7 Simple Ways To Teach Kids About Gratitude
Teaching gratitude to young children is a tall order, especially since they’re often self-focused, impulsive and not yet able to grasp abstract concepts. With these simple actions and activities, you can help your child establish an ongoing practice of recognizing and expressing thanks.
My Grandma Ruth, who survived the Holocaust when most of her family didn’t, was grateful for each and every day. “Mamala,” she’d tell us, “Life is a gift.” She truly believed this, and it showed in her ability to savor the moment and point out all the seemingly ordinary things we could easily take for granted, from the warming summer sun to a freshly picked apple. Her attitude and awareness made a lasting impact on me, which I’ve tried to pass down since having kids of my own.
A 2010 study published in Clinical Psychology Review found that grateful adults are not only happier and more hopeful, they tend to sleep better and even live longer. As early as age five, gratitude is linked to happiness, optimism and positive engagement. Instilling gratitude early on, in other words, helps kids grow up to be happier people.
Here are seven simple ways to teach your child about gratitude:
Encourage them to say,”Thank you.”
You might find yourself reminding your child to say these words about a zillion times before they actually do so on their own, but it’ll be worth it. Encouraging verbal appreciation is an important learning tool. Explain in real time the reason for expressing thanks, from a sibling sharing a toy to a grandparent giving them a treat or a friend coming over to play.
Perform acts of kindness
Giving feels as good as – and oftentimes even better than– receiving. Have your child write thank you notes or draw pictures for friends, neighbors or relatives. Encourage your kids to pitch in with family chores and cooking. Teach them to be gentle to animals and attend to the needs of younger siblings. Recognize and praise actions that promote thoughtfulness and kindness.
Create gratitude projects
Transforming the abstract concept of gratitude into something concrete makes this practice tangible. Create a gratitude jar or tree, where kids can write what they’re grateful for and add it to the jar or stick it on the tree. As the jar fills up or the branches begin flourishing, these projects will make quite a visual impact.
Establish mindfulness rituals
Mindfulness and gratitude are intricately linked, as Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield observes, “The cultivation of mindfulness…allows us to become present for our own body, for the person in front of us, for the life we’ve been given. Out of that grows quite naturally the spirit of gratitude.”
Take time each day to practice mindfulness and gratitude with your child. Ask them about three good things about their day while sitting around the dinner table. Before bed, ask your child who or what makes them feel thankful. Keep a gratitude journal nearby to jot these things down and record their ever-evolving, growing and changing perspectives.
Read books about gratitude
Books help kids understand the meaning of gratitude through inspiring characters and stories. From Bear Says Thanks and All the World to Thankful Book and Those Shoes, reading offers a fresh, inspiring perspective. Discover a list of recommended children’s books on gratitude here.
Donate to those in need
When your child outgrows toys or clothes, explain that there are children who could really use them. Have your little one put aside some things that are in good condition. This act of giving will help instill a sense of giving, generosity and the ability to let go of things they no longer need.
Express appreciation and gratitude in ways your child can observe and understand. While going for walks, for example, point out what you appreciate about nature, from fallen leaves and billowy clouds to jewel-toned hummingbirds and shimmering stones. When eating meals together, recognize the tasty, nourishing food you’re able to enjoy. Most of all, let your child know how grateful you are for them every day and always.
Toys that teach gratitude