Teaching gratitude for kids: 11 simple activities to help children learn to appreciate

The primary time a baby appropriately utters “please” or “thanks” is usually a proud second for folks — however instilling heartfelt gratitude in youngsters goes past a easy lesson in being well mannered. It’s about serving to to assign precise that means to these phrases of thanks, in addition to guiding youngsters to acknowledge each the kindness proven to them and the way their actions make others really feel.

In fact, actually greedy the distinction between saying “thanks” and understanding this deep appreciation is one thing that doesn’t occur in a single day, because it takes a sure stage of cognitive improvement, explains Michelle Tangeman, a southern California-based licensed marriage and household therapist, board licensed conduct analyst, founding father of Thriving Toddler and co-host of the Parenting Understood podcast.

“Gratitude can contribute to extra constructive and pro-social interactions in households, colleges, communities and workplaces.”


However that shouldn’t sway grown-ups from modeling gratitude and speaking about thankfulness from very early on. “Gratitude can contribute to extra constructive and pro-social interactions in households, colleges, communities and workplaces,” says Tangeman. “It’s not all rainbows and butterflies on daily basis, nevertheless it’s extra about, ‘Can I see the great on this second proper now?’” Plus, she provides, “Gratitude additionally replicates form acts. So that you’re extra prone to do form acts for different individuals and pay them ahead.” 

Listed below are 11 on a regular basis methods and purposeful actions that consultants and fogeys recommend to assist youngsters perceive, embrace and categorical gratitude.

1. Mannequin gratitude at dwelling

“It’s necessary to point out the individuals round us that we take care of each other — whether or not it’s at dwelling, in a classroom, in a household,” explains Christina Soriano, a Brooklyn, New York educator and mother of a 2 1/2-year-old, who has labored in numerous roles within the NYC public college system, together with as a social emotional wellness instructor. “And it will probably begin at any age.”

Grown-ups can mannequin gratitude persistently through the use of:

  • On a regular basis verbal prompts: This may be as easy, says Soriano, as: “Thanks for placing your socks within the laundry basket. You might be serving to by maintaining issues off the ground so nobody slips.” Or: “Thanks for helping me clean up. It retains our dwelling clear.”
  • Constructive reinforcement: This contains expressing real gratitude by way of a hug and a proof of why you might be grateful for a kid’s conduct, says Tangemen. For instance, to acknowledge a baby’s potential to self-regulate in a second of frustration and anger, she has mentioned, “I noticed that you simply wished to boost your hand to swat at me, however you didn’t, and I’m so grateful that you simply took the time simply to cease and give it some thought. I’m actually happy with you.”
  • Playtime eventualities: Kids be taught by way of play, so Soriano suggests modeling gratitude in fake conditions. For instance, if you’re enjoying “party,” make it possible for every stuffie says thanks for the piece of cake or a present — and talk about the way it feels when somebody thinks of them.

2. Create a kindness jar

Activities for teaching kids gratitude
Picture by way of Drew Kramer

Filling a kindness jar with youngsters’s phrases and actions is a tangible method for grown-ups to precise and mannequin gratitude. “I exploit [one] to spotlight self-motivated moments of kindness,” explains Drew Kramer, a Mamaroneck, New York mom-of-two and creator of Lady & the Floofs, a brand new enterprise that provides mealtime tales and meals play to youngsters. “After they occur, I write a word about no matter [my children] did and place it within the jar.” These acts vary from one in all her sons thanking her for making him noodles to her different son together with his brother when enjoying with mates. “They like me to learn from the jar on occasion,” provides Kramer, who says she is then capable of acknowledge and categorical appreciation for her youngsters’ contributions to the household.

3. Ask significant questions on on a regular basis conditions

Gratitude, Tangeman explains, is “the appreciation individuals really feel when any person has executed one thing form or useful for them, or after they acknowledge the great issues and folks they’ve of their lives.” So swap that basic “inform me about your day” immediate at pickup with ones that open younger youngsters’s eyes to different individuals’s caring words and actions. “It’s extra about asking particular questions,” says Tangeman, “like: ‘Did any person do one thing form for you at this time? How did that make you’re feeling?’” 

“You’re constructing on this considered kindness [and] form behaviors after which constructing on their principle of thoughts,” suggests Tangeman, which she explains as the method of studying that different individuals have “beliefs, needs and tensions, feelings and ideas which are totally different from ourselves.” In different phrases, she says that with the intention to categorical heartfelt gratitude for another person, it’s essential to first perceive one other individual’s perspective.

4. Learn tales that spark classes in gratitude 

Tangeman says books are one in all her favourite methods to show youngsters about gratitude  — and never simply books that comprise the precise phrase however ones that comprise parts of the idea, similar to: “giving thanks, sharing gratitude tales, offering caring intentions, offering acts of kindness, speaking about what mates do and expressing appreciation.” 

Just a few useful books Tangeman suggests embrace:

  • Bear Says Thanks” by Karma Wilson: “This ebook talks about this sense of thankfulness.”
  • Miss Tizzy” by Liba Moore Gray: “This ebook talks particularly about acts of kindness for others.”
  • Splat Says Thank You!” by Rob Scott: “This talks in regards to the virtuous cycles of gratitude.”

Kramer provides these ebook suggestions  to open a dialogue about gratitude:

  • The Thankful Book” by Todd Parr. 
  • Frederick” by Leo Lionni (a few mouse who helps his mates get by way of the winter with comforting phrases).

5. Use artwork as a dialog starter

Breaking out the artwork provides throughout some at-home downtime and asking youngsters to attract somebody from their classroom or one in all their mates who confirmed them friendship or caring, Tangemen suggests, is an actionable approach to open a dialog about what these emotions imply to them. 

“Artwork is a type of expression and youngsters are pure storytellers,” provides Soriano. “Creating can enable a concrete touchpoint to speak about their emotions — on this case, what they’re grateful for.”

“Artwork is a type of expression and youngsters are pure storytellers. Creating can enable a concrete touchpoint to speak about their emotions — on this case, what they’re grateful for.”


6. Craft a grateful tree

Activities for teaching kids gratitude
Picture by way of RhythmsOfPlay/Instagram

This thankful tree activity from Nell at Rhythms of Play helps even younger youngsters determine the individuals, locations, issues and emotions they’re grateful for — and why. Obtain this printable tree template (for only a few bucks) or encourage youngsters to design their very own tree and leaf cutouts with development paper. Create one as a household — to which every individual contributes particular person “leaves” to adorn the branches, or have older youngsters work independently. 

“It’s significant to debate that we are able to be thankful for simply ignored on a regular basis issues — like a favourite music or ebook, water, recent fruit, our favourite climate — issues that aren’t essentially tied to large ticket materials objects,” emphasizes Soriano, who categorizes true gratitude as a spirit or demeanor and never only a single expression.

7. Hold a gratitude journal

New York Metropolis mother Carine Vinett encourages her 8-year-old daughter to precise gratitude and respect on a regular basis moments with every day entries in a journal. “We journal after dinner, and it simply takes a couple of minutes,” explains Vinett, who bought one with particular prompts. “She has to checklist three issues she’s grateful for, identify an individual who introduced her pleasure that day, circle her temper and draw or write about the very best a part of her day.” Added bonus: “It’s been an excellent bonding expertise and approach to join after a busy day.”

8. Write thank-you notes 

Activities for teaching kids gratitude
Picture by way of Howdy, Fantastic

Shira Newman, an Ardsley, New York mom-of-two and licensed psychological well being counselor, has inspired her youngsters to jot down thank-you notes from an early age — even when at first that meant them including a drawing or writing their identify on a thank-you card that she wrote and skim out loud. “By educating our children to precise their thanks for others’ generosity within the type of a thank-you word, they will, over time, change into extra inherently grateful and appreciative of the way in which their lives are every day,” shares Newman.

If younger youngsters need to take the reins on their thank-you playing cards, grown-ups might help them observe these easy directions from Hello, Wonderful. With a stamp and stamp pad, markers and a few thick paper (to soak up the ink), youngsters can superbly categorical gratitude for presents and actions in their very own method. 

9. Train the kindness of giving

With a view to encourage her younger boys to acknowledge what they’ve of their lives, Kramer has them assist pack meals to share with those that have much less — whereas Newman has her youngsters give no matter free change they accumulate all year long to a charity of their selection. 

“By having our children keep a tzedakah field [used in Jewish tradition to collect money for charity] and contributing to it recurrently, our youngsters are reminded of what it means to really feel grateful and the enjoyment that may be discovered by giving and never solely receiving,” explains Newman. “We want our children to be thankful for what they’ve and what they’re given and to have the ability to acknowledge and act when others need assistance to make issues extra equitable and honest.”  

10. Discover magnificence throughout you 

Activities for teaching kids gratitude
Picture by way of WithLoveFromIma/Instagram

Constructing gratitude or a deep appreciation for the world round us, notes Tangeman, usually begins with mindfulness, which may be taught by prompting youngsters to make use of their senses to see, hear, scent and contact their environment whereas, say, occurring a nature stroll. 

This nature gratitude wreath activity from With Love, Ima builds on this concept by asking youngsters to gather fallen leaves, acorns, pine cones and sticks and prepare them into seasonal wreaths. Not solely is that this an exquisite sensory expertise, nevertheless it additionally would possibly immediate a dialogue about giving thanks for what nature supplies. Youngsters might resolve to reward their last wreath, too, and may then take pleasure in how giving makes each them and the recipient really feel.

11. Observe what you preach

Earlier than educating youngsters about gratitude, Tangeman notes that it is crucial for grown-ups to examine in with themselves: 

  • Ask the way you already have interaction with the world and categorical gratitude for your self and others. 
  • Acknowledge your personal emotions when attempting to show gratitude, being cautious to not react in a second of frustration when a baby’s actions or phrases might, as an illustration, be extra entitled than gracious. 
  • Keep away from an emphasis on “please” and “thanks” with out that means behind them, as Tangeman provides, “Specializing in forcing your baby to be grateful by saying thank you’ll be able to probably lower that intrinsic motivation to be grateful.” 

In any case, it’s that intrinsic motivation that’s so necessary as a result of, in line with Tangeman, analysis exhibits that expressing gratitude can enhance college satisfaction, educational efficiency, relationships and social success. Merely put, it makes us and people round us happier individuals — which is one thing we are able to all be thankful for.

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