As Thanksgiving approaches, we are reminded that we have so much to be thankful for. Parents, I image you want to instill gratitude in your children. But how do you teach gratitude to young children? Let’s discuss gratitude with a book, a family discussion, and then turn it into a Thanksgiving craft!

Teach Gratitude Through a Book

First, let’s read a book together. Books always have great lessons that kids can relate to. Read My Attitude of Gratitude by Melissa Winn. Watch the read aloud on YouTube if it’s not at your local library. Another great book to teach gratitude is Thankful by Elieen Spinelli. I know at our house we can never have enough books; the more the better!

Let’s Discuss and Teach Gratitude

Now, follow up the book with a discussion. Remembering that kids won’t sit too long, you could do this while crafting. It’s important to help children gain an understanding of what gratitude and thanks are, at their level. Gratitude is best described to young children as something that makes them happy. For instance, ask your child what his favorite food is. He may respond, “Grilled cheese!” You can explain that having grilled cheese for lunch makes him happy, and that is the feeling of gratitude or thanks. Then follow up by asking, “What else makes you happy?” Give him time to think but have examples ready such as, reading a favorite book, dancing to a fun song, or playing with a friend.

I love having this discussion as a whole family at the dinner table. “Dad, what are you thankful for that makes you happy?” Go around the table and talk about different things to help your child understand the concept of gratitude and thanks. If Dad replies, “Joey, you make me happy!” Mom could help expand that idea by saying, “Oh yes, I am very thankful for family too.” You can continue this past the month of November, by having a daily discussion at dinner of a favorite part of everyone’s day. Continue to teach gratitude by using the words grateful, thankful, and thanks.

Now it’s time for the Thankful Turkey Craft

Materials Needed:

  • 9×12 white piece of paper
  • Paper Towel Rolls – cut into 1-2 inch circles
  • Finger paint or watercolor paint
  • Turkey’s body cut out of brown construction paper
  • Small orange triangle from construction paper (beak)
  • Googly eyes
  • Elmer’s Glue
  • White mailing labels or Masking tape


  1. Before starting, an adult can cut out a turkey’s body from brown construction paper and 1-2 inch slices of the paper towel roll. See the image above for a reference.
  2. Have your child glue down the turkey’s body, his eyes, and orange beak on a large white sheet of paper. You can talk about where different body parts go in relation to your face, but let them make the final placement as it is their art.
  3. Together you and your child can flatten the sliced pieces of paper towel roll. This will make them pointed and look more like the shape of a feather.
  4. Now, help your child glue on the small paper towel rolls circles above the turkey’s body, they will be all his feathers. Be sure to glue on enough for the number of days left until Thanksgiving. If your child is losing interest in gluing, he can start painting on step 5 as you finish gluing the feathers in place.
  5. Paint inside and on the ‘feathers,’ created by the paper towel roll pieces.
  6. On each day leading up to Thanksgiving, on a label or masking tape, help your child write one word describing something that they are thankful for or makes them happy. Then stick it on the outside of a paper towel roll feather. When Thanksgiving rolls around you will have a turkey filled with lots of things your child is thankful for.

This activity is a fun way to teach gratitude as you continue to discuss it daily, the whole month leading up to Thanksgiving. Mom and Dad can join in by adding written words to the turkey’s feathers. If you say a thankful prayer before eating your Thanksgiving feast, you could use examples from your child’s Thankful Turkey. For more Thanksgiving art projects that provoke learning and thought, try these out!

About The Author

Kelsey Dickson has over 15 years of experience working with children as a nanny, preschool teacher, and now a mother. She has her degree in Early Childhood Education and is a Certified Potty Training Expert. At Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny she is the eLearning and Social Media Manager. Check out our online childcare classes, such as Baby Sign Language and Sleep Coaching 101! In her free time she enjoys gardening with her children, going for walks with her family, and discovering local wineries in New England.