Thanksgiving Ideas to Disciple Your Grandchildren

written by Josh Mulvihill
11 · 21 · 22

The celebration of Thanksgiving is an excellent time to pour into your grandchildren. Often, extended family gatherings occur and the day passes quickly without taking time to personally connect with grandchildren or intentionally pass on faith in Christ. The Thanksgiving ideas are divided into four categories: teaching, crafts, activities, and mealtime and food. Evaluate your current Thanksgiving traditions and determine how you can better use Thanksgiving to make lasting memories and build the faith of your family.

Teaching

  • Read Scripture together that focuses on giving thanks to God such as Psalm 92, Psalm 110:4, 1 Corinthians 15:57, and Ephesians 5:20. Discuss the goodness of God.
  • In the days or weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, help your grandchildren write notes of thanks to their pastor, teachers, mayor, or others who serve their family in the community.
  • Gather books about Thanksgiving. Read aloud Louisa May Alcott’s, An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh. The Thanksgiving Book by Laurie C. Hillstrom is a wonderful Thanksgiving resource with many historical documents, stories and poems your family will enjoy.

Crafts

  • Make a turkey using Oreos and candy corn. Purchase double-stuffed Oreos, candy eyes, candy corn and white icing. Leaving the Oreo together, push the candy corn between the cookie layers, creating a fan of candy corn. Use drops of icing to attach the candy eyes to the flat surface of the cookie. 
  • Trace your grandchild’s hand on paper and have them color it in, making the shape of turkey feathers.
  • Make a Thanksgiving-themed paper chain. Cut colorful construction paper into 1 x 8 inch strips, enough to make a paper chain garland to fit the space you have chosen. Alternate colors and begin fastening them together by interlocking the paper links to make a chain. On each strip have your family members write something they are thankful for. Get creative each year with the theme of your paper chain Consider writing prayer requests, Bible verses or characteristics of the christian walk. Choose a place to hang your Thanksgiving chain. Use it as a decoration for the dining room on Thanksgiving Day or save until you put up the Christmas tree and use as a garland on the tree.
  • When you are at Costco or Sam’s Club, ask the warehouse for extra sheets of flat cardboard. Use these sheets to allow everyone to write something they are thankful for. Little ones can use markers or paint in fall colors.

Activities

  • Sing together. Teach a hymn about giving thanks to God such as Give Thanks, We Gather Together, or For the Beauty of the Earth.
  • Engage everyone from the oldest to the youngest in the ABC’s of Thanksgiving. Start with the letter A and encourage a family member to say something they are thankful for.  Use the letters of the alphabet to remember people’s names, cherished places, activities, gifts, or anything that comes to mind. Record everyone’s answers from year to year. The activity can be lighthearted, yet meaningful and is great with pumpkin pie. 
  • Watch and play a game of football.
  • Run a 5k the morning of Thanksgiving. 
  • Volunteer to serve meals at a homeless shelter or food bank.

Mealtime and Food

  • Begin the meal with a prayer. Consider the following prayer options: A prayer of thanksgiving and blessing over the food said by the head of the family. The entire family holds hands and goes around the table, each saying a short phrase of thankfulness to God. Pray Psalm 136. Have multiple copies of the text available at the table. Have one person read the Psalm and the entire family say, “His steadfast love endures forever,” in unison. Read a liturgical prayer from Every Moment Holy by Douglas Mckelvey
  • Cook foods that are both traditional for thanksgiving such as turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, but also foods that are a tradition for your family. 
  • Include your grandchildren in the preparation of the meal and table. Ask for help chopping food, making place cards, filling drinks, or announcing that dinner is ready.
  • Set the table with festive decor. Whether you choose to use your heirloom family china dishes, or Thanksgiving-themed paper plates, make it special. 
  • If possible, serve and seat everyone at the same time. 
  • Help grandchildren dish up and cut their food if needed. 
  • Review Checklist for Successful Mealtimes with Small Children
  • Serve pumpkin pie and offer an additional dessert for children who do not yet appreciate pie.
  • Encourage family to linger at the table rather than to get up as soon as they are finished eating. Put pitchers of water or milk on the table. Have extra napkins close at hand. If possible, serve food at the table. As host or hostess, free up your adult children to relax and enjoy their time with you. Show love to your family by serving them. Use the phrases, “What can I get you?” or “Don’t move a muscle,  I’ll take care of it,” or “Who needs a cup of coffee before dessert?” 

At the end of the day, when it’s time to go home, hug every one of your children and grandchildren. Look them in the eyes and tell them you love them and are thankful for them.  

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Josh Mulvihill

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