As with any character trait, I think teaching kids about gratitude begins with us. When we see blessings in the everyday and try to remember what we have (versus what we want), our children will likely imitate us.
Starting conversations about being thankful and building an attitude of gratitude can also happen very naturally throughout the day. You may like to click here to see a short puppet show I recently created to help young kids think about being grateful for what they have (instead of asking for more, more, more!).
Here are some thoughts from several mothers about how to teach gratitude to young children:
“If you are a parent of a toddler, I think a strong foundation for gratitude starts with not having too much stuff. You know how our homes can become overrun with toys? I find myself continually putting more and more in the closet trying to minimize all the stuff. When toddlers have fewer things available to them, it helps nurture gratitude within them. Often times, they are more appreciative and thankful when presented with a gift or special toy, when they are not overwhelmed by too much stuff in everyday life.” – Lauren from Military Wife and Mom
“I still like practicing the long forgotten art of a thank you note. When an email is quicker or a text, that is effective too, but I teach my children to write thank you notes. By that I mean, I write the thank you note and they color and scribble on it. It is easy to feel thankful for something in the moment, but oh how quickly we forget. Writing a thank you note requires discipline because it involves thinking of someone and their efforts after the deed is done.” – Rachel from A Mother Far From Home (you can read more of her thoughts on teaching gratitude in this post!)
“One small thing we do is every night at dinner each person lists something that made them happy that day. My hope is that it’s teaching my daughter that no matter how badly a day goes, there is always something to be grateful for.” – Emma from P is for Preschooler
“I say aloud to my children every day how grateful I am for the blessings of our lives. When they wake up, I say: I am so glad you are awake! When we leave the house I say: Goodbye beautiful home! When we drink water, I say: It is so wonderful to have clean, healthy water to drink. Can you imagine what it would be like to not have water? I notice the beauty in the small things in the world, and this creates an atmosphere of gratitude in our home.” -Erika from Urthmama
“We do basically what Erika does: thanking mommy for a meal, thanking the baby when she gives us something, talking about appreciation for things we have, people around us. Finding nice words to describe things we see and trying to learn positive experience even from unfortunate situations.” Varya from Creative World of Varya
I believe that conversing about character traits while engaging in hands-on activities and exploring themes via storytelling are also powerful ways for children to understand and eventually exhibit the traits. Here are some resources that can help with this:
The Thankful Coat by Karen Harvey Cox
What other thoughts or resources do you have about how to teach gratitude to young children?
To browse more character building activities on my website, click here. You may also enjoy my ebook with 100+ activities in an easy-to-use checklist format, Playing with Purpose: Character Building Made Fun, or my book for families How to Build Character at Home.