10 Things You Can Do With Kids On Thanksgiving To Actually Give Back

Teaching kids about the meaning and purpose of Thanksgiving beyond turkey dinners, mashed potatoes, pie, and spending the day with family can be difficult. For a lot of kids, especially very young ones, gratitude is a bit of a tricky thing to understand, even if they usually say "please" and "thank you" and write appreciation notes after birthday parties. There are however, ways to give back on Thanksgiving with kids that will help them understand the holiday in a whole new way and teach them about the importance of giving thanks and giving back firsthand.

If your family loves to be active and your kids are a little bit older, finding a way to incorporate physical into an activity that gives back on Thanksgiving might be something to which they can relate. Otherwise, spending some time volunteering on Thanksgiving (or the evening prior) or involving them in the donation process can help them learn that not only is it important that they give back, but it doesn't have to take a ton of time or money to do so either.

Before you decide on a concrete plan all on your own, talk to your kids about what they would find most meaningful. Dr. Anne Fishel's guest post on the Giving Tuesday blog suggested that you have a conversation with your kids, asking them what kinds of projects they might find most meaningful (like making food, visiting a shelter, wrapping toys for kids, and more). Then, decide on a project together. The lesson and importance will be greater if it's something that they already think matters.

It makes total sense to incorporate teaching kids about the importance of giving back with your Thanksgiving celebration, if you think about it. You might need to establish some new holiday traditions in order to get it to really sink in, but there is no time like the present to do so.


Engage In Random Acts Of Kindness

Buy someone a cup of coffee, carry around spare snacks to hand out to those looking for a little help, or rake a neighbor's leaves and bag them up for them. Depending on how old your kids are, random acts of kindness can be the perfect way to give back. They'll get to connect each good deed with an actual person, as opposed to equating donating with just giving away their belongings. Think outside the box with this one, and encourage your kids to do so as well.


Take Shelter Dogs For A Walk

Shelter dogs need volunteers to take them for walks everyday, including holidays. If your family loves dogs, consider spending some time on Thanksgiving playing with the animals or walking the dogs in an animal shelter nearby. Warning: it might be difficult to extricate your kids without bringing home a pet, as well.


Buy Extra

Next time you're at the grocery store or pharmacy, consider stocking up on some extra items that you can then take to a shelter, a charity, or hand out to those looking for help. According to Parents, it's a good idea to ask your kids to pick out their favorite canned goods or pick out some toiletries so that they're involved in the process. Then, bring them with when you drop off the donation.


Donate Clothes And Toys

Donating clothes and toys is an easy way to give back. Help your kids understand that their unused clothes and toys will be going to families who need them. Make those families real to them because abstract concepts can be difficult for little kids to grasp. Work with them to decide what you'll give away and then box it up and bring them with to drop off your donations at the appropriate place.



Consider scheduling a stint at a soup kitchen, a food bank, a donation center, or a park and spend Thanksgiving morning pitching in and helping out. Depending on how old your kids are, you can tailor your activities accordingly, keeping in mind that it should be something that you and your children are going to be comfortable with. Lisa Bamburg, the co-owner of Insurance Advantage, told GOBankingRates that you can also talk with your kids afterwards about how they can go further in giving back even when they're not volunteering.


Send Thank You Notes

Thank you notes (and all written communication) seemingly take a back seat these days to texts, emails, and social media posts. Sit down with your kids and help them write thank you notes to people that they think deserved to be thanked. The blog, Modern Mom recommended that you purchase a few packs of note cards so that they can write notes year-round, not just when they're supposed to.


Buy Thanksgiving Dinner For Someone Else

If you can afford it, buying another family's Thanksgiving dinner is a great way to give back and share what you have with others. According to Red Tricycle, many major grocery chains allow you to donate money for the fixings for a Thanksgiving meal. That way, another family who can't afford to buy everything for the meal on their own can still celebrate the holiday or purchase a meal package that'll be donated. Grab your kids and bring them with you to the store so that they can be involved too, and let them weigh in on their favorite side.


Do A Walk, Run, Or Other Activity For Charity

Many charities sponsor Thanksgiving morning walks, races, and fun runs to raise money before everyone spends the rest of the day eating. It's a great way to spend an early morning with the kids, burn some energy, and do something good all at once. Plus it's exhilarating to be around so many like-minded individuals and families who are also eager to support a good cause. Encourage your kids to raise lots of money before the big day.


Hang Out At A Nursing Home

Those who live in nursing homes may or may not have family coming to spend the holiday with them. Your family can visit, at least for a while, on Thanksgiving to help brighten their spirits — and yours. According to The Daily Meal, spending some time with the elderly at a nursing home is a great way for the whole family to give back on Thanksgiving, and can make more than ones' day.


Donate Money To Food Banks

While it might not seem as though donating money to a food bank is the best way to involve your kids in giving back on Thanksgiving, even a small amount of money can go a long way. Even the small change that your kid might want to donate themselves can few more than few bellies. As Feeding America told Today, every $1 donation means that the organization can provide 11 meals to those who need them. If that's not stretching a dollar, I'm not sure what is. Your kids will see that they can make a huge impact and it doesn't take as much as they might think.

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