wind, and the birds. Ask your child, “What are you thankful for today?” Then sing your own verses of Thanks a Lot.
Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes
Grimes uses a variety of forms that include haiku, a riddle, and a rebus in selections that speak directly to the experiences of young children. A Lesson from the Deaf simply and eloquently describes saying thank you in sign language. (School Library Journal / Zoobean)
Before You Read:
Explain that a poem is a fun way to say things. You can explain that poems can share feelings and make word pictures for us.
Set out a seed and a flower. If flowers are out of season for you, an origami flower or silk flower will work. Open Thanks a Million to the first poem, “Reward.” Hand your child a seed as you read the first words, “Thank you.” Hand your child the flower as you read, “Your smile is the flower.” Then set the book down, so your child knows you are sharing your thoughts, and talk about the word picture this poem gives us. For example, “This poem reminds that me saying ‘Thank you’ is like planting a seed, I know something beautiful will grow. When someone smiles at me after I say ‘Thank you,’ their smile is beautiful, like a beautiful flower that I get to watch bloom.”
Other poems in Thanks a Million to share with your 3 or 4 year old are “Mystery,” “Homemade Card” a rebus, and “A Lesson from the Deaf.”
Extend the Poetry:
Fold origami flowers to decorate the table and to share with someone you and your child want to say “Thank you” to.
After reading “A Lesson from the Deaf” share “Thank you” in sign language. Sometimes, we want to remind our children to say thank you; but, know they may feel embarrassed if we say, “Say ‘Thank you!’” in front of others. One tip I’ve found is to share with your child how to say “Please” and “Thank you” in sign language so a reminder is less obvious than a verbal reminder.
The First Thanksgiving by Jean Craighead George
The First Thanksgiving is an honest, accurate, un-romanticized account of the disappearance of the Pawtuxet village, the capture and return of Squanto, and the arrival of English Separatists at Plymouth.
Consider your child’s attention span and this nonfiction text. Younger children will be able to listen to one or two pages each day. Older children will be able to listen to the story in one or two settings.
Fold a sheet of paper in thirds and pull out colored pencils. Ask your child what he or she knows about Thanksgiving, giving him or her time to draw in the first third of the paper. Then ask him or her, “What do you think we still need to learn about Thanksgiving?” or “What questions do we have about the first Thanksgiving?” Record the questions in the second section of your folded sheet.
Ask your child, “What did we learn when we read about the first Thanksgiving?” Record answers in the last third of the sheet and give your child time to draw what he or she learned. Then read the first question you recorded to your child and ask him or her, “Did we find the answer to this question?” If so, record the information in the last third of your sheet. If not,
Enjoy children’s choirs from around the world singing the hopeful song made famous by Louis Armstrong. “What a Wonderful World” is so easy to remember you’ll find yourself humming and singing it, even on gloomy days. If your family sings as part of your morning routine, consider introducing “What a Wonderful World” into your morning to set the tone for a grateful day.
Daniel Tiger has thank you notes that get carried away by a breeze. Mr. McFeely, the mailman in Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood, picks them up and returns them. Daniel makes a thank you note for the mailman in return.
After watching Daniel Tiger making a thank you card ask your child, “Who helps us the way Mr. McFeeley helps the people in Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood? What can we do to thank them?”
Extend the Video:
Make a list of helpers you can thank, then pull out craft supplies to make Handprint Thank You notes.
What You Will Need:
A Paper plate or a lid for a painter’s palate
What To Do:
Use the ideas from Grandparents.com for inspiring handprint art ideas
Pour a small amount of paint onto your palate
Help your child set his or her hand into the paint
Help your child set his or her hand onto the paper and press down before lifting straight up
After drying, help your child write a thank you note on the artwork
Dora always says gracias or “Thank you” when she receives a gift but the troll tells Dora that he never says “Thank you” because nothing makes him happy. Can you and Dora find all of the things that will help the grumpy troll learn to be thankful?
Before You Play:
This game requires the ability to know left from right. Check your child’s ability to tell his or her right hand from his or her left hand. If telling left from right is difficult, place a small sticker on the right side of the screen and point out that this is right.
Extend the Game:
Re-watch the troll do his “Thank You” dance at the end of the game and dance along with him. If your child enjoys being active, consider adding a “Thank You” dance to your daily grateful conversations.
Thanksgiving Memory Online Game from BrainPop Jr.
Like the table game “Memory,” turn over cards on this BrainPop Jr. page to match pilgrims, corn, lobster, and other Thanksgiving items.
Tips for Play:
Talk your child through matching by asking him or her to select one of the cards. Ask your child, “What do we see in the picture?” and “How can we remember where this corn is?” Then ask him or her to select a second card. Repeat the conversation if the two cards do not match. When the cards flip over, ask your child “Can you remind me which two cards we just saw?” Point to the first card and ask, “What picture did we see on this card?” Repeat for the second card. After each round, review as many of the cards that you have already seen as possible to help your child remember which cards he or she has seen and where those cards are on the board.
Thanksgiving Hidden Object App for iPad
Each Thanksgiving scene has hidden items to find. A list of hidden items is included.
Tips for Play:
Explain to your child that each picture has hidden things that do not fit in the scene like a basketball in the cornicopia scene. Ask your child what he or she can find in each picture. If there are items left on the list that have not been found, mention one item and see if he or she can find it.
Thanksgiving Games Math App for Android
Each game has four levels, making the app great for ages 3 and up. Start with addition, Subtraction, and sorting, then move on to multiplication, division, and equations.
Extend the App:
Many children need to handle concrete items to help them understand the work they are doing with numbers. Gather autumn items, like leaves, acorns, apples, or small shapes or pictures to handle as you count, add, subtract, and sort. Lay out the items, begin the app at the level your child will be able to understand best, and use the items to represent the problem on the screen. For example, begin by saying, “This screen asks for 2 leaves plus more leaves to equal 8 leaves. How many leaves do we need to set out?” Begin by setting out 2 leaves and asking, “How many more leaves do we need to add to have 8 leaves?” If your child does not know, ask him or her to add leaves one at a time and count until he or she has 8 total leaves.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving for Movie Night
When Peppermint Patty invites everyone to Charlie Brown’s house for Thanksgiving, Charlie arranges a Thanksgiving dinner for his friends before he heads to his grandmother’s house. Learn the true meaning of being thankful along with Charlie and the gang.
Talk About It:
Why is your family thankful? Is gratefulness in your family a life-lesson in manners, friendship, selflessness, or feeling good about yourself? Share your reasons with your child.
Some of the words in “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” like blockhead, are not words we call others. On a second viewing, pause the video and ask your child, “How does this character feel when other characters call him a blockhead?” Explain that this is the way other people feel if we call them a blockhead. Provide alternate ways of addressing others through “I Feel” statements. For example, “When you don’t do what I want, I do not feel thankful.”
About Rebekah K.
An insomniac since 1979, Rebekah has filled her nights with books & history. Rebekah's earliest memories are of watching documentaries, reading books, and playing Candy Land late at night with her dad. Is it any wonder that she doesn't consider being a librarian and teacher a job? During her fifteen years, in college and K-12 libraries and 10 years in English, ESL, and History classrooms, she has spent her days talking about books and history, sometimes at the same time. Rebekah says, "I love pairing readers with books that are a perfect fit. I feel like I have won a war when a reluctant reader returns to tell me they hated reading; but, after reading a book I recommended, they stay up with a flashlight to read until the page is blurry."