Cultivating Gratitude in Kids

Why Do We Need Gratitude Activities for Kids?

As a child, and even as an adult, I did not and do not want for much. I am lucky to have the means and the support to do, be, and get what I want (for the most part). My daughter is at an age where I am noticing how her childhood is much the same, and how it’s impacting her. While we do try to get her to work for rewards instead of just handing them over, we view a lot of things as no big deal, like grabbing her a new toy every time we do a big household shopping excursion, or stocking the cupboards with her favourite snacks and lunch items.

This past summer my husband and I realized that she was expecting all of these things, instead of understanding what a privilege they are. I’m not convinced we’ve managed to turn it around quite yet, and really, I think we can take responsibility for it, because it’s up to us to juggle entitlement and gratitude and all of those big, world-shaping concepts for our kids.

As Thanksgiving nears, I’ve been thinking about how to introduce gratitude activities for kids. It seems like the perfect starting point, and ideally, we can go from here and continue to cultivate gratitude as a family, more frequently. Grownups can look around and understand what they have versus what others do not, but I think it’s harder for kids, especially to do in an age appropriate way. I would also like to beyond a surface-skimming “Thank you.”

Here are some gratitude activities for kids, and all-around practices, that I’m considering!

Gratitude Activities for Kids

Easy Gratitude Activities for Kids

Learn Gratitude Together

Modelling gratitude is key. How can I expect my child to be grateful, if I am not showing her gratitude, myself? This comes in many forms, of course, but I plan to focus on expressing gratitude for my family and my own privileges, vocally and intentionally. By going deeper than thank you and into I am grateful for you/this/today because… she can see how my own life, and our family lives, are impacted by the world around us.

Make Gratitude an Every Day Occurrence

On a similar note, a lot of families incorporate a gratitude tradition daily, such as asking every family member to say what they are grateful for that day around the dinner table. This is sort of a whole-family version of a gratitude journal. I’m not sure that M is old enough yet — she isn’t keen on answering questions about her day! — but it could be beneficial as a modelling activity.

For kids who are old enough for a gratitude journal, there are some lovely and inspiring prompts available at Bounceback Parenting. In the world of pre-made gratitude journals, publishers are starting to pay attention to kids, too!

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Give Back, Together

This is part of modelling, but also helps kids take ownership of their gratitude and privilege. Whether it’s making a batch of soup every weekend to donate to the soup kitchen (something I may start doing with M), collecting unused household goods or food for those in need, volunteering time, or donating toys and clothes to others, giving back is important. So far M has helped us select food for the food bank, and has donated some of her own toys.

Fun Gratitude Activities

To kick start a focus on gratitude, or to pay the idea special attention, try some fun, more specific gratitude activities for kids! Fireflies and Mudpies has instructions for making and using gratitude stones with children. I’ve admired the rock painting/hiding trend going on around various communities! Teach Kids Art has more information on painting gratefulness rocks. On a similar crafty note, I Heart Naptime has a printable gratitude tree that is especially perfect for Thanksgiving.

Activity - Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

M is particularly into scavenger hunts right now, so the idea of a gratitude scavenger hunt seems like a good way to really introduce the idea in away that might stick! Click to download oyur own PDF copy of the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt.

I’m always happy to be directed to more resources, so if you have any other excellent gratitude activities for kids please share!

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