Make this year's feast a little more meaningful with these easy ideas.

Thanksgiving is always a meaningful holiday, but this year, families seem especially eager to celebrate life's blessings. "People are looking for ways to acknowledge what's good in their lives," says Jane Hammerslough, author of the new book Dematerializing (Perseus Publishing). To help children make the most of Thanksgiving, plan activities that can become part of your family's traditions.

  • Many families take a moment on Thanksgiving Day to let each person say aloud what he or she is thankful for. Hammerslough recommends expanding this practice to name one small thing every day that brings you joy: pretty weather, a delicious dinner, a conversation with a friend. "When you make a point of talking about little things that you're grateful for, those things seem to multiply," she says. "It's all about setting a positive tone for your kids."
  • Use your "gratitude list" as a springboard to help others. "If your kids say they're thankful for good food, figure out a way to share a meal with someone less fortunate," suggests Hammerslough. If time with family tops your list, reach out to someone in your community whose family lives far away. Kids often say they're thankful for toys, so let them help you put together a basket of unused or nearly new playthings for a holiday toy drive. "Sharing with others helps kids connect to the concept of gratitude in a meaningful way," Hammerslough notes.
  • Plan projects that reinforce the importance of family. Kids can create and fill in a family tree poster to display on Thanksgiving, or make collages from duplicate family photos. Grandparents will be delighted to receive a watercolor painting of the family created by a grandchild or a Thanksgiving card adorned with a child's hand print.
  • Remember when, as a kid, you traced the outline of your hand on brown construction paper, cut it out, and drew a turkey's face on the thumb?Children still delight in simple Thanksgiving crafts, including making pinecone placecards, cardboard napkin rings, and Pilgrim hats cut from black construction paper. Be sure to photograph these creations for the family scrapbook.
  • Collect favorite recipes that can become part of your family's traditional holiday meals. The November issue of Child includes healthy,appealing side dishes that kids can help to make. Little ones can start the day by mixing pumpkin raisin muffins and fill pie crusts with apple- or pecan-pie mixture to top off the meal.