There are several fun ways to make your family dinner conversations even more meaningful, more fun and more interactive during this month of Gratitude and Giving Thanks. Conversation Starters, Gratitude Prompts, or a Game of Gratitude are all good ways to mix in the fun over the next few weeks.
The Gratitude Game
The Gratitude Game includes over 70 different prompts encouraging children to focus on everything they are grateful for in their lives. Simply cut out the cards and place them in a jar or around the table. Then everyone can take turns choosing a card and sharing the first thing they think of that they are grateful for related to that prompt.
Thanksgiving Conversation Starters are an easy way to get even the shyest kids (or adults) to open up! By asking fun, open-ended questions your whole family can enjoy real quality time and conversation while reflecting on what’s most important in your lives. Science says that gratitude increases positive emotions and personal connections which in turn increases our energy, enthusiasm, and our ability to learn, be creative and solve problems.
Ask a couple questions each night throughout the month.
Place a card at each seat for Thanksgiving dinner.
After reflecting on what you’re thankful for today, use our Life List activity to determine what activities you want to do in the future that would make you even more thankful and gracious.
Gratitude Leaves is a fun writing activity encouraging children to focus on everything they are grateful for and provides a simple way for them to reflect and articulate kindness and appreciation. It makes a great FREE gift for helping to celebrate Thanksgiving.
You might also enjoy our Gratitude-themed Journal Prompts and Thanksgiving Think Book which can be purchased from my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Visit our shop and you will also find a wide variety of games and activities that promote gratitude, optimism, reflection and curiosity – all the wonderful things kids need to learn what motivates them, how to empathize with others, and reach their potential.
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
The Mindful Labyrinths mindfulness activity is great for helping students with anxiety and stress. The labyrinths (mazes) are often effective for helping students relax and focus. They work great in calm down areas and before tests to help reduce test anxiety.
Mindful Hearts Labyrinths mindfulness activity are great for helping students with anxiety and stress. They make a fun and engaging Valentine’s Day Activity! The labyrinths (mazes) are often effective for helping students focus and calm down. Click here to learn more.
Celebrate this Valentine’s Day with a few fast-paced, heart-themed games!
Classroom Parties & Family Game Nights:
4 Different Minute to Win it Style Valentine’s Day Games are included along with a Tic Tac Toe printable:
Tic Tac Toe
Just print out the FREE game cards, divide students into small groups and enjoy!
Spread More Love & Inspiration with Kindness Hearts
Spread love, kindness, inspiration, and gratitude with the Kindness Hearts. Includes 160 different positive messages to share throughout the school, home or community. Kindness Hearts may be purchased here at our Teacher’s Pay Teachers store.
The fact is all kids make mistakes and bad choices sometimes.
But we want them to because that’s part of growing up and how they learn right from wrong. The critical part of learning from these events is the adult response. If a child is punished without the proper support they may feel humiliation, shame or even anger which doesn’t support effective learning for the situation.
If, on the other hand, the adult provides the child time to reflect in a non-threatening environment then the child has time and the awareness to empathize, respect the consequences, and consider alternative choices in the future.
Adults can use these learning opportunities to teach empathy, compassion, and respect; that its okay to make mistakes as long as we take something positive away from each experience; and how to apologize to others so that children learn the accountability that goes along with a high social and emotional intelligence.
How does the Behavior Reflection and Apology Letter help?
The ThinkingIQ Behavior Reflection worksheet helps children recognize how their actions impact others and the Apology Letter template helps them to communicate their regrets so they may move forward in a positive way.
Do you ever feel like you let good opportunities pass by or that you should have pursued a long forgotten childhood dream?
No matter your age it is never too late to follow your passions!
Create a Life List / Bucket List with our Free Guide!
Creating a life or bucket list isn’t just a cliche thing to do; it’s a great way to recharge and motivate yourself, to help you tap into your creative self and dream big, to give you the courage to try new things, and to live with no regrets. Best of all it’s a great activity for the whole family!
Benefits for kids:
creativity from projecting into the future
gives an archival of their interests
helps them articulate their ideas
increases optimism and motivation
Benefits for parents:
learn more about your child’s interests
gives you the opportunity to be creative and think like a kid again
helps you set priorities
stay positive – there are no bad or unrealistic ideas!
make it fun – no idea is too crazy!
listen – use the activity to learn more about your child and their interests!
encourage your child to set goals
help motivate them by asking open-ended questions about how they may achieve some of their ideas
What the Life List / Family Bucket List Activity Includes:
A Kid Life List activity, A Parent Life List Activity, and a Family Life List Activity. Each set includes a worksheet and a brainstorming guide with prompts and questions to help you come up with your life list.
Who Doesn’t love scary Halloween stories? Scary Story Dice are a great addition to your Halloween celebration.
How can I use Scary Story Dice?
They can be used in the classroom as writing prompts for group activities. Families can use them as a fun conversation starter at the dinner table or family game night. If you are looking for a non-candy “You’ve been boo’d” gift for your neighbors they would be fun to leave on your neighbor’s porch. They also make great Halloween party favors. Best of all they are great for all ages.
Story Starters are great because…
Scary story dice build on writing and communication skills (more…)
There’s no better way to understanding your achievements and to help you set new goals than to take some time to reflect and record your observations. Articulating successes, challenges, and learnings helps you celebrate your achievements, motivates you to continue those successes or overcome those obstacles, and helps you to plan ahead and identify future ambitions.
They are Growth Mindset focused!
The Weekly Exit Slips Guided Journal
The Weekly Reflection Exit Slips guided journal is a series of prompts and questions to help kids reflect on their personal growth and identify new goals. Product includes 13 different reflection sheets. Each weekly sheet focuses on the following areas: highlights of the week, learning & exploring, and the upcoming week. To complement the reflection and motivational aspects other social and emotional topics are included such as gratitude, curiosity, doodles, acts of kindness and other thinking prompts. This would be great for the classroom, homeschool and for any parent who wants to supplement their child’s development and Thinking IQ.
How to use Weekly Exit Slips:
They are a great reflection activity for Fridays or to complete during the week. You can send your students home with for the weekend to share with their parents as a way to discuss their growth and learning process. You can also send them home for the students to work on during the weekend.
Homeschool families also enjoy them as a way for students at various grade levels to have the same activity.
It is fun for students to keep them in a binder all year and look at their progress and growth at the end of the school year.
We live in Colorado so we have the wonderful mountains to enjoy during the winter months. My kids snowboard and we always have a wonderful time as a family hitting the slopes. It is a great family sport that we can all do together. Our weekends in the mountains give us quality time together creating fun memories.
Tweens are at the age where they are starting to want to spend more time with their friends and a little less with family activities. This winter we made a bucket list of fun activities both indoors and outdoors to keep the family fun during the winter. Many of these games and activities are also fun to do when they have friends over. This is a great bucket list to keep for an unexpected snow day from school.
Bring purpose, balance and well-being into your lives.
Through playing with our kids we build relationships while learning what excites and motivates them. Play develops the senses of imagination, curiosity and problem-solving. Encourage your kids to be inquisitive and ask questions. They should wonder about the world, how things work and how they are created. Encouraging exploration will help kids find passion and purpose.
Through active listening we allow a child to deal with their feelings. The best way to disengage a child is to lecture them. Remember it’s not about you, it’s about them. When children have a platform for expressing themselves they will develop confidence, autonomy and strengthen the parent/child relationship.
Help your child develop practical life skills. The primary objective of our education system is simply to transfer knowledge. We need more than good memorizers and test-takers but rather kids who can communicate, make connections and are willing to take risks without fear of failure.
Get your family to slow down, put life into perspective and prioritize what’s important. Stressed brains do not learn the same as the relaxed brain. Value and support each other’s uniqueness. People will be most creative when motivated by interest, not external pressures.
Happiness is contagious. Setbacks will occur but how we respond is a model for our children. Remember that problems are temporary and changeable. Positive emotions increase learning, creativity and problem-solving.
I remember the day I found my baby teeth in a box.
If there was no Tooth Fairy, then there was no Easter Bunny, and oh no….NO SANTA!
In one quick moment all the magic of the holidays was over.
I was about 9 years old. From that moment the holidays changed a little especially because I was the youngest child.
Tweens are at a stage when they are trying to become independent and struggle with being big kids while they still really enjoy the joys and traditions of holidays for kids. Now that my boys are tweens, they are begging not to get their picture taken with Santa however, they still love many of our family activities and traditions.
Here are our family traditions and activities to keep the holidays magical and emphasize family time and connections. (more…)
Do you find it hard to get your kiddos to talk about school?
I have 2 boys and I find I have to be very creative with my questions to get them to discuss school. During dinner we rotate between asking questions from these About School Conversation Starters and other fun questions as a way to help them learn to express their thoughts and ideas. We have learned so much about how they feel about school, other students and their teachers by asking questions in a creative way.
Thinking Kids School Question cards are designed to initiate parent/child conversation about school in a fun and relaxing manner. They encourage children to open up and to express their ideas, thought and feelings without perceiving as if they’re being “questioned.” Most importantly, they promote engagement and take the conversation beyond “how was school?” There are over 140 questions related to school included in the packet.
Suggestions for use:
Don’t interrupt, let them expand as much as possible
Respond with “hmmm…” and “I see…” to encourage reflection
Parents answer “I remember when…” or “when I was your age…” — reminds children you were once a kid also
Listen for red flags in your children’s answers that you can discuss in more detail later.
Take turns reading questions to encourage active participation
If appropriate use expansion questions like why? Do you feel? Do you think? How does that compare to?
Great for reflection, expression, reasoning, and self-awareness — all important skills in developing emotional and social intelligence and effective thinking skills. Additionally the time devoted to the activity creates a family ritual that helps develop a deeper connection with your child.
My son just finished reading How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell so we celebrated with gummy worms.
Being a School Counselor, I could not resist the chance to discuss the social and emotional themes.
Making connections with this story was a great chance to discuss social pressures and other timeless themes with my two boys. Kids are always daring each other to try gross or unsafe things and there are bullies in every school and community.
Here are some of the questions we discussed while enjoying gummy worms:
Would you have eaten the worms if dared to?
How much would you eat a worm for?
How would you prepare the worms?
What would you do if another kid dared you to eat something gross?
What would you do if another kid dared to you do something unsafe or that could get you in trouble? What if they offered you money to do it?
What is the grossest thing you have ever eaten?
Have you ever felt pressured to do something by another kid? Have your ever witnessed another kid being pressured to do something by others?
Connecting stories to everyday life situations is a great way to reflect on the messages from the book. Eating gummy worms just added a fun experience to reading which is always a great way to make reading a positive experience for kids.
Other Ways to Celebrate
Other ways to celebrate How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell:
Try some of the fun wacky worm recipes in the back of the book
Teacher Appreciation Kindness Cards make a great gift from students. They are designed to remind teachers they are valued and appreciated. The collection of cards include positive messages, inspiration, gratitude, compliments, and quotes.
• 120 different card designs with the themes of affirmations, compliments and inspirational messages.
• 20 mini-note cards with prompts for students to write their own messages.
All About the Teacher Book From the Students Perspective
How to Make it:
I complied a list of questions to ask students about their teacher and emailed them to all the parents. The parents then interviewed their child and sent me the answers. I compiled the quotes and comments into a scrapbook to present to the teacher during teacher appreciation week. The pages were decorated with the kiddos doodles and drawings. Kid’s perspectives are always fun and creative making the teacher smile and know how special they are to their students.
What is the silliest or funniest thing Mrs. Smith has said this year? Done this year?
What is your favorite memory of Mrs. Smith’s class?
How would you describe Mrs. Smith? or What one word would you use to describe Mrs. Smith?
Why do you think Mrs. Smith became a teacher? or Why do you think Mrs. Smith is a teacher?
What is the kindest thing Mrs. Smith has said or done for you this year?
What is your favorite Mrs. Smith saying? (Ex. does your child repeat or quote Mrs. Smith at home)
What do you think Mrs. Smith does all summer? or on weekends?
What character trait would you use to describe Mrs. Smith?
What makes Mrs. Smith a great teacher?
What is your favorite part of the day in Mrs. Smith’s class?
Where would you send Mrs. Smith on a vacation? or Where do you think Mrs. Smith would like to go on vacation?
What movie or TV character does Mrs.Smith remind you of?
What is your favorite thing Mrs. Smith has taught you this year?
Favorite activity/project/field trip?
What do you think Mrs. Smith was like when she was in kindergarten?
What do you think is the easiest part of Mrs. Smith’s job?
What do you think is the hardest part of Mrs. Smith’s job?
What color reminds you of Mrs. Smith?
What animal reminds you of Mrs. Smith?
Story/Parent comments: a quick fun note or story your child has come home one day and told you or a short thank you.
Page Titles for the book:
Silliest or Funniest Thing Mrs. Smith Did This Year
Who is Mrs. Smith
Favorite Memory of the School Year
Why Did Mrs. Smith become a Teacher
Mrs. Smith always Says
Mrs. Smith’s Summers and Weekends
Mrs. Smith’s a Great Teacher Because
Favorite Part of the School Day
Mrs. Smith’s Vacation Destinations
Mrs. Smith Reminds Me of…
Mrs. Smith’s Colors
Mrs. Smith in “Kindergarten”
Easiest Part of Mrs. Smith’s Job
Hardest Part of Mrs. Smith’s Job
If Mrs. Smith Were an Animal
Words of Appreciation
Handprint Class Garden
We took a large canvas, painted the background and had each student create a handprint flower. This makes a great decoration and keepsake for their classroom.
Teacher Alphabet Poem
I complied this from several examples of teacher alphabets I found online and added some of my own ideas. (Unfortunately, I no longer have the original resources). I added a student’s drawing to the bottom to decorate. To present the poem, each child in the class read a line of the Alphabet poem to the teacher.
A is for being AmazingB is for going Beyond expectations
C is for being Creative and Caring
D is for your Dedication
E is for being Extraordinary
F is for supporting our Future
G is for your Generosity
H is for Helping & Hugs
I is for your Imagination
J is for the Joy you bring
K is for the Kindness you show
L is for always Listening
M is for the Memories you create
N is for Never being too busy to help
O is for Outstanding
P is for always being Positive
Q is for the Quintessential way you teach
R is for Respect
S is for sharing your knowledge
T is for Terrific Teaching
U is for being Unique
V is for the Vitality you bring each day
W is for being truly Wonderful
X is for being eXtraspecial
Y is just for You
But Z is not for Zoo
It’s for the wonderful job you do!
We truly love you!
4) Surprise Garden
One of my favorite class teacher gifts is a surprise garden.
How to Make a surprise garden:
Have each student provide a few bulbs of any type that are good for the current planting season. Take all the bulbs from all the students, mix them up and put them all in a pretty pot. When the teacher plants all the bulbs she/he will have to wait to see what types of flowers will grow in the garden, creating a surprise garden.
Hope these ideas help inspire you to show teachers how special they are in our children’s lives and how much we appreciate the impact they have.
More Kindness Resources
Visit our Kindness Page to learn about reasons and ways to be kind. We have some great activities for students so they can practice Intentional Acts of Kindness!
Getting my two sons to read consistently can be hard at times. They have gone through phases were they find a book series or topic they enjoy reading then fall back into the “I don’t want to read” slump again.
This year Mason, (3rd grade) has book reports with each book being a different genre and unique type of project to present the book report. He loves creating and playing games so he chose to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and create a board game.
We decided to have a candy party to celebrate the completion of his project and hard work. Kids love to celebrate so why celebrate when they finish a book or series.
We had a blast picking out a variety of candy and tasting it all while we played his new game.
Do your kids have a daily reading routine where they read the same time, same place and even similar type of books every day?
Help your kids get out of a “Reading Rut” with reading challenges.
If so, help spark their interest and passion for reading by suggesting challenges of unique places to read and genres. These challenges are fun for both reluctant readers as well as kids who already love to read.
Make your own Reading Challenge sheet by brainstorming fun places a child could read, the types of books and even people they could read to. To save time, you are welcome to purchase our Reading Challenge sheets on Teachers Pay Teachers. It includes 2 different reading challenge sheets.
Our Reading Challenge sheet turns summer reading into a scavenger hunt of reading places and genres. The Reading Challenge sheet makes a great addition to a summer packet for teachers to give to students at the end of the school year.
Follow us on Pinterest for more enrichment and fun summer ideas. Like us on Facebook for information and special offers on educational games and activities from ThinkingIQ.
Be Creative, Be Inspired and most importantly….Have Fun!
Yes, winter can be fun…with an upside down snowman!
To spark creativity sometimes you just need to look at something from a different perspective. My kids have built dozens of snowmen over the last several winters and each one was different, creative and fun but all had the basic style of a storybook snowman. Earlier this season, I saw a picture of an upside down snowman on Pinterest and showed it to the kids. They immediately decided we should build one this winter.
Last weekend in the mountains the kids decided to build an upside down snowman. It was fun to watch how they processed building something that is so standard in shape and structure in a different or reverse way. Building a snowman encourages teamwork and creativity and flipping it upside down also challenges their visualization skills.
It doesn’t matter where your inspiration comes from whether it’s books, music, pictures or just being inquisitive. In this case, a simple picture captured the energy and excitement of my children and their desire to do something different. Building an upside down snowman challenges their normal thinking, teaches kids to ask questions and consider a wider realm of possibilities.
Inspirational stones have the ability to inspire, brighten your day and enact change.
Think Stones combine positive messages with the therapeutic benefits of river rocks.
To make my own I made a list of all the positive sayings and inspirational words that make me smile, purchased some black river rocks, a silver sharpie and created my own Think Stones.
When my children saw them, they could not stop touching, reading and playing with them. That evening at dinner we brainstormed more words and sayings they would like on the rocks.
My children had a blast making their own stones some with sayings special to them and others just with drawings. The brainstorming and creative process allowed them to explore and show their passions, silliness and uniqueness. Providing such outlets is important for mental release while at the same time teaching the importance of having a positive outlook on like.
Ideas for Using Inspirational Stones:
Place your Think Stones in a bowl or on a tray on the coffee table.
Place a Think Stone at each family member’s place setting for breakfast or dinner.
Place them around the yard, garden or in planters.
Place them around the house for family members to find randomly.
Take them to work and share in a meeting room or in a bowl on your desk.
Place a few in a pretty bag and give as a gift.
Place one in your child’s lunchbox or backpack. They make great worry stones.
River rocks can be purchased here at Amazon or at your local craft store.
We hope you are inspired to make Think Stones for your family or classroom.
One day when I walked into the house from the garage I noticed how ugly and boring the grey garage stairs were.
I had recently seen a photo on Pinterest of stairs decorated with written messages. I started thinking of what I could write on each of the stairs to make our family entryway into the house more inspiring. As I began planning a color scheme, a more creative and fun idea popped into my head….Let the kids decorate the stairs.
I shared my idea with the kids and explained they could decorate the stairs with whatever colors, messages or drawings they wanted. They were very excited and immediately started brainstorming how they would decorate them. One of kids suggested since there are 4 stairs that mom and dad should decorate one too. Of course, I did not turn down the opportunity to decorate my own bright pink stair to step on as I entered the house everyday. Off we went to Home Depot to purchase paint for each person’s unique stair. We spent the rest of our Saturday artistically expressing ourselves on the stairs.
It is such a fun and festive feeling to see the creativity, colors and individual personality each time we walk into the house. I can’t help but smile with each step. The boys love their stairs and that they were able to help “decorate” the house. When friends come over I love to listen to them explain why our stairs are so colorful with a sense of confidence and pride in their voices.
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