We are all very good at teaching them to say please and thank you but I believe that there is more to it. A deeper meaning that we can convey; so this morning I set out in search of activities that you can do with kids to teach them not only to be grateful but the value of being grateful. Kids love hands on stuff, games and activities. Not only do these things help them develop their motor skills, but it a great way for them to learn and helps the concept you are teaching stick. And presented in a variety of ways makes it fun for them and for you.
I already mentioned creating a gratitude journal which works for both adults and children. But what I discovered today is to make it more interesting to the kids you can do a number of things. Let them decorate their journal either the cover or the first inside page. This allows them to be creative and to make it their own. For younger children, get them a binder or duotang to decorate. Then instead of writing what they are grateful for they can draw pictures and put them in their binder.
The Best thing about..
Divide the kids into 2 teams. Pick a team to go first. Read a list of things or people, like Grandma or trees, and each person on the team has to say one good thing about that person or thing within 3 seconds. If everyone is successful then the team gets a point. If they are not then the other team gets a chance to answer about the same person or thing.
For each item kids have 3 seconds to complete the phrase “The thing I love about _____ is ______.” Use things like, dogs, birds, Mom, my brother, where I live, etc. Create your own list. You could have the kids create the list with you beforehand and then play the game.
Thank you Circle
Have all the children sit in a circle. Toss a bean bag to one of the children. They stand and list one of the things they are grateful for, then they toss the bean bag to someone else and they stand up and say what they are grateful for. Do this until everyone in the circle has had a chance to speak.
Have children decorate the jar using buttons, ribbon, glitter, etc. Have little slips of paper prepared and each day have the children write down one thing they are grateful for and put it in the jar. Parents can help with writing for younger children. Set a deadline, such as one month later or a special event like Christmas. On that day have everyone sit down and read together all the things that everyone is grateful for from the jar.
Thank You Notes and Letters
Some may say that thank you notes are passe, but there is something to be said when someone takes the time to send you a card or a letter saying thank you. Encourage your kids to write thank you notes, not just for gifts they have received but for something they are grateful that someone did for them in the last 24 hours. Like “Thanks Mom for making my lunch”. This is important as it teaches children to not just be thankful for material things but for acts of service from others. And it teaches them to be grateful for all the little things in their lives as well, which in turn will create more good things for them.
Children can make their own thank you cards, there are a variety of simple ideas that they can do, either drawing, coloring or with glitter and glue. When writing the card encourage the child to explain how the person made them thankful. Then send the card to the recipient.
Older children may choose to write a letter, which may include a little more detail and description of the event. They can also add pictures or decorate it if they like.
There are many simple crafts that children can do to express gratitude. There is the Leaf Garland, where children write or draw what they are grateful for on a leaf and then hang it up. A similar concept is a thank you sunflower where they use the petals to write on. You can also do a gratitude tree or chain.
These crafts are simple, easy and colorful. With most of them only requiring some construction paper and a marker.
A really great way to teach children about being grateful is through books. Most children love to sit and listen to a story; so it is easy to pick books that incorporate this theme.
One of my favorites is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It is about a tree that gives and gives and gives to a little boy until the tree has nothing left but a stump, but even then has something to give.
Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson
Bear has come up with the perfect way to say thanks—a nice big dinner! When Bear decides to throw a feast, his friends show up one by one with different platters of delicious food to share. The playful text and charming illustrations bring to life this celebration of family and friendship. Children will love discovering the special gift Bear has to share.
I’m Thankful for Each Day by P. K. Hallinan
This story combines a child’s delight in the physical world and his thankfulness to God for the pleasure of each day – for summer days, autumn’s orange pumpkin haze, for the breezes, for peace, and for life itself.
Teaching children to be grateful is easy and fun. Being grateful is a wonderful thing, it lightens your mood and brings many wonders into your life. Regardless of your age, gratitude improves the quality of life by focusing on what you have. Counting your blessings is easy to do each day and is easily shared with children. Teaching them to be grateful at a young age will create a life long perspective of gratitude. If we teach them to be grateful not only will they be happier in their lives but they will help create a beautiful world where we will all experience the peace and happiness we desire.