A Heart of Thanks

Are you naturally content? Thankful ? Its the season of thanksgiving and many of us wonder how we can help our kids to find contentment and cultivate a thankful heart in a world that always begs for more. Start with these simple habits!

We sit around the table amidst the morning breakfast mess: hot bowls of oatmeal, spilled milk, crumpled napkins.

“So what are you thankful for today,” I ask the kids, spooning a mouthful of my own oatmeal, sprinkled with brown sugar and cranberries.

“Legos!” one son shouts, waving a spoon into the air like a salute.

“Getting to go to the zoo this week,” another son chimes in.

“My sweet baby sister,” my daughter adds.

This is part of our morning breakfast routine, going around the table saying one thing we’re thankful for before our day starts.

I’m not sure how it started, perhaps it was after I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts? Or when I started recording my own daily list of gratitude?

Whatever it was that prompted me, verbally sharing our morning thanks helps us start the day with a heart full of joy instead of whining or grumbling. It helps us stop for a moment and really recognize and acknowledge the many blessings we experience, from the mundane to the extraordinary. “Gratitude unleashes the freedom to live content in the moment, rather than being anxious about the future or regretting the past,” writes Ellen Vaughn in Radical Gratitude: Discovering Joy in Everyday Thankfulness.

It is our simple attempt to practice Colossians 2:6-7 in an everyday way, when it says, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (emphasis mine).

Around Thanksgiving I also sometimes make our times of thankfulness extra “special” or visual by doing one of the following:

Thankful Jar

I take a jar and put it on the table and we each take turns writing something we’re thankful for and putting it into the jar. You can leave the jar plain or, if you’re crafty, you can decorate it if you want to. Then around the Thanksgiving holiday we will empty the jar and review all the things we’ve been thankful for in the past month.

Thankful Tree

This is our favorite activity for the month of November. I cut a tree out of a roll of craft paper and stick it to the wall. Then I have pre-cut construction paper leaves ready in an envelope. Each morning every child writes or dictates what they’re thankful for and we put it on a leaf and tape it to the tree. My kids look forward to the “thankful tree” every year.

(Tons of free Thankful Jar and Thankful Tree printables and tutorials are available Pinterest if you need inspiration or help.)

However, I don’t want our heart of thanks to begin and end with the Thanksgiving holiday. I want it to be an everyday thing. So most mornings you’ll find us sharing what we’re thankful for around the breakfast table, spills and all.


Danielle Ayers-Jones

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  1. This is great! We’re doing our first Thankful Tree this year, and I’ve been impressed at how much it’s affected our daily conversations. It’s so fun to see my 5 year old getting so into it!

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