The spirit of Thanksgiving is all about showing gratitude for your good fortune and giving to those who are less fortunate. Express your thanks this holiday season by involving the whole family in volunteering, donating, and spreading kindness. Try these great ideas to teach your children graciousness and goodwill. And don't forget -- you can use these ideas all year round!
1. Express thanks in your decorations and traditions.
Decorate your home with words of thanks. For the big meal, write down each guest's name on Thanksgiving place cards. Together with your children, think of reasons why you're thankful for each guest, or one admirable quality he or she possesses, and write it on the card. Then, during the meal, ask everyone at the table to voice at least three things they are thankful for.
2. Donate to a favorite charity, such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill.
Some items in your home may no longer be of use to you, but they could be extremely valuable to others. Gather up old toys, clothes, home furnishings, or other items in your home and deliver them to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or another charitable organization. You could also give a monetary donation -- even small amounts are welcomed. Include a little note on a piece of paper or on the check about why you've chosen the charity and why you support the cause.
3. Visit a hospital.
The hospital can be a very lonely place for patients, especially during the holidays. Spend some of your time this holiday season with those who aren't able to be at home. You might visit the children's hospital and hand out stuffed animals or treats to children who need the extra cheer. Ask your kids to pick out a gift they think a kid like them would love.
4. Send a care package to soldiers overseas.
A holiday care package can be a great pick-me-up for soldiers who are far from home during the holidays. Gather up everyday necessities like soap, razors, toothbrushes, and travel-sized toiletries. Don't forget to include some goodies to keep their bellies full, like cookies, Rice Krispies® Treats, canned foods, and gum. Games, like small sudoku or crossword puzzle books, will help them stay busy during their free time.
5. Volunteer at an animal shelter.
It's important to keep family and friends in mind during the holidays, but don't forget the animals! Hundreds of homeless animals need your time, love, and hugs. Take your son or daughter to an animal shelter to volunteer for a day, or sign up to volunteer once a week to spread the love throughout the year. And if you have the resources and time, adopt one of your own!
6. Provide Thanksgiving dinner for a family in need.
You can make this holiday season one to remember for a hungry family. Offer a complete Thanksgiving dinner through your church or an outreach organization in your community. Ask your children to help you with the shopping list. Visit America's Second Harvest, the nation's food bank network, to find other ways to help.
7. Donate money or volunteer at a women's shelter or an orphanage.
Give a Thanksgiving gift to one or more of the shelters or homes in your community. Your gift can be anything from a turkey to a homemade decoration or a toy. For an extra-special gift, take time out of your busy holiday schedule and help out by serving food at a homeless shelter. You undoubtedly will brighten many spirits, including your own.
8. Volunteer at a senior center or a veteran's home.
"Back in my day..." Have you ever noticed how the elderly love to talk about when they were young? This Thanksgiving, volunteer to chat, listen, or play a simple game with those of a different generation. They will surely appreciate spending time with youngsters, and you just might learn a thing or two. Visiting a veteran's home is also a great way to honor America's veterans, and this is the perfect time to do it - November 11 is Veteran's Day!
9. Sponsor a child in an impoverished country.
Spread Thanksgiving kindness across the globe by sponsoring a child in another country this year. You can keep track of how your contribution is helping the child, and it can be an opportunity for your own children to learn about other places in the world.
10. Invite extra guests to join your family for dinner.
The holidays are a time for giving and togetherness. If you know someone who will be alone for the holidays, make them feel loved by inviting them to your family's holiday dinner this year. The more, the merrier!