Giving thanks will never go out of style, but it is something that parents must be intentional about teaching their kids. Grateful kids are not entitled or selfish; instead, grateful kids are loving and kind. At the end of the day, these are the attributes parents most want their kids to possess.
So, naturally, when Thanksgiving rolls around, parents jump on the opportunity to teach their children to express thankfulness. But, here’s the good news – practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be saved for Thanksgiving! It can be a part of your child’s weekly, or even daily, routine.
Here are 11 activities that will help your child remember what they are thankful for on Thanksgiving and beyond.
Kids learn from what they see, so parents must make an effort to express thankfulness in front of their children on a regular basis. A simple way to do so is to make gratitude a part of your family’s daily routine. For example, many families take time to name something they are thankful for as they eat dinner together. Other families make expressing gratitude a part of their bedtime routine. The more often kids hear adults express gratitude, the more likely they will practice gratitude themselves.
A lovely visual way to express gratitude is to create a thankful tree. A thankful tree is simply a collection of branches placed together in a vase. Then, paper leaves are cut with strings attached. As kids think of things they are thankful for, they write them down on the paper leaves and string them on the tree. Watch as the tree blooms with gratitude as the seasons change.
Either independently or as a family, have children write in a gratitude journal. All parents must do is direct them to list the things they are grateful for that happened that day or week. Not only will it get kids into the habit of expressing gratitude, but it will also be a great way to reflect on the many blessings of life as the journal fills.
Likewise, place a jar in a central location in your home with scraps of paper and writing pencils beside it. Tell family members to jot down things they are grateful for throughout the year. At the end of the year, read through your gratitude collection together as a family.
Books are helpful for teaching little one’s lessons, such as the importance of expressing gratitude. For example, the children’s book Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson does a wonderful job of illustrating this concept for children.
Often, children do not even realize all they have to be thankful for. Like adults, they take for granted the food they have in their bellies, the roof they have over their heads, and the clothes they have on their bodies. Look for opportunities to give and serve those in need in your community as a family. Donating items or your time is a wonderful way to teach children compassion and gratitude.
As a society, we have gotten away from the practice of writing thank you notes, but it truly is an excellent way to teach your children to practice gratitude. Encourage your children not only to write thank you notes for gifts they receive but also to write thank you notes to those who have done something nice or made them feel special.
Along those lines, make it a tradition for your family to find ways to express thanks to community workers. Each month choose a different group to thank. For example, in December, take cookies to your local fire station. In January, take homemade fudge to first responders. In February, leave a thank you gift for your mailman. Encourage your kids to think of people who should be thanked and ways your family can do so.
If you have trouble getting your kids to say something they are thankful for, try new ways to engage them in these types of conversations. For instance, try using the rose and thorn conversation starter. Ask kids to think about the thorns in their days (the worst part of their days) as well as the roses (the best parts of their days). From this conversation, point out they should be thankful for the roses.
By affirming and thanking your kids regularly, they are more likely to extend gratitude to others when they are outside of your presence. Encourage your kids to thank classmates when they do something kind and to look for opportunities to praise their classmates for good deeds.
With Pint Sized Productions, you can create a custom board book of your own that expresses thankfulness. For instance, design a board book where each page gives thanks for a different family member. As kids read the book repeatedly, they will remember who they are thankful for and how to express gratitude.
We hope these ideas inspire and help you teach your family the importance of giving thanks; even when it’s not the Holiday season. Our new My Thankful Board Book is perfect for these gratitude lessons with your little ones. And be sure to hop over to our Pint Sized Board Book Library or create a custom board book of your own!