The first spontaneous “thank you,” that sweetly pours out of a child’s mouth is an occasion many parents remember with a sense of pride and even accomplishment. It makes us feel like we are doing something right. Although gratitude looks unique in every family, most agree that it is a critical virtue to instill in their kids. Even so, how to teach gratitude can be a mystery.
Gratitude can be learned. Since the young brain is rapidly developing, it serves as a prime environment for the introduction of positive skills. Although teaching the concept of gratitude to young kids requires flexibility and creativity, it’s absolutely possible.
10 Ways to Actively Practice Gratitude In Your Family
These are some practices many families have found useful and even fun for their kids and can provide a starting point for intentionally adding gratitude practices into a family’s routine.
Have a Family Gratitude Jar
To make a gratitude jar, put a container in a central location of your house. Daily, weekly, or at random intervals throughout the week, encourage each person in the family to write something they are grateful for on a piece of paper and add it to the jar (or have younger kids dictate). One of the added benefits of the gratitude jar is that the paper can be pulled out and reread at any time. Dating the paper and writing the child’s name on it can make for a fun keepsake to reference later.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
A gratitude journal can be done as a personal or family activity. Have the child pick a notebook dedicated to writing down things they are grateful for and let them decorate it. Regularly help the child write down what they are thankful for in the notebook and keep it someplace special. If the child can’t read or write, it’s fun to read their journal back to them from time to time. These journals can be a really special keepsake for later.
Donate Old Toys and Clothes
When a child has outgrown their clothes or no longer uses a toy, encouraging them to donate them can be a great way to practice gratitude. Involve the child as much as possible in the process by researching together and even taking them along to donate.
Through writing thank you notes, children not only practice showing gratitude, they practice thinking about why they are thankful for something or someone. If a child is too young to write their own note, they can draw a picture or dictate words.
Do a Gratitude Scavenger Hunt
This activity can be played outside or inside. The child walks around the room or yard and finds items on a scavenger hunt list. Once everything has been found, reveal that everything was already there, they didn’t need anything, and all they had to do was stop and notice it. The hunt reinforces being thankful for what they have.
Do a Gratitude Meditation
Doing a gratitude meditation individually or as a family can be incredibly powerful in cultivating gratitude at any age. Meditations can be as simple as thinking of a specific person or thing and why you are thankful for them or more formal, by listening to a guided meditation.
Although many people attribute saying grace with religious practices, it doesn’t have to have to be. Saying grace can be as simple as going around the dinner table and saying something that each person is thankful about that happened that day. Starting a conversation about gratitude at regular intervals can be a very impactful practice.
Create Gratitude Art
Gratitude art is merely expressing gratitude for something or someone through art. There are limitless possibilities, but the main idea is to show something they’re thankful for or make something for someone they’re thankful for.
Read Books About Gratitude
There are hundreds of books that creatively introduce the idea of gratitude to young kids. Reading these books to your kids is a great way to teach the concept of and show examples of how to practice being grateful. Remember that children get vastly different things out of a book at twelve months than they do at three years. Keep rereading as your child grows.
Set an Example Of Gratitude
Kids watch everything their parents say and do. Deliberately practicing gratitude for and in front of your kids can leave a lasting impact. Thanking kids for all they do in creative ways, like making them thank you cards can be very moving.
It’s hard to start new habits, and many people don’t know where to start. These ideas could be the first step to bringing a new habit of gratitude into the family and setting everyone on a course of increased happiness and positivity.