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Inside: What exactly is gratitude? Why is it so important for our kids? And how can we teach our kids to cultivate an attitude of gratitude? Plus, the best gratitude activities for kids from here and around the web. We’ve also got a gratitude journal for kids, gratitude videos and quizzes, and even some of the best gratitude book recommendations. Phew, there’s a lot of goodness to follow.
It’s a different world we live in. Young kids are carrying phones that cost more than my first car!
Trying to instill gratitude values in our children in this era of instant gratification and overindulgence can be like trying to run a full marathon against 100 m.p.h winds.
But here’s the thing:
Teaching kids gratitude is SO important. In fact, studies reveal that expressing thanks is one of the easiest ways to increase the dial on our happiness meter.
Teaching children an attitude of gratitude, in a nutshell, is helping them look at different situations from a positive point of view instead of a negative one.
The bottom line:
Gratitude is believed to be one of the healthiest emotions that humans can practice.
But here’s the tough part:
How do we, as parents or educators, teach children such abstract skills?
Well, I’m going to give you seven sound ways to teach gratitude to kids and also provide 17 fun and easy gratitude activities for kids.
Let’s get to all the thanks, shall we?
Before we get started, you might love our special Fall Edition Everyday Gratitude & Kindness Kit for Kids. Take a sneak peek below:
What is Gratitude
“The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
Gratitude is when we express appreciation and thanks for the good things in our lives. We can be thankful for the things we receive, the people who surround us, and the fun things we get to experience and do.
Gratitude goes much deeper than just saying please and thank you; it’s a mindset, one that you can develop and cultivate.
Why is Gratitude Good For Kids?
Before we get to the ways to teach gratitude to kids and the fun gratitude activities for kids, let’s talk a little about the benefits of gratitude.
There are so many proven benefits of gratitude, likely too many list, but here are some of the big, interesting ones.
In a nutshell:
Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present; it dispels negative emotions, builds more resilience, and cultivates a higher sense of self-worth.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by age 5. This means that instilling gratitude in your kids at a young age could help them grow up to be happier people.Very Well Mind
More psychological studies have shown that grateful children tend to be happier, more engaged with hobbies and schoolwork, have better relationships, and report greater satisfaction in general. Studies also show that kids are less jealous, depressed, and materialistic than ungrateful kids.
- Gratitude doesn’t just feel good, but it’s also good for us. Brain research shows that positive emotions are good for our bodies, minds, and brains. In other words: Feeling good has a gigantic impact on our well-being and life.
- One positive emotion leads to another. When we express gratitude we feel good, we feel happy, and this makes us happier. Gratitude is proven to shift your attention away from negative emotions and reduces envy and jealousy.
- Positive emotions balance out negative emotions. Gratitude is like taking a U-turn on complaining and negative thinking. This type of positive thinking decreases stress and anxiety.
- Positive emotions open up a world of possibilities. Positive emotions boost our ability to learn and make good decisions.
- Gratitude improves relationships; when you say thank you and appreciate other people and what they do for you, it will help strengthen your relationship with them. It creates loving bonds and trust and helps you feel closer and more connected to others. And the list doesn’t stop at just your family. You can feel connected and more satisfied with your friends, school, community, and even yourself.
- Gratitude even leads to positive actions. When we feel grateful for someone’s kindness towards us, we are more likely to do a kindness in return. And thanking people will make it more likely they’ll do a kindness again.
How to Teach Gratitude to Kids
The Raising Grateful Children Project at UNC-Chapel Hill has revealed that gratitude has four parts:
- Noticing – Start by becoming aware of a person, place, or thing you want to appreciate. Did someone do something nice for you? Did someone give you something or take you somewhere fun?
- Thinking – Start thinking about why you’ve been given these things. What are all the reasons why you are thankful for this person or thing? Why do you think they did something nice for you? Did you do anything to deserve their kindness? Does this mean something to you? Is it fun? Exciting? Why do you love it?
- Feeling – The emotions you experience as a result of the things you’ve been given. When you think about these special things or people how do you feel? Happy, silly, excited, calm, peaceful, or proud?
- Doing – The way you express appreciation. What can you do to express your gratitude for this person, place, or thing? Think action.
We need to go beyond the “customary” please and thank you. Dig deeper, start having conversations about why your kids think someone did something nice for them and how it made them feel.
Teaching Gratitude to Kids
1. Manners, Manners, Manners
Manners are really the first place we should start. Once we have nailed please and thank-you’s down, we can move on to some deeper items.
Manners show that we don’t feel we are just entitled to things, just because.
Encourage saying please and thank you every day.
Offer gentle reminders where needed.
It might feel like you are forcing this, but it’s really the first step. Don’t be shy to discuss why you are nagging at them to say thank you over and over.
And remember, kids want our approval, so noticing when they do nice things can go a long way. “I really liked the way you said thank you earlier.”
Positive attention always wins out.
2. Make Kindness Automatic
Kindness is free. So spread that super magic dust everywhere!
There are so many ways to be kind:
…you can simply give compliments, share things, help someone in need, pick up garbage, visit a friend, volunteer, donate something…
…and kindness is something that you CAN teach…
One of my favorite things to do with my young son is to make kindness rocks. We leave them on neighbors’ doorsteps and hide them around parks. Grab our totally free Kindness Rocks activity printables below.
Where should we send your free kindness rocks activity bundle?
You’ll love these FREE Kindness Rocks printables. Our printables are designed to teach kids a growth mindset, mindfulness, confidence, and much more. Click below to make sure you’re on the list! Once signed up, you will also gain access to our entire library of free printables!
Or snag this gorgeous 30-day Kindness Calendar in our Fall Edition Gratitude Kit here.
3. Find the WOW in your day
Teach your kids to look for the extraordinary even in the ordinary.
If the sunset is particularly beautiful, comment on it. If the sound of the baby’s laughter warms your heart, tell your children.
Encourage them to look for their awe-inspiring moments and share them with you.
Our very own recently published journal for kids has an entire chapter on gratitude. This journal is perfect for the home, classroom, or therapy office. (It also includes nine other growth mindset missions)
Teach kids to tackle anything that can (and will) come up in life.
If we start to see the world with fresh eyes, we realize almost everything is different all the time — the schoolyard, the smell in the air, the smiles of our friends, even the emotions we experience.
Noticing infuses each moment with a new, fresh quality. In mindfulness, this is known as “beginner’s mind”
3. Make Expressing Gratitude A Ritual
You can’t expect gratitude to just appear; the grass won’t grow green if you don’t water it.
You must practice:
Here are a few gratitude activities for kids that will help make gratitude a daily ritual:
- Take turns at dinner sharing one awesome thing from your day
- At bedtime, say three things you appreciate about each other
- In the car, play a game where you say all the things you love (color, food, movie, hobby, school class, sport, song, etc)
- Every Sunday, share one nice thing you will do for someone this week
- Do one gratitude exercise each week from our Gratitude Bundle for Kids
4. Always Look on the Bright Side
This is a little cognitive therapy to begin to instill into your kids.
It’s about shifting our mindset from positive to negative. We need to start to see the positive in things —even if things don’t turn out the way we want.
For example: If it’s raining at your child’s outdoor birthday party, you could point out that while it’s disappointing, instead you will have an epic games day inside.
Ask questions that help your child see another side of a bad situation.
Play a game where you always rephrase a complaint to something positive.
Like “I hate broccoli,” into, “well, even though I don’t really care for broccoli, it’s helping keep me healthy and grow strong.”
By teaching this mindset, we set in motion a domino effect for your child’s brain to start to fire this way automatically. It doesn’t happen overnight, but in time, change happens.
5. Work Through Envy
Jealousy and envy are two of the dreaded states of mind that can cause a lot of hardship.
Teach your children to work through feelings of jealousy. To appreciate what they have and to STOP comparing themselves to others.
Explain to them that others are more fortunate and some are less fortunate and that we all have a unique set of circumstances.
6. Model Gratitude
Of course, we couldn’t move on to the gratitude activities for kids below without mentioning that you MUST model gratitude yourself.
Your child will organically learn things from you. If you don’t practice gratitude, they won’t either. Monkey see monkey do. Be the change you wish to see.
Gratitude Activities for Kids to Practice Gratitude
Appreciating yourself for your strengths AND your imperfections (because we all have them) allows you to feel safe, confident, and more connected to life.
Gratitude doesn’t just happen! It’s like learning your mathematical tables; you must practice.
You wouldn’t expect a flower to grow without water, and you can’t expect to change your mindset without any practice, either.
That’s why we need gratitude activities for kids, to encourage our children to practice (in a fun way).
1. Mindfulmazing’s Gratitude Printables (Gratitude Activities for Kids)
This set of 70+ worksheets includes a gratitude journal (because journaling is in my opinion, the number one way to start practicing gratitude) and loads of other gratitude activities and inspiration.
Studies show that kids who practice gratitude, actually grow up to be happier adults.
It’s such a rewarding habit for the entire family.
This 70-page kit (perfect for families and classrooms) includes:
- Gratitude is Great…Here’s Why…
- My Happy Place
- 10 Ways to Practice Gratitude
- Gratitude Journal
- Find the Good
- Things I’m Loving
- Weekly Gratitude Check-In
- One Line a Day
- Gratitude Jar
- Kindness Jar
- Thankfulness Wordsearch
- Scavenger Hunt – Home Edition
- Scavenger Hunt – Classroom Edition
- All the Things I Love
- 10 Ways to Use Manners Poster
- I’m Grateful For Me
- Gratitude Tree
- Flower Craft
- Mini Thank-You Cards
- Mini Notes
- Thank-You Letters
- Turkey Craft
- Apple Craft
- 8x Gratitude Quote Posters
2. Create a Thankful Window
Invest in some window paint and have your kids write what they are thankful for on a window in your house.
You can wash off the writing when you’re done or have a thankful week where you add to it every day for a week.
3. Write Thank You Notes
Thank-you notes are included in our gratitude worksheets, but I wanted to write a separate note on these because I think this is another one of the BEST ways to start teaching your children to be grateful.
And bonus, it helps them write, a skill that seems to be losing steam these days.
Think about someone you would like to thank, a coach, teacher, friend, and then write a letter. If your child is too young to write, help them.
Ask your child to picture how happy this person will be reading this special letter.
4. Read Books About Gratitude
Reading books about gratitude with your children is a great way to start a discussion. Talk about how the characters feel and what it means to be thankful.
1. When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” In this imaginative take on that popular saying, a child is surprised (and disappointed) to receive a lemon tree from Grandma for her birthday. After all, she DID ask for a new gadget! But when she follows the narrator’s careful—and funny—instructions, she discovers that the tree might be exactly what she wanted after all. Snag it here.
2. My Attitude of Gratitude
In My Attitude of Gratitude, you can learn what you can do if your child gets sad and upset because you won’t buy him a new toy? How can you teach him to be thankful for what he already has? In this story, Grandma teaches her grandson how to cope with unfulfilled desires by making a gratitude jar into which to put reminders each night of everything good that has happened during the day.
3. The 3 Minute Gratitude Journal for Kids
The 3 Minute Gratitude Journal for Kids is a guide to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for children. It is a self-exploration journal designed to focus on being thankful for what we have, the big things in life, as well as the simple joys. Grab a copy for a friend and share the journey together!
5. Gratitude Jar
The gratitude jar is a stunningly simple exercise that can have profound effects on your well-being and outlook.
It doesn’t take much, only a jar, ribbon or stickers, cut-up pieces of paper, and a pen or pencil. Oh ya, and the most important ingredient, gratitude!
Step 1: Find a jar or box.
Step 2: Decorate the jar however you wish. You can tie a ribbon around the jar’s neck, put stickers on the sides, use clear glue and glitter to make it sparkle, paint it, keep it simple, or do whatever else you can think of to make it a pleasing sight.
Step 3: This is the most important step, which will be repeated every day. Think of at least three things throughout your day that you are grateful for. It can be something like a favorite toy, or as deep as a hug from your parent. Write down what you are grateful for on little slips of paper and fill the jar.
Over time, you will find that you have a jar full of reasons to be thankful for what you have and enjoy the life you are living. It also will cultivate a practice of expressing thanks.
When your kids are feeling especially down and need a quick pick-me-up, take a few notes out of the jar to remind them of who, and what is good in their life.
12 Great Gratitude Exercises from Around the Web
- Gratitude Conversation Starters | Creative Family Fun – Prompts are always helpful when trying to cultivate an attitude of gratitude
- Gratitude Placemats | Mama’s Happy Hive – Spruce up dinner time!
- Gratitude Tree – By Mindfulmazing | A great activity for Thanksgiving or any time of the year.
- Gratitude tree | from the Kids’ Activities Blog. I’m in love with this tree! Cut out leaves, have the kids write what they’re thankful for on them, and hang them on a branch.
- Gratitude Garden activity | from All Done Monkey. Get your kiddos active. If you have an energetic kid, this is a great activity.
- Gratitude sensory bin | from Learning Through Playing. For a sensory approach to gratitude.
- Gratitude Time Capsule | by For Parents – I’m in love with anything time capsules, and this one is no exception.
- Gratitude Scavenger Hunt | Simple Acres
- The Gratitude Game | Teach Beside Me
- Gratitude Stones | Fireflies + Mud Pies
- Gratitude Chains | Fun Family Crafts
- Gratitude Yoga | Kids Yoga Stories
2 Gratitude Quizzes and Questionnaires
Are you curious how grateful you are? These quizzes and questionnaires will help you find the answer.
- Greater Good at Berkeley Quiz – This 20-item quiz is based on a scale developed by psychologists, Mitchel Adler, and Nancy Fagley. This fun quiz will give you a gratitude score and some sound advice on a better way to practice.
- This is the GQ-6 , a brief questionnaire that may take as little as about 30 seconds to complete. It was devised by Michael E. McCullough, Ph.D., Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., Jo-Ann Tsang, Ph.D. The GQ-6 gives an impression of how grateful a person is already.
Gratitude is a skill. An attitude of gratitude is a positive way of looking at life. Gratitude can increase our children’s happiness, teach them to be more empathetic, and help them to be more thankful for everything they have.
Return to this page whenever you need a reminder about why gratitude is important to practice, or suggestions on how to boost you and your kid’s attitude of gratitude.
Don’t forget to grab your gratitude printables here!
Do you have a regular gratitude practice? Can you recommend any gratitude activities for kids? Please let us know in the comments section below.
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What an amazing piece of information for moms like me!.
‘Gratitude’ is one of the most beautiful habit that should be inculcated since the childhood.
Much needed in 2020 and covid times. Terrific ideas to engage kids for sure. Thanks for sharing.