Are you looking for a new way to celebrate Thanksgiving together as a family? Use this guide to enrich the Thanksgiving experience and build a culture of gratitude in your home, starting a little over a week or so before the holiday itself. If you like, you can download and print this Twelve Days of Thanksgiving poster to hang on your fridge or on a wall in your homeschool room to go over with your kids each day. You can even turn it into a song and sing it to the tune of the familiar Christmas carol.
“On the first day of Thanksgiving, the Lord God gave to me . . .”
One Beautiful Creation
Start your family’s days of Thanksgiving with the big picture—the beautiful world God made for human beings to live in. How can we show God we’re grateful for this planet? Talk to your kids about how they can be good stewards of the world and appreciate its beauty.
Two Family Pets
Does your family have a pet? Ask your children to think about how your pet(s) add value to your life. If you don’t have a pet, consider pets they enjoy at friends’ or relatives’ homes. How can your kids show love to some of the special animals God has placed in their lives? Treats, an extra-long walk, playtime, petting, or some soft words of affection are all great ways to show love to your family pet.
Three Fun Toys
Play is one way that children can glorify God! It’s part of what they’re meant to do as they grow and develop. Ask your kids to select three of their favorite toys and thank God for those items. To enrich the experience, discuss the origins or makers of some of the toys.
Four Friendships Given
Fellow church members, neighbors, homeschool co-op pals, sports teammates—your children’s lives are full of friends. Have each child compose a list of his or her four closest friends. They can send each friend a quick email or note, make a phone call or Skype call, or drop by for a visit. Encourage your kids to thank these people for their presence in your family’s life.
Five Senses Sound
Encourage your children to think about their five senses of hearing, taste, touch, smell, and sight. For which of those five senses are they the most grateful? Do you know anyone who lacks one of those five senses? How can you show love to that person today?
Six Public Servants
Who are the helpers in your community? Talk to your kids about the important roles of firemen, policemen, the mayor, road crews, mail carriers, and garbage pickup teams, among others. All of these people keep your town or city functional and beautiful. How can you thank them today?
Seven Favorite Foods
This is “favorite food” day! Create a list for each child, featuring his or her seven favorite foods. Choose one food from each list that you can all enjoy; and be sure to thank God specifically for those delicious treats!
Eight Books for Reading
Today is a wonderful day for reading! Ask each child to select eight favorite books; then read one or two from each stack! Maybe your kids would enjoy writing a thank-you note to an author or illustrator, expressing their gratefulness for a favorite story or novel.
Nine Crafts for Making
God gave us creative ability! Celebrate that gift today by having your kids select their favorite art supplies—crayons, pencils, googly eyes, glitter glue, craft sticks, and so on. Using those items, create nine different Thanksgiving-themed pieces of art! And thank God for art and self-expression as you work on the projects.
Ten Songs for Singing
Music is a beautiful part of God’s creation, from the songs of the birds to the ability humans have to create rhythm and melody. Talk to your children about music today! What are the favorite musical styles in your household? Favorite songs or hymns? Create a playlist and enjoy the beauty of music together.
Eleven Games for Playing
Break out the board games! Have your kids choose some of their favorite board games or card games and play them together. Don’t forget to include games of pretend too—role-playing games are a natural and exciting part of child development.
Twelve Loved Ones Caring
Today, your kids can be thankful for each other. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins—you may have trouble limiting this list to twelve, and that’s OK! As your kids think of more and more people who love them, they’ll realize on a deeper level how much they have to be thankful for—on Thanksgiving Day and every day.
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Rebecca is a work-at-home freelance writer, novelist, wife, and the mom of two bright-eyed little ones. She credits her success in writing and her love of books to her own mom, who homeschooled three kids from pre-K through high school.