Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy family, good food and, even better, dessert. But did you know it’s also packed full of teachable moments? Here are just a few ways you can make Thanksgiving more meaningful:
Look at history like a book. Who wrote it, and what was their motivation? What is the message? What are the themes? What isn’t being said? Thanksgiving is a great time for teachable moments, especially to talk about the history of our country and to consider, question, and reevaluate our collective story.
Make Shopping Into A Math Lesson:
Before the big day, sit down with your kids and make a game plan. What’s on the menu? How many people are you serving? What ingredients do you need?
Make a budget together and take them to the store with you. Have them help you shop. Talk about price per weight, find the the best deal, and make sure you’re buying enough. Are you sticking to the budget? A simple shopping trip can pack a lot of punches.
There are opportunities abound for this one, but they don’t all have to feel like chores! Put together a pre-dinner cleaning list, and divvy it up. Find recipes together and put them on the job—a younger child can wash potatoes or peel carrots, and there’s no reason your teen can’t follow a simple pie crust recipe! Someone’s got to set the table, and the dishes aren’t going to wash themselves. Remind your kids that everyone has to pitch in to make the day perfect, and help them experience those warm fuzzies associated with meaningful contribution.
Make A Gratitude Jar:
It’s called Thanksgiving, but how often do we actually talk about what we’re thankful for? How often do we express our gratitude?
Whether you normally start your meal off with a religious blessing or you simply dig in, take a moment to tell each other what you’ve been thankful for. It’s important to teach our children to reflect on their privileges.
Alternatively, have everyone who comes into the house write down one thing they are grateful for and put it into a jar. Before dinner or dessert, have everyone pick a slip out of the jar and read it out loud.
Keep The Conversation Positive & Inclusive:
It is way too easy for the dinner conversation to fly off the handle. The whole family is coming together and people are apt to have differing opinions on tough topics. Try making a rule to keep things politics-free… at least until after dessert! A great way to do this is to engage the children at the table.
Or, if politics do come up, ask the kids table what they think. Get them involved, thinking, and creating their own informed opinions.
Take A Walk:
It’s so easy to fall into the post-dinner slump. Instead, maybe give some “forest therapy” a try (yes, yes, it’s a thing!) and teach your kids about balance, moderation, and positive health habits.
Spending time in nature is known to decrease stress, improve heart-rate, and lower cortisol levels. You know what heightens cortisol levels? Cooking Thanksgiving dinner and dodging tricky conversations at the table! A nice family stroll between dinner and dessert will have you pie-ready, and maybe feeling a little less guilty about an extra helping.
Compost, Donate, or Repurpose Leftovers:
Americans waste 150,000 tons of food per day. On Thanksgiving, 200 million pounds of that waste is turkey. That’s pretty difficult to stomach.
Thanksgiving is a great day to talk to your kids about food waste and world hunger. There are plenty of ways to talk about it, and plenty of ways to do something about it in a meaningful way.
Talk to your children about how one in eight Americans go hungry. Volunteer at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving day, or set up a time to donate during the holidays.
Repurpose your leftovers in creative ways, and compost what you don’t end up using. Check your cabinets before shopping and make sure you’re not buying duplicates. Be a grocery store superhero and buy the imperfect produce that nobody else will and use it for your cooked dishes.
Coordinate with your guests to have all bases covered without going overboard. It’s possible to enjoy a filling meal without getting excessive.