What do you do to help kids understand that Thanksgiving is much more than turkey or pumpkin pie? How do you help kids develop habits of thanksgiving that extend beyond the holiday season? How can you use flashlights, scavenger hunts, hide & seek, songs, and the alphabet to teach kids about thanking God? It doesn’t happen by accident. We must be intentional about training kids to practice thanksgiving.
Here are 25 games, ideas, and hands-on activities you can use in your home or Sunday School to teach kids about giving thanks to God. None of these are magical or earth-shaking concepts (except #17, where the earth literally shakes), but maybe you’ll find something that will inspire you to enjoy Jesus by giving thanks with kids. (At the very least, you should try #13. It’s hilarious!) You can set a good example by practicing thanksgiving yourself, and then use these activities to teach kids about the many reasons and ways to give thanks to God.
25 Thanksgiving Ideas for Kids
1. Thank You Charades
Ask the kids “What are you the most thankful for?” and let them act out their answer while you try to guess what it is. Afterward, read some verses about giving thanks to God and let kids take turns praying “Thank You!” prayers to God for the stuff they acted out.
2. Thanksgiving Hide & Seek
Print the letters T-H-A-N-K-S-G-I-V-I-N-G on squares of brightly colored cardstock and hide them throughout your home or classroom. Let the kids work together to search for them. Talk about the important of searching for reasons to give thanks. Encourage the kids to look for reasons to thank God every day.
3. Pumpkin Praise
Pass a pumpkin (or any other safe object) around the table and take turns saying things you’re thankful for. My kids LOVE this game and often ask to play it multiple times at every meal. To see how it works (and to get more pumpkin praise game ideas), watch this video. (See if you can guess what my youngest daughter is saying before I “translate” it in the video.)
4. Thanksgiving Flashlight Fun
Turn off all the lights and shine a flashlight around the room at different objects or people that you can thank God for. Have the kids thank God for each thing as the beam of the light shines on it. Move the beam faster and faster back and forth between different objects as the kids try to keep up. Afterward, discuss reasons we should thank God for each of these things.
5. Memory Verse Ideas
Read a Bible verse about giving thanks and memorize it together. You could choose 1 Chronicles 16:34, Colossians 3:17, Psalm 100:4, or 1 Thessalonians 5:18. You can also CLICK HERE to download a FREE printable game to make it fun for kids to learn one of these verses about having a thankful heart and CLICK HERE to see how it works.
6. First Letter Challenge
Work together to think of something that begins with each letter in the word THANKSGIVING that you can thank God for. You could even play several times using different categories like food (Turkey, Ham, Apple pie, Noodles, etc.) and favorite things (Toys, House, Animals, Nintendo switch, Karate, etc.) or maybe even use some help from Google to use dinosaurs! (T-rex, Heterodontosaurus, Apatosaurus, Nodosaurus, Kosmoceratops, Styracosaurus, Giganotosaurus, Iguanodon, Velociraptor, Ignavusaurus, Nanosaurus, Gasosaurus…this may sound far-fetched, but I know a preschooler who could actually do this without Google!)
Take turns drawing pictures of things you are thankful for while everyone else tries to guess what you’re drawing. Afterward, read a verse about giving thanks to God and take some time to prayerfully thank Him for the blessings everyone drew.
8. Songs of Thanks
Sing songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. I have a praise playlist on my phone that my youngest daughter and I often sing through while we make breakfast together. You can make your own playlist or even make up your own song praising and thanking God! If you’re looking for a song that will get the idea of praising and thanksgiving stuck in your kids’ head (and your head) all day long, I highly recommend the super simple song, “I’m Happy Today!” Check out this video to learn and share this song with your family. (But I warn you, it really will get stuck in your head!)
9. Outdoor Treasure Hunt
Go on a scavenger hunt outside and find different colors, textures, and smells to thank God for. My kids enjoy carrying a bag or bucket and collecting all kinds of things to thank God for and enjoy. (CLICK HERE for more treasure hunt ideas for kids.)
10. Colorful Thank You Card
Sit down with a Thank You card and lots of different colors of pens, pencils, or crayons. Let the kids take turns saying things they are thankful for and choosing a color for you (or an older child) to use to write it in the card as a Thank You to God. For younger children, they could add a sticker to the card each time they say something they are thankful for.
11. Thank You Race
Divide into teams and race to see who can list the most things to thank God for. You can even play several times using different categories like food, animals, people, etc. Afterward, encourage kids to choose the 5 things they are most thankful for and stop and pray to thank God for those things the next time they feel upset.
12. Thanksgiving Name Game
Write each person’s name on a paper and work together to think of something to thank God for about that person that begins with each letter of their name. (Ex: My name might look like this…N-Nice, A-Adorable, T-Tall, H-Helpful, A-Affectionate, N-Nurturing)
13. Watch the EXTRA Thankful Video
Watch the funny “Christmas Presents” video from Forest Hill Church with your kids. It’s short, hilarious, and convicting at the same time. I enjoy it with my kids every year. It’s a great springboard for conversations about gratitude and thanksgiving. (It’s technically a Christmas video, but we watch it at Thanksgiving. We’re cool like that.)
14. Inside Scavenger Hunt
Go on a scavenger hunt inside and look for things to thank God for. You can even make a list of things for the kids to find and make it as challenging as you want depending on the age of the kiddos. (striped sock, canned beans, gluten free flour, fruit, washing machine, dishwasher, etc.) Discuss how these items are a blessing to your family.
15. Thank You for Leaders
Pray and thank God for each of your church leaders by name. You can even text them to let them know you prayed for them and you’re thankful for them. (Or you can be like my family and buy them each a pound of bacon and bedazzle it with stickers to let them know just how much they mean to you.)
16. Thank You for Missionaries
Send an email to a missionary letting them know you’re thankful for their ministry. You can READ THIS ARTICLE to help you get started. It even includes a sample letter you can use. All you’ve got to do is add in some thoughts of your own and presto! You’re ready to send an email to a real-live missionary!
17. Epic Earth-Shaking Thanksgiving
Read the earth shaking Bible story of Paul and Silas praising God in prison. (Acts 16:16-34) Act the story out with your children and then discuss why Paul and Silas were able to be so thankful during such a difficult time.
18. A to Z Thanks
Work together to list A to Z things you thank God for. (Animals, Bible, Cousins, Dogs, Eggs, Family, Grandma, House, Ice Cream, etc.)
19. Thank You Points
Write the letters T-H-A-N-K-S on papers and write different points on the back of each one. Put them in a container and let kids take turns grabbing a letter out of the container and naming something they are thankful for that begins with that letter. Keep track of how many points each person/team pulls out to see who has the most when you’re finished playing.
20. Thank You Colors
Put a bunch of different colored items (crayons or markers work well) in a container. Take turns grabbing a colorful item from the container and thanking God for things that are that color. Prayerfully thank God for the beauty of His creation.
21. What Would Jesus Say Thank You For?
Ask the kids, “What do you think Jesus said thank you to God for when He was a kid growing up in Nazareth 2,000 years ago?” Imagine the types of foods, clothing, games, and needs Jesus would have been grateful for as a child. Encourage kids to think about which things they can be thankful for today.
22. Thanksgiving Toss
Toss a ball back and forth and whoever catches it can say something they are thankful for. For kids who are too little to play catch, you can also roll the ball back and forth.
23. Mystery Blessings
Collect 10 items to thank God for (clothing, fruit, veggies, quarter, toys, etc.) and put them in a container so the kids can’t see them. Let them take turns reaching into the container to feel an item and try to guess what it is. Then let them pull it out to see what it is and tell them how that object reminds you to give thanks to God.
24. Thankful Stories
Tell the kids a story about someone who thanked God during a challenging time such as Joni Erickson Tada, Corrie Ten Boom, or George Washington Carver, and discuss what you can learn about being thankful from their story. (Need some help preparing and sharing a story? Check out our NEW 6 part lesson, George Carver: God’s Plant Doctor to help you get started!)
25. Thank the Creator
Read the Genesis account of creation then watch a video about a fascinating animal God created. Marvel at God’s creative genius and thank Him for displaying His glory in creation. Here’s a video I made (featuring “Rainbow” the Guinea pig) that challenges kids to worship and thank God as they watch 100 incredible animals. Feel free to use and share it.
There you have it. 25 Thanksgiving ideas for kids! (Thank YOU for reading all the way to the end!) Most of these are just basic ideas, but you can add some Scripture, discussion questions, and a bit more explanation to turn many of these into Thanksgiving devotionals for Bible time or Sunday School or combine some of them to make a complete Thanksgiving lesson for children’s church.
To watch some of these Thanksgiving ideas in actions (not to mention footage of my adorable family) CLICK HERE.
What are you most thankful for? How are you going to choose to give thanks with kids this holiday season and all year long? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.