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I love turkey, board games, and football as much as the next person, but the heart of Thanksgiving is being thankful. For your next holiday gathering, practice a thankful Thanksgiving by showing acts of kindness or passing out items to your family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers. These thankful Thanksgiving ideas will help you do just that.
We’re often so focused on work, our home life, or social activities that we need a gratitude reminder. And you don’t always have to buy a gift card to show someone you’re thankful for them. An old-fashioned, handmade gift works. For instance, I love making edible gifts every holiday season, especially pumpkin pie.
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to make time for that amid all the prep and tryptophan naps, so feel free to use these ideas to refocus the thankful season. Since we’re passing out tips, these Thanksgiving deals and Black Friday sales will bring you a smile this holiday season as you catch incredible discounts.
Thankful Thanksgiving Ideas
1. Show gratitude to your neighbors by bringing them Thanksgiving treats.
Break out your KitchenAid mixer and start baking a few goods for your favorite neighbors. While homemade cookies, cakes, and pies are great, there’s no shame in a store-bought item. They’ll never know the difference because it’s all from the heart.
2. Thankful Thanksgiving idea: Decorate your home with a “thankful” tree.
Save a couple of aluminum cans from your Thanksgiving cooking to make this beautiful “thankful” tree. To make this a low-cost craft, grab a few thin branches from outside — or use Hobby Lobby’s brown natural branches for only $2.
When friends, family, and neighbors visit, they can write what they’re grateful for on a leaf and add it to the tree.
3. Help your kids assemble a thankful turkey.
Get your kids or young relatives into the Thanksgiving spirit by distributing turkey crafts that say, “I Am Grateful.” Amazon’s paper turkey craft kit makes it easy with turkeys and paper feathers. Put your school-age kids to work on this activity, and when they’re done, place the turkeys on tables or gift them to relatives.
Related: Stores Closed on Thanksgiving
4. Leave a small gift in a public place to brighten a stranger’s day.
I’m sure you’ve heard the stories of drivers in fast-food lines who randomly pay for the customer behind them. Another thought is to head to Walgreens and buy a stack of $5 Starbucks gift cards. Pass them out to strangers, leave one anonymously for a coworker having a bad day, or donate a card to a shelter.
5. Bake messages of gratitude into your Thanksgiving dinner rolls.
Using Pillsbury crescent rolls, place a single folded note in the center of the raw dough. Write the letter on parchment paper and use a water-resistant Sharpie or beeswax crayon. Carefully roll up your dough, making sure not to crush the note. Bake your rolls as instructed.
When your Thanksgiving dinner guest pulls apart their roll, they’ll discover a special message!
6. Thankful Thanksgiving Idea: Plan a Friendsgiving party.
We’re all thankful for good friends in our lives, so show them some love by hosting a Friendsgiving gathering as a thankful Thanksgiving idea. Some friends may not have relatives nearby during Thanksgiving, so invite them over for a holiday dinner. Be sure they bring the wine!
7. Give your time and volunteer at a soup kitchen.
Many organizations rely on volunteers for community service efforts, especially during the holidays. Check out FeedingAmerica or your local food bank for volunteer opportunities near you. Sign up early because Thanksgiving is a highly sought-after holiday to give back.
8. Use note cards to write personal messages to your dinner guests.
Have each guest write what they’re thankful for on a note card. Pass them out after dinner or as guests leave. Another idea is to create a book. Snap a photo of each card, assemble them into a book, and add to it each year.
9. Hang a thankful garland from handwritten notes.
Put your thanks on full display with a garland of handwritten notes. Make this DIY banner from colored felt cut into leaf shapes using a template. Once you’re done writing your notes, use a hole punch and satin cording to hang it.
10. Make a thankful pumpkin.
Pick your favorite pumpkin color and write who or what you’re thankful for. Use a black or colored Sharpie to list all of your blessings. Display your pumpkin for your whole family as a reminder of those things all month.
11. Create thankful paper pumpkins with your kids.
These thankful Thanksgiving crafts are great for the whole family. Here’s what you need:
- Cut the orange paper into five to 10 – 8 1/2″ x 3/4″ strips. Punch a hole on each end of the strip.
- Write the names of people or things you’re grateful for on each strip.
- Stack the strips into a straight, even pile. Insert and curl the pipe cleaner in one hole and then the other (it will look like a letter d).
- Fan the strips to resemble a round pumpkin.
12. Go around the table and tell everyone what you’re thankful for.
This thankful Thanksgiving idea is my family’s go-to method for sharing gratitude during Thanksgiving. Right after we get seated and before we eat, everyone (who can talk in complete sentences) says a few things they’re thankful for. Saying it out loud is the easiest way to show gratitude.
13. Have a “things I’m thankful for” scavenger hunt.
Break up the Thanksgiving monotony and go on a scavenger hunt. This printable Thanksgiving scavenger hunt sheet has a lot of thankful items to search plus some bonus fun stuff, such as green pumpkins and coffee (I’m certainly thankful for that!).
For a DIY approach, help your kids create a list of things they’re thankful for. Provide a sandwich bag for each item on the list. Then send them on a scavenger hunt to find each item!
When they’ve collected everything on the list, make a flip-book out of the bags, securing them with staples and a folded piece of paper. For items too large or impossible to collect in a bag (for example, the dog), have your kids draw them.
14. Assemble boxes of nonperishable items to donate to food banks or shelters.
Some food banks are overwhelmed with volunteer requests during the holiday season but may need extra food to distribute. Before grabbing your cans from your pantry, reach out to your local food bank and ask what’s most needed. It could be dried beans, a cash donation, clothing, or nonperishable supplies.
15. Countdown to Thanksgiving with a thankful countdown calendar.
Inspired by an advent calendar, this thankful countdown calendar is preassembled and ready to hang in your home. Every day, have your family write down one thing they’re grateful for and slip it into the envelope.