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Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

Thanksgiving—it’s not just the day before Black Friday. 

So, if you’d like to cultivate more than your family’s appetite this year (though we fully support that, too!), we’ve curated some of our best articles to help you build gratitude, kindness, togetherness, and love this season. Now there’s something to be thankful for!

Read Stories Together to Build Empathy and Kindness

These days, understanding and being sensitive to others’ feelings and perspectives is seen as a new “superpower” across fields from education and business to science and technology. It’s credited with everything from increased personal satisfaction and creativity to better leadership and negotiation skills. As Barack Obama put it, “Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.”

Yet empathy itself is on the decline. The U.S. is suffering from an “empathy deficit,” according to researchers. In 2009, American college students were found to be less empathic than 75 percent of those 30 years earlier (and the jury’s out on whether things have improved since). It appears that as a society we’re becoming more narrow-minded, more disconnected. Yet only around 10 percent of our ability to empathize actually comes down to genetics, while making a habit of it—for example practicing loving-kindness meditation—can make our brains grow.

But there’s good news: Reading fiction can help foster empathy. Read our article on how reading fictional stories can help your child develop emotional intelligence. Then check out our list of books that support empathy for some good titles to start with, plus scroll down to the bottom of our post on picture books for fall holidays to find some sweet Thanksgiving reads.

Share Picture Books By and About Indigenous Americans

As parents, we have the power to change the world via the books we put on our children’s shelves—all year long. 

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, a leading multicultural children’s literature expert, says, “Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror.” 

By making sure your child has access to quality books by and about Native Americans, you can create those mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. This post will show you how, as well as recommending some good books to start out with. 

Teach Kids Gratitude with Adorable DIY Paper Chain Animals

As adults, many of us understand that gratitude is an important element of our mental and emotional well-being. Practicing appreciation in our lives makes us happier as people. It reminds us to keep our eyes open to the wonders of the world and it helps us to be more resilient. Expressing words of gratitude can improve our relationships with friends, family members, peers, and ourselves.

And the benefits of gratitude can be seen just as clearly in the lives of children. A 2019 entry in the Journal of Happiness Studies found a positive correlation between gratitude and happiness in kids as young as five years old. Many studies in the last few decades have also shown that continuing to cultivate and experience gratitude through the school years improves kids’ and teens’ ability to empathize with others, as well as their overall sense of satisfaction. 

This super-cute words-of-gratitude craft helps teach kids this important attitude, with a little literacy practice built in, too! (They also make sweet DIY Thanksgiving decorations.)

Cultivate Kindness by Supporting a Great Cause

Literacy offers people a beacon of hope and a path to success in life (however you define that). Yet, according to UNESCO, some 773 million children and adults around the world lack basic literacy skills. That’s a huge number. Luckily for all of us, though, there are many incredible people and organizations striving to improve literacy around the world. 

So why not help your family build emotional intelligence and cultivate thankfulness by engaging in an act of kindness this year? Our article on 7 Awesome Organizations Around the World that Support Literacy gives information about some wonderful initiatives that are always looking for donations, volunteers, and books. 

Helping out will make your child proud and teach them they can take positive actions to help the world, a very empowering realization.

Slow Down and Cook Together

This one may seem obvious on Thanksgiving, but the fact is that with small children, it’s often a whole lot easier to cook without them. Hours spent pottering in the kitchen together may sound idyllic, but for cooking with the youngest kids to be successful, you should probably think more in terms of minutes than hours. And adding to family stress is definitely not the point. 

Our Read with Me Recipes provide quick, easy recipes to make with small kids—in a printable format that’s specially designed to help them develop print awareness and reading skills. Try it out with our roasted pumpkin seed recipe, maybe with the seeds from a pie pumpkin!

Put in Quality Time Doing a Fun Learning Activity

If your little one thinks you’re always on your phone (well, after all, someone has to work/shop/check Instagram!), cooking dinner, or otherwise not paying enough attention to them, the holiday may be a great opportunity to slow down for some quality time. And sitting down to make some old-fashioned crafts together is a fun way to do just that.

In addition to the sweet paper-chain gratitude animals above, we have some other project tutorials that are perfect for the season. Use our free printables to make some cute Thanksgiving crafts like a turkey letter-matching game or a fall-themed clip-card beginning spelling activity. You can also explore our site to find lots more educational crafts and activities for kids.

How are you cultivating thankfulness this Thanksgiving? Connect with Maya Smart on social media to share with us.

P.S. We’re thankful for you! Happy Thanksgiving.