8 Ways to Focus on Gratitude This Thanksgiving

Go beyond the standard sharing of what you're thankful for at the dinner table and try these Thanksgiving gratitude activities.

Published November 4, 2023


Thanksgiving is all about being grateful, but you're not stuck with the standard activity of going around the table sharing what you're thankful for. Try these fun and original Thanksgiving gratitude activities that will keep your focus on the "thanks" part of Thanksgiving and let you have lots of fun at the same time.

Make a Gratitude Jar


There's something about anonymously expressing gratitude that's really powerful, and it can be a great way to get all ages involved in your Thanksgiving celebration. This is a super simple project that you can actually start in the weeks before Thanksgiving.

  1. Decorate a large jar with fall leaves, autumn-colored ribbons, or anything else that feels pretty and seasonal. We're all for letting the kids loose with a pack of turkey stickers, too.
  2. Put the jar on a table in your home with a stack of blank notes and a pen next to it. Encourage everyone to write down things they're grateful for and add the notes to the jar.
  3. On Thanksgiving Day, you can read the notes aloud or post them in your dining room for everyone to admire.

Give Everyone a Gratitude Envelope


If you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner or attending it at a family member's home, attach a large envelope to the back of each chair. Kids can decorate the envelope with the person's name, and it can double as a place card.

As you're getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner, encourage everyone to write notes about what they appreciate about each person. They can slip the note into the gratitude envelope to really focus on personal gratitude on Thanksgiving.

Write a Thank-You Note as a Family


You know how there are some organizations or people that can make a huge difference in your family's life? It might be a child's teacher or a neighbor who helps with the yard work, or it could be a doctor that made a difficult health situation easier. There are no rules for choosing someone who made a difference to your family this year.

At Thanksgiving dinner, brainstorm ways this person or group really helped the family. Jot down a few notes as you chat. When dinner's over and you're enjoying pie, sit down and write a thank-you note as a family.

Share Your Gratitude on Social Media


If your family loves using social media to stay connected, the weeks leading up to turkey day can be the perfect time to give each other shout-outs on your socials. Tag the person in your post and share what you're thankful for about them. This will make everyone feel special when you meet for your big Thanksgiving dinner.

Keep a Thanksgiving Gratitude Journal From Year to Year


If you always host Thanksgiving dinner, pick up a blank journal and a pen and start a new gratitude tradition this year. As people are waiting for dinner or digesting their big meal afterward, pass the journal around so they can record what they're grateful for. They don't have to write a lot, just a few lines to mark what has mattered to them most this year.

Then put the journal away with your Thanksgiving decorations and get it out the next year. Over time, it will become a record of what your family is grateful for.

Quick Tip

I do this with my family, and they always pretend to hate it when the journal makes an appearance. The thing is, I regularly see them flipping back through the past years' entries to see what was important to them (and everyone else) in the past. This is one of our favorite family traditions.

Make and Exchange Gratitude Rocks


Before the holiday, collect some small, smooth rocks and clean them. Then pick up some paint pens or permanent markers. On Thanksgiving Day, have family and friends write something they appreciate about another person on their rocks. They can give the rocks as little gifts or pile them near that person's place at the dinner table.

Hold an After-Dinner Gratitude Scavenger Hunt


Gamify the process of sharing what you're thankful for this year with a super fun scavenger hunt using your phones. For this Thanksgiving gratitude game, everyone needs to get photos of the items on the list. You can do this as part of an after-dinner walk or just while you're sitting around as a family.

Here are a few ideas of what to include in your gratitude scavenger hunt:

  • Someone who made you feel loved
  • Something that made you happy today
  • Something you loved eating
  • A small pleasure you enjoy
  • Something beautiful in the world
  • Something that made you laugh

Have a Moment of Thankful Silence


Gratitude doesn't have to be super involved or public. You can try a very simple Thanksgiving table idea where you sit together in silence for a few seconds before you start eating. Each person can think about something they're grateful for.

Make Your Thanksgiving Gratitude Activity Uniquely You


No matter what kind of Thanksgiving gratitude activity you choose, feel free to adjust it to fit your family. You can add a specific theme or even give everyone lots of choices about how they want to express or acknowledge their gratitude. Just as each family or group of friends is wonderfully unique, your thankfulness can be, too.

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8 Ways to Focus on Gratitude This Thanksgiving