Ripened grain crops, flavorful berry patches, luscious fruit orchards, hardy vegetable gardens, mature grape vineyards – the fall harvest season is well underway. The bounties of the harvest bring a cornucopia of blessings, culminating with a national day of Thanksgiving in late November. Celebrate autumn and inspire grateful hearts with a few of the activities suggested below.

  • THANKFULNESS: Talk about the meaning of the word thanksgiving and name some related words (thankfulness, gratitude, blessings, appreciation). Ask: Do you have a thankful heart? How can you become a more thankful person? What is the opposite of thankfulness? Name some sayings that begin with thank/thanks (ex: thank goodness, thank heavens, thank your lucky stars, thanks a million).
  • AUTUMN THANKFULNESS: Ask participants to name some things they are appreciative of during the autumn season – Thanksgiving family meal, right to vote at the polls, a day to honor veterans, sound of school bells, football cheers, taste of pumpkin pie. Make an autumnal “Give Thanks” collage, emphasizing the five senses. Paint ten wooden blocks in harvest colors and print a letter of GIVE THANKS on each block. Use as room décor.
  • AUTUMN VIEWS: Display nature photos of fall that feature the brilliant colors of the season: Ask: What makes autumn a feast for the eyes? Does the beauty of nature inspire thankfulness in you? Do you enjoy nature walks in the fall? Why is autumn often called the season of thanks? Read the famous poem “Ode to Autumn” by John Keats and share some favorite images.
  • THANKSGIVING DINNER: Show photos of a 1950s multi-generational family gathered around the Thanksgiving dinner table. Describe how your family observed the Thanksgiving holiday. Talk about the roles that each family member played in making the day special (ex: who carved the turkey, aunts brought a special side dish, uncles told “turkey” jokes). Ask: As you grew up, who or what were you most grateful for on Thanksgiving Day?
  • COUNTING BLESSINGS: Talk about the importance of being thankful for big and small blessings. Ask participants to complete one of the following sayings with a specific, concrete example of something “small” they are grateful for during the autumn season: I’m thankful for…I’m thankful when…I’m thankful that… (Ex: I’m thankful for the first taste of a juicy Red Delicious apple from the local orchard.)
  • THANKSGIVING HISTORY: Learn about the history of Thanksgiving Day and how it became a national holiday. Read excerpts from U.S. presidential Thanksgiving proclamations and talk about the gift of liberty.
  • COUNTING BLESSINGS: Listen to Bing Crosby’s rendition of the Irving Berlin song “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep.” Ask: Do you think that counting your blessings can be a cure for insomnia? What are some other health benefits to having a grateful attitude? Talk about the meaning of the following: count your blessings, a blessing in disguise, be a mixed blessing, bless you, you have my blessing, you are such a blessing.
  • GRATITUDE: Read Edgar A. Guest’s “Gratitude” poem. Ask: How can you “acquire the grateful habit”? How can parents develop the virtue of gratitude in their children? How do you show gratitude at home? How difficult is it to be grateful in hard times?
  • FRUIT PIES: Treat your group to a Pie Fest, featuring the fruits/nuts of the season – apple, pumpkin, pear, mincemeat, sweet potato, pecan, cranberry, peach. Invite staff and volunteers to join the gathering. Share memories of family trips to fruit orchards and farmers’ markets or garden centers. Serve mulled cider and coffee.
  • ETIQUETTE: Locate a copy of The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette, published in 1952. (An updated version is also available.) Read the section on thank-you notes and talk about changes in the way we say ‘thanks.’ Consider e-mail, texting, voice mail, etc., and ask if participants still prefer a handwritten note. Suggest a modern-day “thank-you” gift for a hostess from a weekend guest. Make appreciation/thank-you notes to send to staff members, volunteers, or family during the upcoming holiday season.
  • JFK QUOTATION: Discuss the following quote by John F. Kennedy: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
  • MUSIC: Listen to the song “Thanks for the Memory,” sung by Bob Hope. Watch excerpts from his USO variety shows (especially the holiday specials) for the troops. Name some ways to show appreciation for veterans.
  • SINGING YOUR THANKS: Teach the song “Thanks a Lot” from the children’s album Baby Beluga by Raffi. Ask the participants to tell one thing that they are thankful for this year. Write the responses on a marker board. Sing “Thanks a Lot” again, substituting the participants’ responses for the verses of the song.
  • SPIRITUAL: Read some Psalms and other passages in the Bible that give thanks to God, including these: Psalms 9, 30, 40, 66, 67, 100, 113, 135, 136; Phil 4:6; Col 2:7. Ask participants to make a list of the things God has done for them. Or, reminisce about singing or praying before a meal as a kid. Recite a prayer of thanksgiving for children.
  • POETRY: Read the simple poem “All in a Word: Thanks” by children’s poet Aileen Fisher. Write an original acrostic poem using the letters of the word thanksgiving.
  • LANGUAGES: Learn to say “thank you” in other common languages. (Examples: gracias-Spanish; merci-French; grazie-Italian; danke-German)


  1. What is another name for Veterans’ Day? Armistice Day
  2. How often do we elect a U.S. president? Every four years
  3. What is the school football mascot for Ohio State? Brutus Buckeye
  4. What countries have an official Thanksgiving Day celebration? U.S. and Canada
  5. What is Black Friday? The day after Thanksgiving when many people start their Christmas shopping
  6. Finish the song lyric: “Over the river and through the woods….” To grandmother’s house we go
  7. Where is the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade held? New York City
  8. When does Daylight Saving Time end? First Sunday of November
  9. What is the birth flower of November? Chrysanthemum
  10. Which U.S. president delivered the Gettysburg Address in November 1863? Abraham Lincoln


“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” ~ George Eliot

“Give Thanks” written by Sue Hansen. Copyright 2014 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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