5 Thankfulness Projects for the Kids

By HYDAWAY brand ambassador, Dana Foley

One of my favorite memories of my son is from when he was in preschool.  All the sweet preschoolers had a cut out of a fall themed silhouette and were asked what they were thankful for by a teacher who then copied, verbatim, what the little darlings said.  Each child’s name was on the cut out and a cornucopia was arranged outside the classroom. As I stood reading through them, much to my chagrin, my son was thankful for… hippos. Upon walking out, I asked why hippos were the first to come to mind and I was informed that they are really cool.  For a three year old, he realized that what makes him happy, is what one should be thankful for. 

As my children age, I want them to be thankful for what they love but also for what is afforded to them.  An education. A house with heat. Family. Friends. Hippos that we can see at the zoo. Raising a 12 and 10 year old means, they are old enough to understand doing things for others but I keep going back to hippos because you can also be thankful for things that just bring you great joy.  


Great joy is brought to us by our garden.  This summer I wrote about it here called “My Milkweed Brings all the Bugs to the Yard.”  As winter is officially upon Chicago, by Halloween I might add, we have started our eco friendly project.  First, we left up all our grasses, flowers and what is left of the garden. These dried out corpses of summer long past, provide food for the animals who we care for deeply.  Our pumpkins went out for the squirrels and we continue to provide seed for the birds and chipmunks. Because the gardens bring us joy, we are thankful for them.


Through my daughter’s soccer club, she is involved in a smaller, community driven group called ESCO.  Leading up to Thanksgiving,  paper bags are delivered to neighbors with suggested items listed along with the organization, the recipient, and who the contact person is.   The week of Thanksgiving, the items are organized, categorized and packed into individual laundry baskets. Because all items go to a local group, the families can then carry their items home in the basket and continue to use the basket as needed.  Cooking and eating together as a family brings us great joy and being able to help other families experience this makes us happy. 

Finally, we wrap up the season of giving by helping with the church’s coat drive.  This is also a local charity. My mom is the chairperson for this and the kids love checking coats for working parts and cleanliness.  Everything is sorted by sizes and delivered to inner city Chicago to help local families in need so they can continue to be outside in this weather.  Providing warmth to those less fortunate brings us joy.


Being thankful doesn’t have to cost money.  Be thankful for your family by spending time together making pies and walking in the woods together.  Henry David Thoreau said it best; “I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite – only a sense of existence…my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.”  

What can you do for your community during this season of giving?

  1. CLEAN YOUR CLOSETS!  One man’s trash really is another man’s treasure.  Coat drives will often accept more than ‘just’ coats.  Accessories and other cold weather items are great. Hoodies and sweatshirts are in high demand.  Towels and rags can go to animals shelters. Showing your children how to let go to help others is valuable.  Don’t throw it away or drop it all in one place, donate with intention.
  2.  Fill your bird feeders and commit to keeping them filled all winter.  Be thankful for the environment by taking care of it all year. Don’t rake those leaves either.  Leave them in the flower beds. Watching the beautiful cardinals swoop into the feeders is great for all ages.  We love to make bird feeders out of toilet paper rolls and peanut butter and hang them off the trees as well. 
  3. Homeless bags.  Living near downtown Chicago, we can prepare bags of snacks and toiletries and drop them off as you walk through the subway and the streets.  Some homeless shelters will also take them. Children can draw pictures on the bags and write messages for the receivers. 
  4. If you do plan on donating food, think about including easy items that don’t require cooking.  As much as we would all like to picture families sitting down to a lovely prepared meal, a lot of times schedules don’t allow for that so soup and other instant meals are needed.  Kids loving buying their favorite items to add to baskets.
  5. Donate your time.  If you don’t have means to donate items, offer to pack and deliver food.  Being willing and able goes a long way. Showing children that their time is an asset, is a gift that can go a long way.

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