Hello again! Leah here, Seattle’s Child Calendar Editor and mom to three young boys. Welcome to The Playlist, a hand-curated guide (by yours truly) to themed family fun all around Seattle. This month, I’ve been thinking back on my teaching days and how this time of year I loved to do lessons on gratitude, and have conversations with my students about what we’re all grateful for. Even though the holidays are gearing up and things are busy, November can be a really important month to slow down, take a breath, and really appreciate what we have. Appreciation can be for anything from basic needs to family and friends to taking a big vacation, and far beyond. With gratitude comes giving back, and this edition of The Playlist will give ideas for doing both with your children at home.
The Playlist: November
Turkey Trots, gratitude games, art appreciation, and more
Winter is approaching, and so is that cozy time when holidays are near and (perhaps along with a healthy dose of anxiety) we have that warm feeling of appreciation in our hearts. Read on for ways to appreciate our bodies and minds through exercise and mindfulness practice, as well as crafts, learning through play, and field trips that help foster gratitude.
November is one of the most fabulous months for mini-marathons, and what better way to appreciate our bodies than to take care of them? There are a handful of Turkey Trots happening around the Sound on Thanksgiving day (and a couple on other days), and – BONUS – they provide an awesome opportunity for giving back, because they are all raising money for great causes. Take your pick, commit early, and spend time as a family preparing for the race.
Thanksgiving Day Races:
Tacoma City Turkey Trot. This race happens in the Proctor District of Tacoma, offers both a 5K for adults and a 1K trot for kids, and partners with The Children’s Fund, which provides scholarships for abused and neglected children in the U.S.
Issaquah Turkey Trot. This more casual 5K run/walk aims to bring the community together while benefiting Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank. Costumes are encouraged, which is a great incentive for the kids.
Seattle Turkey Trot. Support the Ballard Food Bank by participating in this annual 5K jog, walk or run. The run begins on Sunset Hill in Ballard and ends at Golden Gardens Park, and strollers and dogs on leashes are welcome. If you have little ones, this could be a good choice, as infants and toddlers are FREE. (Image source: seattleturkeytrot.org)
If you’re hosting Thanksgiving and/or won’t be able to squeeze in that morning 5K, here are some options happening earlier in the month:
Hopelink Turkey Trot. In my teaching days, my school was very big on supporting Hopelink by donating canned food and other items. Come support a community that helps those in need during the winter months. Also enjoy an expanded fair at Marina Park in Kirkland with balloon art, face painting, and more.
Pineapple Classic 5K. Another trot that runs earlier in November, this event raises funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This one has awesome appeal for kids with its obstacle course, featuring events like the tire wall, the slip ‘n slide, and the cargo net. Also, it’s fun to carry a pineapple or even dress up like one!
If you’d prefer to skip the running altogether but still want to get those little ones moving, I am in love with the idea of doing a Gratitude Scavenger Hunt. Here is a great one I found on Pinterest, and it asks children to search for things like “something that makes you happy” and “something you are thankful for in nature.” These are simple, yet such important ways for kids to stop and perceive the world with more appreciation.
Sensory & Play
Use this month as an opportunity to incorporate gratitude into many of the things you’re already doing with your kids. Playing games? Try out a gratitude game! Need a little outdoor “recess?” How about a gratitude hunt? Need to calm your little one down with some sensory activities? Try incorporating some mindfulness into the activity and talk about appreciating our environment, surroundings, or even our calm minds and bodies. Here are some great ideas:
I am loving this list of gratitude activities for kids, and I have a couple of favorites. The “Gratitude Grab” is like pickup sticks but you pick a category from the basket (grateful to a friend, neighbor, etc.) and depending on how many sticks you pick up, you name a few appreciations. The “Gratitude Hunt” gets the family outside on a hike, writing down all of the things we appreciate in nature. Afterward, come home and share.
For some amazing ideas on how to incorporate mindfulness into sensory activities, head to Lemon Lime Adventures. This page talks about how mindfulness involves accessing all of our senses, and what a perfect introduction to little ones on how to fully engage in and appreciate our surroundings and our physical abilities. You can teach your youngsters to make Calm Down Jars (Image source: Lemon Lime Adventures), or simply give them materials to play with and ask questions like, “Do you enjoy the way this feels in your hands?”
This Gratitude Game (Image source: Teach Beside Me) involves a mini pack of Skittles and a small, printed card for each kiddo that has a list of prompts. On their turn, the child picks a prompt and says an appreciation, and then eats a Skittle. This game can be played with a group and the beauty is that they are sharing their appreciations out loud and hearing one another’s. What a neat idea for siblings, cousins, or friends!
This M&M Thankful Game uses the colors of the M&Ms to prompt different kinds of appreciations, like food, people, and places. This one can be played after a meal or on the go, and is quick and easy.
Scroll down to #4 on this list and you’ll find Gratitude Bingo (and a super cute, free printable). I like this game as an earlier activity in the month, because the little Bingo icons get everyone thinking about all we have to be grateful for in our lives, and it’s as simple as that. Plus, who doesn’t love a game of Bingo?
Books! This month, we were fortunate to have local bookstore Third Place Books send us a list of their favorite books on gratitude. Here they are!
The Thank You Book – by Mo Willems – For kids of all ages, a great book about not taking those closest to you for granted.
Last Stop on Market Street – by Matt de la Pena – For kids of all ages, this book helps us focus on the beauty in everyday things.
Thanku – edited by Miranda Paul – Beautifully illustrated, this diverse collection of poems celebrates gratitude in all parts of our life.
We are Grateful : Otsaliheliga – by Traci Sorell – From a citizen of Cherokee Nation, a book showing the tradition of gratitude in Cherokee Nation.
Thank you, Omu – by Oge Mora – A gorgeous book on the power of giving and receiving.
Film! Family Movie Night, gratitude-style.
I like this list of 10 Movies that Inspire Gratitude to watch with your kids. From the classic A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving to the more current Up, there is something for everyone on this list (even the adults!). Many of these movies help us put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, empathize with others, and be more appreciative of our own lives. Watching a few of these films is a sure way to get our warm n’ fuzzies on as we enter the holiday season.
Podcasts! Getting appreciative in the car or on the go.
To tie into the theme of mindfulness and stopping to appreciate our surroundings in the present moment, this lovely podcast called Peace Out is a series of short stories that help children calm down and relax. As they travel through space, children are guided through visualization and breathing exercises. Great for parents, too!
This silly podcast, 5 Minutes with Dad, fosters appreciation for caregivers and family members, as this silly dad gets on the mic with his two kids to discuss various topics. Here is a ten-minute Thanksgiving Special that hits the spot this month. Here is another specifically about Gratitude. Super sweet and cute.
As we all know, November is the month of the biggest celebration of food all year long. There are many ways to tie food into learning about gratitude, and hopefully these ideas will inspire you to come up with some of your own. Maybe you and your kids will even discover some new Thanksgiving traditions!
Friendsgiving for kids! Many of us enjoy this new-ish tradition of gathering with our chosen families in November (I think Friendsgiving must have originated in Seattle with all of our transplants!) Why not have a little party with the youngsters, or ask your child’s teacher if you can bring some turkey-inspired snacks into class and have a little potluck? You certainly don’t need all the trimmings to make it fun (see treat ideas below), just make sure to incorporate a gratitude game or give air time for each child to share an appreciation at the table.
Bring a Thanksgiving dish or a little treat to your neighbor. Have your child help with the preparations, and talk about why you appreciate the recipient. Add a homemade card, and you’ve made someone’s day!
Here is a fabulous list of 15 Thanksgiving Snacks for Kids that will make you the coolest parent in town. My favorites are the adorable Turkey Pretzels and the healthier Fruit Turkey Platter. Check out our Pinterest page on Gratitude for Kids for lots more delicious ideas. Gobble gobble!
There are a few Community Thanksgiving Feasts happening around the Sound as well, offering full-scale meals with all the trimmings, so join your neighbors in celebrating the season. Garfield Community Center holds their event on Thursday, Nov. 21 at 6:30 p.m and Magnuson Community Center celebrates on Monday, Nov. 25 at 5 p.m. Check our calendar for more events like these in your area.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, do not apologize for finding craft ideas for kids on Pinterest! As a former art teacher, I will say it can truly be an amazing resource. Also, don’t be afraid to make a project your own, go deeper with it, and find ways to tie the art into the learning. In this case, we’re practicing gratitude, so I picked a few favorites that allow for kids to get crafty with their gratitude:
Start the month off with a homemade Gratitude Journal. Decorate the cover, sew or staple the pages together, and then carve out time each day for age-appropriate journaling. This can look like kiddo telling Mom or Dad what to write, making scribbles, or spending a few minutes writing about all of the day’s appreciations.
Paper Bag Gratitude Tree. There are lots of ways to display individual appreciations in a beautiful way, and this tree accomplishes just that. It is fun for kids to twist and shape the paper into a 3-D tree trunk with branches, and cut out the leaves themselves.
For older kids, try this Gratitude Mobile (Image source: mericherry.com), made with beads and string, and requiring the trial and error of achieving balance (STEM integration, perhaps?). Both result in lovely, visual representations of your kids’ appreciations for all to enjoy and reflect on.
Gratitude Stones. This is new to me, but I am completely obsessed. The way it works is this- collect small, flat stones, paint them with a simple design (I like using paint pens), hide them around the house, and each time you see one, you must think of something you are grateful for! It’s simply wonderful.
For getting into the Thanksgiving spirit, here are a couple of ways to incorporate pumpkins into the art making. These Gratitude Paper Pumpkins are made from strips of green and orange paper, and your littles will love how they can see their appreciations on this 3-D form. Or, your family could buy a pumpkin (on sale after Halloween?) and each night at dinner add a phrase or a drawing in Sharpie that speaks to a gratitude. Here is an example.
I love this preschool lesson that is messy, crafty, and meaningful. This Leaf Garland uses shaving cream and paint to marbelize paper, cut the dried artworks into leaves, and add gratitudes in writing before stringing them together to make a garland.
Here is a list of 10 Drawing Prompts (Image source: Lasso the Moon) that help us think about gratitude, from “draw someone who helps you” to “draw something that makes you laugh.” These drawings can be quick or Pictionary-style, or you can break out the paints or colored pencils and go deeper.
Artsy Outings! We are lucky to live in an area that celebrates art and nature, and that is something to celebrate and appreciate, for sure. For some experiential-arts-integration, here are some ways to get out of the house and appreciate the beauty around us, and get creative while we’re at it.
Appreciating Nature Through Art. Head to the Eastside for a wonderful ranger-lead nature walk through the forest, sketchbook in hand. Fine-tune your observational skills by stopping to draw what you see. This is another great way for kids and adults alike to practice slowing down, being in the moment, and noticing the details all around us. This event is FREE and art materials are provided!
ArtVenture: Our Bodies of Water. On Saturday, Nov. 3, Henry Art Gallery with transform into an “underwater imaginarium” where children can explore the plants and creatures that share our ecosystem. Participants learn through drawing and creative play, and hopefully walk away with a deeper appreciation for water’s life-sustaining abilities.
Free First Thursdays at the Museums. A fantastic way to get your youngsters out of the house is to head to one of the many local museums offering free admission on the first Thursday (or Friday) of the month. Hone in on your practice by choosing an art museum and doing some art appreciation. Do a little scavenger hunt and have your kids find an artwork that makes them smile, one that is filled with color, one that looks really hard to create, etc.
Out & About
An important theme that we haven’t mentioned yet this month is gratitude for our nation’s veterans. If there is one field trip that I plan to do with my own kids in November, it will be to a Veteran’s Day Parade, or even to a local cemetery to bring a flower or give thanks to our fallen soldiers. Here are some local parades happening this year on or around Veteran’s Day.
Auburn’s Veteran’s Day Parade happens on Saturday, Nov. 9. Related events include a breakfast at the American Legion, showcases and curb competitions honoring veterans, a remembrance ceremony, and more.
The Mill Creek Parade happens on Monday, Nov. 11 and honors veterans with a walk, a commemorative ceremony, a parade, military displays, and a car show. (Image source: City of Mill Creek)
The Veteran’s Day Program in Shoreline on Monday, Nov. 11 invites all veterans of any U.S. military service, along with family and friends and members of the community to be recognized for their service. There will be a short program followed by refreshments.
Stay up to date on events like these as we learn about them by following our calendar.
Other ideas for gratitude-inspired field trips this month:
Free National and State Parks Day. The kids are home from school, and you’ve got the whole day in front of you. In honor of our country’s veterans, celebrate the day with a trip to a National or State Park in your area. Take a drive to hike Mount Rainier National Park or hop on the ferry for a day trip to the Olympic National Forest. While there, make time to appreciate the beautiful Pacific Northwest that we are so lucky to live in.
Wonders of Wilderness. This is an excellent opportunity to get the family outside, take a walk led by a park ranger, and appreciate “nature and all of its gifts.” This program focuses specifically on how nature provides us with nourishment, space, and beauty. This is a relaxed hike with time to make a craft, too.
Random Acts of Kindness. I’ll just put this list of 30 Random Acts of Kindness to Do with Your Kids right here… We should all be doing these things on a more regular basis. But it’s never too late to start, and to instill this positive behavior in your kiddos. Some cost money, but I prefer the free ideas like “leave a small gift or note for your teacher to thank them for their hard work” or “leave sticky notes on public bathroom mirrors that say, ‘you’re beautiful!’“ Making the world a better place starts right here, my friends.
For more ideas on themed learning from gardening to construction to ocean life and much more, check out my blog at creativehomeeducation.com.