Many religions, cultures and countries have a special holiday or time of year that's dedicated to giving thanks. Lots of them -- like Thanksgiving in the United States -- have a harvest theme, and some are tied to a certain historical event, like the end of a war or a country gaining its independence. Most of these celebrations involve eating, and lots of it. But a common theme in all of them is taking time for reflection and appreciation, so they're a perfect opportunity to teach kids about expressing gratitude for the people and things they love.
A thanksgiving holiday is obviously a perfect time to start a gratitude routine. Kids will probably love the ritual of taking turns around the dinner table and telling everyone about what they're thankful for. And they'll feel much more connected to the event (and get more meaning out of it) if they actually have a hand in creating it. Have them contribute to the meal, even if it's just stirring a pot or peeling carrots. Kids will also love making table decorations for the feast, be it a tablecloth, place cards, centerpieces or napkin rings.
It's easy to extend the thanksgiving sentiment into everyday life. Start a tradition of kicking off dinnertime by having everyone name at least one thing they're thankful for. Even the youngest kids can participate -- if they can talk, they probably won't need much prodding to chat about their favorite things. You can also make it more of a show-and-tell activity if the little ones have a hard time coming up with things to talk about.
Bedtime is another great chance for reflecting on the day and talking about being grateful. If your kids would rather write about their feelings than talk about them, give them a gratitude journal (thanks, Oprah!). No matter what holidays you celebrate, learning to express appreciation is an invaluable lesson -- not only for kids, but for the whole family.