Fun Ways to Have a Month of Family Gratitude

I always love it when social scientists stumble across something that is good for our mental, emotional and physical health that has been in the Bible since it was written! In recent years, numerous studies have found that having a grateful heart can reduce depression, lessen anxiety, support heart health, relieve stress, improve sleep ( and make us more optimistic and hopeful ( And those articles don’t even examine the spiritual health benefits of gratitude, which I believe are humility, faith, patience, perseverance, love and a host of other positive spiritual results from a consistent spirit of gratitude. In fact, “give thanks” is one of the most common phrases after “fear not” in both the Old and New Testaments. God knows being grateful is in everyone’s best interest.

This post is coming out right before the month of November as an encouragement to celebrate Thanksgiving all month. The truth is that your family can and should do these activities throughout the year. Some you may only do once or occasionally, while others may become a daily practice. Not only will you begin seeing the benefits listed above, but you may just find parenting becomes easier as whining and complaining give way to gratitude!

Here are some of our favorite ways to bring more gratitude into your home.

  • Gratitude Journal. It is important to be intentional about noticing things for which to be grateful. There are several different ways that you can do this. Have each of your children decorate a spiral notebook or composition book as their personal gratitude journal. You may also want to keep one as a family. At the end of each day, take a few moments and have everyone name one to three things for which they are grateful. (I recently found a gratitude journal for children to use with questions to guide their thinking at Five Below.)
  • Gratitude Jar. This is more of a long term activity. Decorate a gratitude container and place it on your kitchen table or somewhere where everyone will see it daily. Place slips of paper and pens beside the container. Encourage your children to write down something they are grateful for at any point in time and place the slip in the container (non writers can draw pictures instead of writing). You may want to encourage them to create a slip any time they are excited about something. (“That would be a great thing to put in the gratitude jar, wouldn’t it?!) Be sure and place slips in the jar as well. Don’t be afraid to put some unusual slips in the box about gratitude for things that seem negative, but in which you saw something to be grateful. Periodically take all of the slips out of the jar and read them to the entire family. End the time thanking God for His blessings.
  • Facts in Five Gratitude Game. Draw grids that are 5×5 on a sheet of paper for each person. Pull out those scrabble tiles or make little slips of paper with a letter of the alphabet on each. Going down the left side of the grid, write categories of things for which you can be grateful. For example: objects, people, places, food, books. Along the top of the grid, write the five letters pulled from the pile. Set the timer for three to five minutes (depending on the age and abilities of your children). At the word “go”,everyone is to fill in as many boxes on the grid as possible…. for example in the space where “object” and the letter “B” intersect, someone may write the word bike, while someone else might use the word Bible. The winner is the person with the most spaces filled in. (Many kids absolutely love this game, so you may want to be prepared with extra grids and lots of categories.)
    • This website has a lot of great gratitude printables for activities including a gratitude scavenger hunt. (Please note that any of these links do not serve as an endorsement of the sites as an entirety or their creators, merely an acknowledgement that these are a few great ideas you can use. The sites and their creators may indeed be fine, but we did not take the time to deeply research them.)
    • This website has some printable gratitude conversation starters. These often work well at meals with unfamiliar or quiet relatives to get the conversation going or just for your own family dinner.
    • This website has a cute gratitude game using pick up sticks.
    • Ask to join our Parenting Like Hannah Facebook Community and get our daily gratitude discussion prompts during the month of November.

Teach your kids to be consistently and constantly grateful. It’s how God created them to be.

Is Your Children’s Spiritual Growth Hampered by the Bean Soup Effect?

Once upon a time, someone posted a recipe for bean soup on the Internet. The comments that followed were both funny and horrifying. Not just one. Not just a handful. Scads of people posted comments asking her to rework the recipe so it didn’t contain beans. Mind you, this was a BEAN soup recipe. When she didn’t post a reworked recipe without beans, she was verbally clobbered.

Our world online is currently ruled by algorithms. Ever wonder why everyone online appears to agree with your viewpoint on issues or likes the same things you like? Ever begun to think your opinions and preferences are the most popular at the moment based on what you see on social media platforms? Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s because those wonderful little algorithms want to keep you happy. Because if you are happy, you will stay on their website or app longer. Which turns into more revenue for them.

The bean soup people of the world are the result of “having it your way” all of the time. Bean soup people can’t tolerate differences of opinion or ways of looking at the world. Mind you, we aren’t just talking about spiritual, biblical disagreements. We suddenly hate people who love bacon when we don’t like it. You know. Important things. Things that have started wars.

And of course, carefully curated content matches our moods and keeps us constantly entertained. Boredom is the only deadly sin (other than poorly executed content). If something doesn’t make us immediately feel better, we quickly move on to something else that may.

Unfortunately, churches and ministries have bought the bean soup hype that children and teens must constantly be in a high tech environment that is carefully curated to match their tastes and beliefs (no matter how naive or wrong they may be) and above all to keep them on a constant emotional high. Learning to these Christians is irrelevant. Keeping everyone on some sort of self focused high so they will return is more important than teaching them how to be who God really wants them to be…. selfless servants.

Parents – even those who see the building selfishness and entitlement in their own children – may even demand churches and ministries deliver this highly entertaining, yet usually shallow content. Please don’t misunderstand. Part of the mission of our ministry is to encourage engaging spiritual educational content in every environment. Where we part ways is that our emphasis is on the spiritual education piece of the puzzle. While we believe our activity ideas are engaging, we plan them to extend and deepen learning – not to entertain (although often both goals are met). If we were somehow forced to choose between content that is highly entertaining and shallow versus content that isn’t flashy but deepens knowledge, understanding and application of scripture, we will always go for the richer content.

Don’t raise bean soup affect children. Teach them to look for substance and not just flash. Remind them the world should revolve around God and not themselves. And when they encounter a bean soup recipe they don’t like, don’t complain. The world should never be all about them and their personal preferences.

AI, ChatGPT and Christian Parenting

Say what you will, but there are two types of people in the world… people who play with all things AI and people who were scarred by the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey and want nothing to do with it. Regardless of your personal feelings about AI, your children have probably already been exposed to it.

Whether or not AI is helpful to mankind (for our discussion) is almost irrelevant. The difficulty with any new technology, fad or other creation is deciding how Christians should interface with it (if at all). It’s made all the more difficult, because new things are often marketed by creators to make them look as appealing and helpful as possible so they can make the most money possible before anyone realizes there are problems with the product.

It is also problematic, because as Christians, we understand God knew AI would exist when He created scripture. Instead of addressing every invention that would be created over thousands of years and how He wants us to interact with each, however, God gave us commands and principles that were both specific and general – making them applicable regardless of era or location.

So how does all of this apply to AI? A teacher recently told me that students are cheating using ChatGPT without being fully aware they are cheating. Why? Because over the years parents, teachers and other adults had focused on specific behaviors instead of overarching commands and principles. So instead of explaining to students that having anyone or anything write parts or all of your essay is considered cheating, they were just told they couldn’t purchase or copy a paper someone else had written. When faced with AI – that doesn’t neatly fit into the description of specific out of bound behaviors they have been taught – they believe they can use it to practically write entire papers for them while still not realizing they are cheating.

As a Christian parent, you probably use lots of real world examples when teaching your children about God’s commands and principles. It’s important – especially as they age – to emphasize the heart of the command or principle and have your kids generate lots of examples. The reality is that you will never be able to list every possible way your children could lie (by the way, cheating is one of them), but you can help them understand the heart of the command so well that when they see a new technology or creation instead of matching it to some check list, they are able to look for the heart of it and measure that to God’s commands and principles.

This difference in how you approach teaching them how God wants them to live their lives may seem subtle at first. With an ever changing world, however, your children need to know how to obey God regardless of what they encounter.

Fun Family Devotional on Culture and God

Have a weekend or holiday when you can spend a few hours having fun and teaching your children about God? This one can be lots of fun, but does take a bit of extra work depending upon how “big” you want to go with the theme. The spiritual principle is that although many things change over time, God and His principles and commands do not. (It is also great for talking about modesty which is about having an attitude of modesty (not calling attention to oneself – especially in order to encourage sexual attention) and what clothing that might have meant Christians wore or rejected as immodest at the time Note: This conversation includes the males in your family, as they too can be immodest in attitude and clothing.)

The idea is to look at several times periods and compare and contrast them. Start with the decade in which your children were born, the decade their parents were born, the decade their grandparents were born, a random decade more than 100 years ago and the time of Jesus. Have fun with your kids researching clothing styles, trendy foods, cars (or donkeys/horses!), fads, costs of every day items etc. You can make a trip to the public library, look at old family photos or search online together.

If you want to really spend a lot of time together enjoying this look into the past, consider ordering a box of mixed candy from different decades, cooking old recipes together, taking a ride in a historic car or train, trying on vintage clothing, listening to the most popular songs of that era, etc.

After you have had fun, sit down together and have a discussion. Start by reading Malachi 3:6 and Hebrews 13:8. Ask your children what it means that God never changes. Read Proverbs 6:16-19. Ask your children if they think God hated those things in each of the time periods you explored. Do they think God still hates those things today? Why or why not? Point out that God doesn’t suddenly approve of lying if most of the people in the world suddenly decide lying is better than truth. We don’t get to vote on God’s commands. We show our love for God by serving and obeying Him – even if that means we look very different from our culture.

If you have older children, you may want to spend some time talking about how Christians will always look different from the world around them and why God wants it that way. Spend time talking about the mixed feelings they may have about “never really fitting in with the popular kids at school” or at times, even some Christians who have decided to adapt cultural norms instead of God’s. Revisit these conversations regularly as your children will struggle with needing to be different to please God at various times in their lives.

Fun Activity to Encourage Empathy

To raise children to be active productive Christians, you need to raise children who truly understand what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself”. It will probably be easy to love people that like the same things they like or are similar to them in easily identifiable ways. But what about the people with whom they have little, if anything, in common? Or people with whom they have serious disagreements about various topics?

There is a fun activity you can do with your children to begin talking with them about differences and finding points of connection to make loving others as they love themselves more likely. You can do this activity at any time of the year, but it can be the most fun in the Fall, when the leaves are beginning to change color. (Assuming you live somewhere that it happens!)

Take your children on a lead collection walk or hike. Other than poison oak or poison ivy leaves, have them collect a variety of leaves. Sit down with all of the leaves you have collected and compare them to each other. You may even have your children place them in different types of groups – sorting by size, shape, coloring, edging, etc. Which leaves appear to be the most alike? Which two are the most different?

Now encourage your children to look at the leaves in a different way. What are some things that all of the leaves have in common? You can focus on what they can see or go into deeper scientific similarities like how they get the nutrients they need. You may want to jot down their findings for the lists of differences and similarities.

Tell your children that in some ways people are like these leaves. When we first meet someone new, the first thing we may notice are all of the differences between us. If we notice too many differences, we may be tempted to reject them as friends or decide we don’t like them at all. We may even decide we don’t want to help them if they need it, or talk badly about them to others. Ask your children if that is how God wants us to treat everyone?

Point out that if they look more closely though, they will probably find some things in common with everyone. If we are having a hard time finding those things, it can help to ask questions that will help us find those things we have in common. Maybe it is a favorite food, book, show, game or something else. Have your children give you examples of questions they can ask to help the find the things they have in common with others. Remind them to try not to sound like a police interrogation, but to ask the questions in a casual way.

After you’ve finished the activity, continue to talk about the principles on a regular basis. Encourage them to find things in common with a variety of people. It can help them be more likely to serve others and share their faith with love and kindness.