Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on our blessings and give thanks for what we have. It’s also a time to reflect on how we can help others. In her blog on modeling gratefulness, Andrea Ortega gives families advice on how to model thankfulness for our children in our everyday lives. I couldn’t agree more that teaching thankfulness can be easy on a day-to-day basis.

I’ve put together some fun ways for families to expand on this idea with fun ways you can model thankfulness as a family while giving back to your community. Here are my top 5 that really engage kids.

  1. Volunteer: Give back as a family and volunteer your time at a toy drive, soup kitchen, or Salvation Army. The holidays provide a plethora of opportunities to help people in need and teach the real meaning of giving. It may also stop your children’s never ending Christmas list once they see others who are less fortunate.
  2. Participate in an event that raises money: The first that comes to mind are the thousands of Turkey Trot races on Thanksgiving morning. You can demonstrate healthy living while also raising money for a great cause … all before you stuff your face with turkey and pie.
  3. Adopt a family in need: This can get expensive, but there are all different forms of giving trees, secret Santa wish lists, etc. during the holidays. Local charities often provide opportunities to provide a holiday meal for a family or even deliver their Christmas gifts. There is no greater sense of joy or lesson for your children, than to give gifts to families who may otherwise have gone without. Check out local churches and children’s homes for these opportunities.
  4. Visit an animal shelter: People are not the only ones in need. Shelters need food and supplies to keep animals healthy and adoptable. Their funding is often limited and they rely on donations to keep their doors open. Holiday donations often fund them for the entire year. And whose heart doesn’t sink when they see an animal in a shelter.   Your local SPCA is a great place to start.
  5. Donate vital resources abroad: Donating to third world communities provides resources that keep on giving year after year, and is a great gift to a community in need. Try donating livestock, water, chickens, fishing gear, etc. to a community in need. You’ll find that the cost is small compared to the benefit that these communities receive from it. You can even pool your money for more expensive items.

The holidays are a great reminder than we should help others in need. And oftentimes charitable organizations rely on holiday giving for their annual budgets, but I challenge every family to give back year round and not just when they feel guilty for their overconsumption. It’s one thing to participate in 30-day of thankfulness on social media and another to model the behavior. Let this be the start of a year round tradition.