Thanksgiving: three great ideas for cultivating gratitude as you gather round your dinner table!

How do you make that thankful feeling happen at every family meal? Today we're sharing tips on how to cultivate gratitude around the family table.

It’s a magical moment: everyone’s gathered around the table, a warm and comforting meal steaming on their plates, and you feel like you finally have a chance to sit down and breathe after hours of rushing to get somewhere. There’s a reason that dinners together can be so satisfying and sustaining—we bond over food, and there’s research to support the idea that sitting down to a meal together has all kinds of long-lasting health benefits—and our own research shows there many emotional benefits as well. One of the advantages of eating together is that meals provide us with the daily chance to express gratitude and appreciation for each other (and study after study shows that practicing feeling gratitude daily is a mood-lifter.) 

OK, but how do you make that thankful feeling happen at a regular family dinner? Today, we’re sharing three simple suggestions that can help set the stage for a meal that’s nourishing and sustaining. And we'll also be sharing tasty Thanksgiving recipes, of course!

Select and prepare food together:
Kids who help choose ingredients and prepare them are more interested in eating the meal that results, and that’s good news when you sit down to dinner. Not sure where to start in getting your kiddo involved in the process? Try our tutorials on easy cooking projects divided by your child’s skill level, a primer on knife skills for kids, and tips on how to prepare a working space for younger children in the kitchen as well as advice for how to get teens involved in cooking.

Make it a special space:
Setting the table, dimming the lights, turning on soft music—there are all kinds of ways to set an atmosphere for dinner that’s light, enthusiastic and warm—and that leads to a dinner that everyone is grateful to participate in. We love these ideas for making everyday dinners more enjoyable, from Wednesday Cake to lighting candles.  As a bonus, these practices can help teach children to sit eagerly at the table —which is helpful for establishing good food habits and pleasant meal times. If you're looking for more guidance on creating a happy and healthy atmosphere around sit-down meals, check out Ellyn Satter's ages and stages guides to feeding children.

Say thank you before you start—and don’t forget to keep talking to each other:
Before you start eating, even if you’re eating something simple, take a moment to appreciate the food before you dig in, and say thank you to the people who made it. Don’t forget to wish the people you’re with a good meal! To get conversation rolling, try a table game: there’s a fantastic list here of games to choose from. Our favourite, of course, is the ABC’s of Gratitude. Going around the table, each person shares one thing they’re grateful for—and the twist is that you take turns doing this in alphabetical order. So, you’re grateful for something that starts with A, the next person is grateful for something starting with B, and so on, until you have 26 reasons to smile across the table at each other. We've got more great resources for starting mealtime conversations here.

Ready to feast? Just in time for the holiday weekend, we’ve got tutorials on family pie making, Thanksgiving inspiration from Anita Stewart (not to mention her moms’ Pumpkin Pie) and tons of seasonal recipes in our archive to experiment with (try the cedar-planked salmon with  cranberry relish!) And we’d love to hear how your family cultivates gratitude around the dinner table—please take a moment to share your experiences (or your menu!) with us on Facebook or Instagram.

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