The last couple months of the year are a wonderful time to focus on showing appreciation, acts of kindness and generosity, and caring for others. But before we jump into it, let’s review why children (and adults!) should learn about and practice being grateful.
Why is Gratitude Important?
Aside from cultivating polite and grateful children, research shows that practicing gratitude can positively affect a person’s health and improve overall well-being. There are mental health benefits, such as increased happiness and mood as well as physical health benefits like better sleep.
Learning to be grateful at a young age can have a big impact on a child’s life!
The Concept of Gratitude
Gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation are abstract concepts. That means that although they are very real, young children may have a difficult time understanding them because they aren’t hands-on or concrete.
So, to help, we’ve put together some simple techniques and ways to teach kids gratitude.
10 Strategies for Instilling Gratitude in Young Children
Teaching gratitude to young children is a wonderful way to instill positive values and promote a sense of appreciation for the world around them. Here are 10 strategies you can use:
1. Model Gratitude
Kids learn by observing the behavior of adults. Demonstrate gratitude in your own life by expressing thanks for everyday things, such as a delicious meal, a sunny day, or someone’s kindness. Soon, practicing gratitude will become second nature for the children!
2. Express Thankfulness
Encourage children to express gratitude regularly. Ask them about the positive aspects of their day or what they appreciate*. This can become a daily or weekly routine during group discussions or with family at the dinner table.
*It’s okay if children choose to be grateful for things that seem silly or trivial. Bubbles and snacks really ARE important to young kids! (And aren’t we all grateful for them, too?)
3. Create a Gratitude Journal or Gratitude Jar
Help children keep a gratitude journal where they can write or draw things they are thankful for. This can be a fun and creative way for them to reflect on positive experiences. Make a connection between home and school by encouraging families to create a family gratitude journal!
Families or classroom communities can also add notes and pictures to a gratitude jar that can provide hands-on reminders of all the good things in their lives. Visit the gratitude jar often and let children discuss what they are grateful for with each other.
4. Use Thank You Notes
Teach kids the importance of saying “thank you” by writing or drawing thank you notes. This can be for gifts, acts of kindness, or anything else that warrants appreciation. It not only teaches gratitude but also reinforces good manners.
5. Volunteer to Help Others
Engaging in volunteer activities can help children understand the concept of giving back and foster a sense of gratitude. Choose age-appropriate activities and talk about the impact of helping others and how it makes them feel.
6. Read Books on Gratitude
Reading books together can be a great way to introduce the concept of gratitude and discuss its importance. Here are some great books about gratitude.
7. Practice Mindfulness
Introduce mindfulness activities that encourage children to be present and appreciate the current moment. This can include simple activities like deep breathing, guided meditation, or mindful walks where they pay attention to their surroundings. The Discovery Source Calming Kit has materials to help practice mindfulness.
8. Celebrate Achievements
Acknowledge and celebrate children’s accomplishments, both big and small. This helps them recognize the value of their efforts and fosters a positive attitude.
9. Limit Materialism
Encourage children to focus on experiences and relationships rather than material possessions. Discuss the importance of people and memories over things. Talk about how you can donate items you no longer use to someone else who might want or need them.
10. Be Patient and Consistent
Developing a sense of gratitude takes time. Be patient and consistent in your efforts to reinforce gratitude. Over time, it will become a natural part of the children’s mindset.
Keep an Attitude of Gratitude
Remember that the key is to make gratitude a part of your classroom or community culture. By consistently practicing and reinforcing these ideas, you can help instill a sense of gratitude in children from a young age.