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Growing in Thankfulness

  • Linda Joyce Heaner Contributing Writer
  • 2005 9 Nov
Growing in Thankfulness

Each activity described below can help your family grow in thankfulness. Use them during November or throughout the year.

Thankful Tree.
Have a family member draw a large tree trunk on poster board. Tape it to a large, empty wall. Have children trace and cut out their handprints on colored construction paper. On these 'leaves', they can write people, places, activities, and things they are thankful for. Tape the leaves to the tree. Spread this activity over many days. Make leaves one day for people, another day for special places, etc. Have extra leaves available. Seeing what other family members write will stir your memory, so keep extra leaves available to add to your collection. The thankful tree gives a specific picture of your family's thankfulness this year. It is a visual reminder of all the ways God has blessed you. (Variation: someone can draw a turkey, and the handprints are feathers).

I'm Thankful For... Play this like 20 Questions.
One family member thinks of a person, place, thing, or activity he's thankful for, and the others ask questions that can be answered by yes or no. You'll be surprised what you learn about each other.

Drama. Read Luke 17:11-19 together.
Act out the story of the ten lepers. Discuss why nine didn't come back and why one did. Talk about what you're thankful for. Have you thanked Jesus or forgotten to? Take time together to thank Jesus for what He's done for you, individually, and as a family.

Thankful Mural.
On a large piece of paper, have each family member draw pictures of what they are thankful for. (This works great for preschoolers). Or make a collage from photographs you've taken or pictures from magazines.

Thankful Interview.
When you are alone with your child, ask what she is thankful for this year. Either write it down, or tape record it. Date it, save it, and add to it each year. Then let your child interview and record you.

Watch Veggie Tales Madam Blueberry together. Talk about the difference between being thankful for stuff and thankful for people.

Bible Discovery.
What does God's Word tell us about being thankful? When and why do we give thanks? These verses will get you started. Use a concordance to find others. After reading and discussing the verses, write your own family psalm of thanksgiving.
Ps. 136:1

1 Thess. 5:18

Ps. 9:1-2
Ps. 100

Ps. 126:3

Eph. 5:18-20
Ps. 79:13

Ps. 92:1-4

Ps. 138:1-2
Ps. 118:28-29

Ps. 147:1-11

Col. 3:15-17

Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims.
Read The Light and the Glory for children by Marshall & Manuel. Focus on chapters 4 & 5 about the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving.

Use Your Ears.
Listen to The Legend of Squanto by Focus on the Family Radio Theater. Why were the Pilgrims thankful for Squanto? Why was he thankful for them? Why were they all thankful to God?

Make a List.
Each family member can write five people, places, things –whatever they are most thankful for. Then share your lists with one another.

Children in Kenya.
Someone asked a class of 7th graders to write down five things they were thankful for. These students attended a Christian school in a very poor area of Nairobi, Kenya. They lived in 'homes' the size of a large bathroom, and had no electricity or running water. Their parents were unemployed or underemployed. The students ate breakfast and lunch at school each day. Most did not eat another meal until they were at school the next day. What do you think they were thankful for?

After getting some responses from your family members, read these answers from the Kenyan children. "I'm thankful that my parents take good care of me." "I'm thankful that I can come to school and get a good education." "I'm thankful that God made me." "I'm thankful that Jesus died for me." "I'm thankful that I have a good life."

Were their answers what you expected? Why or why not? What can you learn from these children?

Sing to the Lord.
Sing songs like Give Thanks or I'm Forever Grateful. Make up your own thankful song using familiar tunes like Row, Row, Row Your Boat or Mary Had a Little Lamb.

Thankful Notes.
Each family member can make a card and write a special note to someone he is thankful for. It can be as simple as 'I'm glad you're my friend,' or thanking them for something they've done. Share your cards with each other when you finish. This illustrates how everyone is thankful for someone.

When Was Jesus Thankful?
Read these verses together to find out when Jesus thanked God. How is it different from when we usually thank God? (Clue: check the timing of Jesus' prayers of thanks). John 6:1-13; John 11:1-6;20-44; Luke 22:14-20; Luke 9:10-17

Thanksgiving Letter.
Instead of a Christmas letter, send a family Thanksgiving letter, sharing what God has done in your family this year. Let your children write their own section. Include your thankfulness for the person or family you're writing to. Those who receive this letter will be blessed!


Linda Joyce Heaner is an author, teacher, and speaker. Her family has used all the activities listed above and continues to discover new ways to grow in thankfulness. You may contact her at