The Thanksgiving Gratitude Game: An A to Z Guide to Giving Thanks
A Is for Animals
We human beings inhabit this planet in the company of some pretty amazing creatures, from the fuzzy to the slimy to the towering to the teensy-beansy. You might be most grateful for the companionship of a beloved furry, scaly, or feathered family pet, but don't forget the fascinating animals of yore (T-Rex, anyone?), the mythological beasts from legends (hello, unicorns), and the spectacular creatures that live only in your imagination.
Talk About It: What is your favorite animal?
C Is for Cars
Sure, there are some pretty cool toy cars out there that make for quality playtime, but take a moment to say "thank you" for real cars—the ones that take you to friends' houses for fun playdates, to soccer practice, to music lessons, to pizza parties, and sometimes to exciting places for vacations and new adventures. Don't forget to aim a little gratitude toward the drivers (Mom and Dad) of those cars!
Talk About It: What is your favorite place to drive in a car?
D Is for Dinnertime
Thanksgiving might be the ultimate meal of the year, but dinner is something you have every night. Think back on some recent dinners and share what made them stand out. Was it a delicious meal that featured all your favorite foods? A huge family laugh fest when you shared a funny story at the table? A surprise visit from a close friend or family member? Remember with gratitude that there's always food on the table—and that great memories are served a la carte.
Talk About It: Share a recent dinnertime memory.
E Is for Excellence
Oh, the pleasures of a job well done. Did you recently spend extra time on a school assignment and earn a top grade? Or did you finish a chore at home with extra care, which earned you high praise from Mom and Dad? Or was your music teacher amazed at how much your piano lessons improved (turns out those hours of practice were a good idea!)? Be grateful for the excellence you have achieved and for those who have recognized excellence in you.
Talk About It: What have you achieved recently?
F Is for Family
Lots of things change in life, but family is forever. Be thankful for the family members who have leading roles in the story of your life, from your parents and siblings to aunts, uncles, and cousins to Godparents to lifelong family friends who love you unconditionally and would do anything for you. Tell these special people you're grateful for a time they gave you advice, taught you a family secret, or just spent a great day together, laughing and relaxing as a family.
Talk About It: What makes your family special?
G Is for Grandparents
An old saying goes, "You can't know where you're going until you know where you've been." Your grandparents are a big part of your family's history, so take this chance to be thankful they raised your parents, set family goals and standards, and ensured that family wisdom survived within each generation. Even if your grandparents can't be with you at Thanksgiving, the holiday table is still a great place to hear stories about the times and places where they came from.
Talk About It: What have you learned from your grandparents?
H Is for Happy Birthdays
What fun it is to have a birthday! For one whole day, everyone piles good wishes (and gifts and cake!) on you, and you feel like the most special person in the world. How do you respond when someone wishes you a happy birthday or gives you a present or a card? You say "thank you," of course! Think back on your most recent birthday and appreciate those who took the time to share the celebrations. Also, remember gratefully all the fun you had celebrating other friends' and family members' birthdays.
Talk About It: What was the best part of your last birthday?
I Is for Ice Cream
On a hot day, we all scream for cool and creamy ice cream—whether it's chocolate, vanilla, or bubblegum flavor. On a cone, covered in yummy hot fudge in a sundae, or sandwiched between delicious cookies, ice cream is an unforgettable treat—and for this it deserves heartfelt thanks.
Talk About It: What is your favorite way to eat ice cream?
J Is for Jokes
Why did the chicken cross the road? It doesn't really matter, as long as the punch line made you or someone else laugh. From knock-knock jokes to tongue twisters to rollicking riddles, anything that induces giggles, snickers, and a laugh-out-loud "Ha-ha!" deserves your gratitude. After all, how boring would life be without laughter?
Talk About It: What made you laugh today?
K Is for Kites
The inspirational author Dan Zadra wrote, "I made you a kite so you would have to look up." It's true that kites invite imaginations to soar. When there's a colorful kite whipping and diving against a clear, breezy sky, we can't help but be amazed by—and grateful for—things we can let fly into the wind, as well as all the things that keep our feet firmly rooted to the ground.
Talk About It: If you were to make a kite, what would it look like?
L Is for Learning
Not all learning happens in school, although your homework load might suggest otherwise. The ability to acquire new skills, from knitting to magic tricks to scoring a goal to memorizing spelling words, means a great big "thank you" for your teachers, tutors, and coaches. Even more gratifying? When you finally "get" something you never thought you could learn—such as long division!
Talk About It: What would you like to learn more about?
M Is for Making Things
A cozy sofa cushion fort. A beaded necklace. A colorful collage. A pan of fudgy brownies. These are only some of the things you might have made recently with your own two hands. Didn't it feel good to start and finish something that interested you, something that you imagined, then turned into reality? Give thanks for your creative and artistic spirit and for all it has inspired you to make.
Talk About It: What have you made recently?
N Is for Nature
"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better," said scientist Albert Einstein. Think about all the natural beauty you got to see this year—a tall and majestic mountain, a beach full of seashells, a strong and silent forest, a unique tree you pass on your way to school, or a garden your family cultivated to bring more nature to your backyard. How lucky are you to live in such a beautiful world?
Talk About It: What is your favorite natural space?
O Is for Opportunities
Sometimes, opportunities can disappear as fast as they come. So be thankful for those moments when you seized the chance to do something exciting, new, and fun—such as the time you overcame your fear of heights by riding the big roller coaster. How about your decision to sign up for the spelling bee? Or the moment you introduced yourself to someone who became a best friend? These are all smart opportunities that you recognized!
Talk About It: What opportunities have you grabbed lately?
P Is for Popcorn
What do you think of when you get a whiff of fresh popcorn? Fun outings to the movie theater or cozy evenings with the family in front of a great show or movie? Say "thank you" to popcorn for having the power to make you feel instantly happy and relaxed—not to mention less hungry. Plus, popcorn is a low-calorie, high-fiber, whole grain snack—which means it keeps you healthy, for which your parents can be thankful, too! (Note to parents: Just remember that popcorn is a choking hazard for kids age 4 and under!)
Talk About It: What other healthy foods make you feel good?
Q Is for Questions
"Why" might be the most productive word in the English language. Why? Because questions open doors to knowledge, new perspectives, and deeper thoughts—even if you don't get any immediate answers. Asking questions shows that you are a good and curious observer of the world around you. So keep on asking why the sky is blue, why spiders have eight legs, or why your sister chose to play the clarinet, and be grateful for your inquisitive instinct.
Talk About It: What questions have you asked lately?
R Is for Reading
What activity can take you back in time, out into space, off to magical lands, and away on fantastical adventures? Reading, of course! Give thanks for your favorite books and stories, the ones that draw you in again and again and again. Think happily about how libraries and bookstores are brimming with books for you to keep discovering. Which of them are destined to become your lifelong favorites? Go find out!
Talk About It: What is your all-time favorite book?
S Is for Songs
Every song carries its own special feeling, from the pride of "The Star Spangled Banner" to the winter fun of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." When we sing, alone or in a group, we let our voices get loud and loose, and we express ourselves freely and boldly in a whole new way. Say (or sing!) "thank you" for the songs that make you turn up the radio, lull you into a gentle, peaceful night's sleep, and allow you to laugh with friends or family around the fireplace or campfire.
T Is for Treats
Treats come in many forms, from an after-dinner piece of cake to the goodies you collect on Halloween. But treats aren't always sugary desserts to chew on—treats can also be a stop at the playground on the way home from school, a movie with your parents on a school night, or discovering that a fantastic surprise has arrived in the mail. Be grateful for how treats have sweetened your life in more ways than one!
Talk About It: What treats have sweetened your life recently?
U Is for Umbrellas
An umbrella is one of those everyday items you forget about if you don't remember how much it helps you. On stormy and wet days, your umbrella is a cozy rain repellant and personal protector. If you have a colorful or patterned one, your umbrella might also be a cheerful way to brighten up a gray and gloomy day. So next time you take a walk in the rain, be grateful for your very own storm shield!
Talk About It: What would your perfect umbrella look like?
V Is for Vacation
What a happy word "vacation" is—it conjures up feelings of freedom from school and regular routines. Whether your vacations were in far-off, exotic destinations or right in your hometown this year, think thankfully on the chances you have to take a break and step away from the everyday. Vacation time is family time, so you probably created great family memories to keep alongside the terrific souvenirs you collected. Remember, sometimes the best part about a vacation is being excited to return home refreshed and to tackle the ordinary routines you wanted to escape.
Talk About It: What is your most fun vacation memory?
W Is for Wishes
Have you ever wished upon a star, made a wish over flickering birthday candles, or tossed a penny into a fountain? You've probably had a quiet moment this year to think about something special you would like to add to your life. Wishes have a magical quality—they lead to dreams and dreams lead to actions that make dreams come true. As you say "thank you" for all the wishes you made this year, think about what your heart really wants today, and don't hesitate to wish for it.
Talk About It: What are you wishing for today?
X Is for Xylophone
Just as "X" is a unique, seldom-used letter, the xylophone is a special, different kind of musical instrument (not to mention a darn fun word to say out loud!). The xylophone is probably the first musical instrument (other than a wooden spoon banging against a pot or pan) that you learned to play. With its colorful bars and soft, round mallets, the happy music that children of any age can make is definitely worthy of your gratitude.
Talk About It: Have you ever played a xylophone?
Y Is for Your Special Place
Everyone needs a private place to relax and reflect without the distractions of ringing phones, chattering sisters or brothers, or parents carrying chore lists. Where is that place for you? Give thanks for your bedroom where your own clothes, toys, books, and cozy bed await. Or be grateful for a tree house, a secret corner of your playroom, or a favorite chair that is always around when you need quiet time in your very own space.
Talk About It: What is your special place?
Z Is for Zoo
Be honest -- would you have ever had the chance to get close to an elephant without zoos? Your local zoo, in addition to being a living classroom where you can learn about animals (remember, A is for animals!) you never heard of, is a passport to parts of the world where these incredible creatures dwell. So zoos deserve our thanks, both for what they can teach us and for the ways they preserve and protect the animals who live safely in their care.
Talk About It: What is your favorite thing to see at the zoo?
Holly Lebowitz Rossi is a freelance writer in Arlington, Massachusetts.