A fall family favorite for years in America has been carving pumpkins.
Yet a new riff on the seasonal tradition might just have families and friends smiling much longer than the most professionally chiseled jack-o’-lantern can last.
Introducing the gratitude pumpkin!
To start, all you need is a pumpkin, a permanent marker and thankful thoughts. If you have a lot of the latter, you may want to pick up more than one pumpkin.
(Note: Do not try washable markers. You’ll just have an orange dry-erase board.)
Then, every day in the month of October, adopt the practice of asking yourself and your family members something for which you are grateful.
Don’t underestimate what little thankful engines the smallest ones in your home can be. While moms and dads might also serve as gratitude muses here and there, let your kids become the gratitude generators.
Seeing children run through the typical (though still important!) ideas of gratitude and then begin to identify deeper ideas of gratitude is fascinating and rewarding.
You can help them do this by asking open-ended questions such as, “What’s your favorite thing to do with Dad?” or “What was your happiest day this year?”
While they may start with “I’m grateful for my LEGOS,” this practice can help kids as young as toddler age uncover the blessings in their own families and communities and bind families closer together.
Try it and see how it goes. Since gratitude begets gratitude, you just may end up with a whole patch of the season’s favorite fruit.
A few other ways to (pumpkin-) spice it up include the following ideas.
1. Make your ‘gratitude pumpkin’ a centerpiece
While some families may want to keep it outside to add to your autumnal décor, others may choose to put it in the center of the table to guide family dinner conversations and serve as a visual reminder to help kids (or parents!) get back on track when moods turn grumpy.
2. Before writing your notes of gratitude, jazz up that jack-o’-lantern
Let the kids go wild with paint, googly eyes, stickers, glitter and glue.
Not only will it be safer than carving with sharp knives, the process might even be more fun for them — and less bug-attracting for your front doorstep.
3. Involve the kids so you can teach them
Ask your kids to pick out the pumpkin at the store — and have them carry it into the house.
When they say, “Oh, this pumpkin is heavy,” then that’s your opportunity to discuss how strong American farmers are and how hard they work to make sure we not only have pumpkins in the fall but also good food to eat all through the year.
First gratitude offering for the pumpkin? Check!
Do this activity with a group and share the impact it has on your families.
Maybe it’s a way to stay connected with grandparents and cousins across the miles by sharing pictures as your gratitude list grows.
Or perhaps some friends from work, school or church will join you and your new tradition becomes a community one.
In my own family a couple of years ago, my oldest child hadn’t bonded with her baby sister the same way that her brother had — and it lay heavy on my heart.
But one night, she began singing one of the ballads from her favorite movie.
The baby just smiled and giggled in complete delight at her big sister. My eldest finally had a captive audience.
Her gratitude instance that evening?
“I’m thankful I got to sing for my baby sister.”
After the kids went to sleep and I cleaned up the dinner table, I could have added my own follow-on note of gratitude.
It went like this: “I’m thankful I saw my girls enjoying one another’s company.”