With Thanksgiving right around the corner, your thoughts may naturally be turning to your plans for the day. But thankfulness should extend beyond November 28th. Actually, it should fill every day of our entire year. So, if you’re looking to add some “thankful-themed” activities to your routine, we’re here to supply you with ideas.
There are plenty of ways to display thankfulness in the time leading up to Thanksgiving Day (and also in the time following). Everyone will have different preferences, but here are some ideas to get you started planning your thankful endeavors.
1 – Volunteer at a charity
The great thing about this idea is that you can actually continue to implement it even after the Thanksgiving season is gone. Getting involved with a local charity could include several family members, just one, or everybody at once.
If most of your family members are adults, everyone may enjoy picking a different charity to work with. And if you all live in different areas of the country, that differentiation could be particularly useful. On the other hand, if everyone is nearby, you could find a single local event or ongoing need that you could serve.
101 ways to volunteer
First off, brainstorm for ideas. There could be so many volunteer opportunities that you’ll have a hard time narrowing things down. You could do a one-day event serving Thanksgiving dinner at a local homeless shelter or church.
Or, you could participate in a food truck or food bank ministry that provides food to needy families on an ongoing basis. You might even be able to put your collective talents to use manning a table at a local fundraiser or going door-to-door raising awareness and funds. Meals on Wheels or a similar organization might need drivers in your area. Spending time at a local nursing home or volunteering a nearby hospital might also be options.
Plus, don’t forget that you can split family members up so that people are doing the things they’re most talented at. For instance, if you’re manning a table, the most extroverted family member might be the perfect choice to greet event attendees as they stop by. At the same time, a slightly less outgoing family member might enjoy the time a whole lot more when put in charge of collecting donations or organizing material. Try to let people do what they’re good at.
2 – Take gifts to neighbors
While this is a trend seen perhaps more often at Christmas, Thanksgiving is a great time to share extra kindness with neighbors. Whether it’s pumpkin chocolate chip muffins or an autumn gift basket, give them a little something tangible to demonstrate you’re glad to live next door to them.
Incidentally, this is a still a great idea even if you’re not glad to live next door to your neighbors. Let’s face it, not all neighbors are created equal. And sometimes the relationship between people living next door to one another can be strained. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore your community members and let the frustration continue. Maybe reaching out with a kind gesture will reopen channels of polite communication.
Get the kids in on the act here, by having them help you put together the gift. Then, be sure to have them join you as you deliver it across the street. It’s actually a great opportunity for little ones to practice politely greeting adults (with parents present). And it’s never too early to begin cultivating generosity.
3 – Make your own thankful list
When it comes to things to be thankful for, you probably have a lot more than you realize. So be prepared for your list to be a long one. And get ready to keep adding to it as you think of more things. We suggest you do this thankful list in one of two ways.
First option—get a slender roll of paper that you can add to without tearing any portions off. This way, you’ll be building an endless string of things you’re thankful for. And the fact that the list just keeps going on and on and on physically will be an appropriate reminder of just how very many things you have to be thankful for.
The second option is to buy a special journal just for this purpose. That way you can keep your thankful list in a permanent location, and refer back to it from time to time. Head to your nearby bookstore and pick out an empty notebook that will be inspiring to write in. Now, you can begin to accumulate a list of the good things in your life.
Don’t do it alone
Now, you may be wondering—how is this idea supposed to involve the whole family? Great question and there is indeed a way. Everyone else in the family can begin keeping their own list of things they’re thankful for. Every week (or at an interval of your choosing), get all the minds together and share a pre-selected number of items that you’ve written down.
It should be fun to figure out if any family members have duplicated parts of others’ lists. And it’s also fair game to draw inspiration from a family member’s list and scratch down some of their list items if you realize you’re thankful for the same thing. The point is not to see who can come up with the longest list. But the exercise should get people thinking and maybe even stimulate discussion.
4 – Send personalized notes of thanks
You probably have quite a few people in your life who you’re grateful for. Have you told them so recently? This is a great time to drop them a note and let them know just how much they’ve done for you and just how much you appreciate them.
Start by picking up some special thank you notes next time you’re at the store. Then create a list of people who’ve impacted your life in the last year (or even before that). Think deeper and harder than just those whose affect on you is easily noticeable and large. For example, think about people whose actions may have been small enough to be easily overlooked. Now, push back against that “easy-to-overlook” idea by intentionally not overlooking their action, but instead thanking them for it.
What it looks like
Need an example? How about crafting a special message to a friend who always texts to ask how your week is going? A small gesture, maybe, but over time it adds up—you feel cared about. Just drop them some simple lines explaining that this encouraged you in the past year, and you wanted to say thanks for their thoughtfulness.
Or how about saying “thank you” to the receptionist where you work? The person who’s always fielding your calls and keeping you more effective at your own job by shielding you from tasks that could be a drag on your time. Give them a special word so they know their work is noticed and appreciated.
You can even shoot a note to a friend who always seems to listen well and offer insightful comments when you update him or her on your life. People who are good communicators can be few and far between. When you find them, keep them!
5 – Start a thankfulness jar
Here’s a project that can begin before Thanksgiving, but can also be a part of the day’s events. Decorate an empty jar with your very favorite autumn-themed decor. If you’re feeling zero decorating inspiration, check out this autumn jar to get you started.
Autumn Leaf Mason Jars via Spark and Chemistry
You’ll also need a pen or two and plenty of small slips of paper. Sticky tabs could work if you fold them so that the adhesive strip isn’t exposed. Index cards are another option. Or you can simply cut printer paper into small slips.
Take your time
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, everyone in the family should contribute to the thankfulness jar from time to time. Whenever anyone comes across something they’re thankful for, jot it down on a paper slip and fold it so the message can’t be seen. Then, drop it into the jar.
When the big day finally arrives, it will be time to reveal the contents of the jar and discover just what everyone is thankful for! One member of your group can read the contributions aloud, or you can simply pass the jar around and each can take a turn.
Another option is to simply declassify the jar and leave it sitting in a prominent place. That way, everyone knows they can take a look at the contents, but they can do it on their own time.
6 – Make a thankful tree
This is a great project to get the kids involved in. You’ll start by drawing a tree trunk and empty branches on a large piece of paper/poster. Alternatively, you can use brown construction paper to cut the shape of the tree and paste it to your paper/poster. If you’re drawing the tree, be sure to color it brown so it really gets the tree look. Now, post that tree in a prominent place in your house—like the dining room wall, the side of the refrigerator, or the wall of the playroom.
Of course, no one wants a barren, skeletal tree hanging as decor, so naturally, the next step is to fill that thing up! Here’s where you’re going to need leaves and plenty of them. But you won’t be using real leaves.
Instead, you’ll find paper in your favorite fall colors and use your scissors to snip out some leaf shapes. (Not sure how to create a leaf cutout? Snag some real leaves from the backyard or print patterns from online and trace around them to get you started).
Re-leaf the tree
Once you’ve created a good stash of colorful paper leaves, it’s time for the children to begin listing the things they’re thankful for. Each leaf gets one sentiment, then it takes its place on whichever branch of your tree the child chooses. You can use glue or double-sided tape for this job.
If you want to keep track of which family member is thankful for what, be sure to note their name on their leaves, too. And don’t forget that this isn’t just a project for the kids. Older siblings or family members can add their thoughts, too.
Plus, this can be an ongoing project. Leave a little basket near your tree poster full of extra paper leaves, pens, and double-sided tape. List more and more things you’re thankful for as you think of them. Remind the kids to continue filling up the tree as the days pass. Encourage guests to add to your project, too.
7 – Host a Thanksgiving block party
We already suggested that it’s a good time of year to reach out to the neighbors. But if you want to take things to the next level and connect with the community around you even more, host a Thanksgiving block party. Wait a minute, you’re thinking, it’s tough enough to pull together Thanksgiving dinner for my family. How am I supposed to supply a feast for the whole neighborhood, too?
That’s certainly a legitimate concern. But the good news is you don’t have to put together a Thanksgiving dinner for your entire subdivision, mobile home park, or township. Instead, opt for a more approachable route and have a soup potluck. Send out print invitations and also put social networks like Nextdoor and Facebook to good use.
Let people know that everyone is invited and attendees should contribute a pot (or slow cooker) full of their favorite soup. The host can provide rolls, bowls, crackers, and drinks. Give the date and time and let people know whether and to whom they should RSVP. As the organizer, you can certainly host the event in your own home if space permits. But if it doesn’t, try reaching out to a local church or community group about the possibility of using their space.
Get ready for all the Thanksgiving events
Leading up to Thanksgiving, there are plenty of other things to think about, too. Of course, there’s your menu for Thanksgiving dinner. Plus, you’ll want to think about accommodations if you’re hosting guests over the holiday. If you still have food preparation to plan for while your guests are in town, check out our fall seasonal menu ideas. Or, if a vital part of your house isn’t quite ready for Thanksgiving dinner, take a look at our thoughts for your holiday dining room.