1. Put gratitude on your to-do list. If you’re a fan of thank-you notes, make life easy for yourself and your kids this holiday season: circle December 26 on your family calendar. That’s National Thank-You Note Day and it conveniently pops up on the day after Christmas to remind you what you and your kids should be doing.
But as you’ve probably noticed by now, most kids have little interest in writing thank-you notes—now or ever. So, here’s a plan: offer up this super-easy, kid-friendly way of getting most of the job done ahead of time, leaving little ones free to assemble thumbprint thank-you notes when the excitement winds down. Here’s what to do:
- Gather several sheets of colored paper; construction paper works best.
- Let your child select one sheet of paper to start. Show her how to cut or fold her future thank-you notes into greeting-card shapes. Repeat with other colors.
- Trim scraps of paper into equal-size pieces (1” x 2” or 2” x 3”) for front-page art, and set them aside.
- Show your child how to make thumbprint art to decorate the rectangles. Include thumbprint balloons, flowers, cats, dogs, stick-figure children, family members, or anything else she likes. Your child can place just one thumbprint figure on each piece of paper—or several. Set artwork aside.
- Help your child think up a list of short, sweet, age-appropriate words or phrases to describe the gift giver or her holiday presents. Consider expressions such as “I’m speechless,” “Wow,” or “You’re the best.” Set those aside, too.
- Show your custom-card designer how to make her own thank-you notes by mixing and matching the cards, thumbprints, and expressions of gratitude. Let her sign the cards and stuff them into envelopes on the day after Christmas. Easy. Fun. Done.
2. Give your life a once-over. National Roof Over Your Head Day is December 3, but any time is a perfect time for kids to express their gratitude—for a roof overhead and everything inside. Help your child take stock of his many gifts, opportunities, and belongings, including his clothes, shoes, socks, coats, books, tunes, screens, games, and yes, Saturday soccer! Remind him, too, of this sad reality: even kids he knows may not be as lucky. Encourage your child to donate his own gently used toys and games to kids who haven’t any, visit a hospital that serves babies and young children, or join you in community-based drives for homeless families in need of toiletries, coats, and bedding.
3. Get down and dirty. World Soil Day is December 5, so set aside time any day this month for your kid to dig down deep and explore terrain below the surface. There’s a lot to see there, including life-forms, rocks, sticks, leaves, and soil that’s sticky or crumbly—it’s fascinating. Have a pail and shovel ready. Plan to read all about soil together. Gather cool facts like a scientist. Did you know a tablespoon of soil has more organisms in it than the earth has people? Or how about this one: it takes a minimum of 500 years to form one inch of top soil. Gain new respect for the wonders of our eco-system.
4. Salute our heroes. December 7 is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Chances are your kid’s great-grandpa, great-grandma, great-aunt, or great-uncle served in World War II or lost a friend who did. Honor their bravery. Steal time from this month to bone up with your kid on U.S. history, the Pearl Harbor bombing, and why one writer (Tom Brokaw) calls those who served in World War II the “greatest generation.” Tune into memorial services for WWII vets in real time on December 7, or catch up later with the evening news or videos you can find on YouTube.
5. Embrace a gratitude attitude. Human Rights Day on December 10 celebrates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The document outlines 30 fundamental rights that people are entitled to across the world, to make sure basic human needs (shelter, food, and water) and key civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights are spelled out and protected everywhere.
That’s a lot to ponder. But don’t bore kids with rhetoric. Instead, grab several sheets of happy-looking kids on stickers, a poster board, and a calligraphy pen or big fat marker. Then list a few of the following rights on the poster board, or have the kids do it. Let them go wild with stickers. To extend the activity, pick out the best ideas to discuss at dinner. Here, a few to get you started:
- No one has the right to hold you in slavery.
- Everyone has the right to practice a religion.
- You have the right to seek legal help if your rights are violated.
- Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
- You have the right to privacy. No one can interfere with your reputation, home, family, or correspondence.
- You have a right to free thought and to express your opinion.
- People have the right to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their family.