As the holidays approach, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of buying gifts, attending parties, and visiting family all over, making it easy to forget what’s really important. The holidays are a great time to focus on what you’re grateful for and to introduce the idea of gratitude to your children.
For adults, gratitude can be a somewhat complex emotion, as well as a practice. For kids, however, introducing the concept of gratitude doesn’t need to be complicated. When introducing the idea of gratitude with your child, consider their level of comprehension and explain what gratitude means and why it matters. Gratitude, for kids, can simply mean appreciating the things and people in our lives so they can be happier.
A child’s gratitude can mean being thankful for their favorite toy or being thankful for their siblings. It can also be more complex, like being thankful for a warm house or nice parents. Before asking your child what he or she is grateful for, it may help to gauge their level of comprehension and ask questions based on what is easiest for them to understand. Pose questions like:
- Who do you want to say “Thank you” to?
- What toy makes you happiest?
- What’s your favorite part about your home/room/ school?
You can also give your child examples of what you’re grateful for, catering your responses based on your child’s age. This exercise is a great way to introduce the concept and set an example that your child can follow.
Once you’ve got the basic introduction to gratitude down, you can really help your children embrace the idea by using a few fun “gratitude activities.”
Activities to help teach gratitude
To help you teach your children about gratitude, try to:
- Write “Thank you” cards after a birthday or holiday gift exchange. Gratitude is about more than “thank you” but it’s a great start. Writing thank you cards gives children time to reflect on what they were gifted and how much they enjoyed the day and the gifts.
- Volunteer at a shelter where they can play with children their age. Refugee and family shelters often accept volunteers with children to provide age-appropriate engagement for children staying there. Not only is this fun for both parties, but it will show your children different cultures and lifestyles, which can give them more empathy and gratitude as they grow up.
- Create a gratitude habit. Whether it’s on the drive to school, sitting at the dinner table, or before bed each night, find a time where you can ask your child what they’re most grateful for each day. Share what you’re most grateful for, as well. This practice makes gratitude a part of each day and helps kids flex their “gratitude muscle.”
- Donate old toys and clothes. Many children have a hard time letting go of toys and clothes, even if they don’t use them anymore. Make this easier by explaining where the toys and clothes go and let them choose which items to give away. Donating will get easier the more a child is encouraged to give to others.
- Engage in random acts of kindness. Your child likely already engages in these acts, whether it’s holding the door open for you or by returning a dropped toy to a friend. Make sure to share how these nice moments make other people thankful, and how that can make both your child and the people they help happier. Also mention how grateful you are for your child’s kind acts to reinforce their positive behavior.
These five gratitude activities are a great way to introduce and strengthen the concept of gratitude to children of any age. At Stratford School, we believe in the values of connection, care, and openness. Learn more about our programs and the values of our school by scheduling a tour of your local school today!