Teaching children gratitude isn’t just about using scripts for saying “please” and “thank you.” One of the best ways to teach children gratitude is by assisting them to connect with the emotions of being thankful. According to the NAEYC, a way to raise grateful children is by “helping them make their own meaning.” This can be explained through actions. Thankfulness is more than simply a script, it’s an emotion and a feeling that you can “show.” As always, one of the best ways of teaching young children this skill is to model it.
Teaching young children the importance of gratitude does more than assist them to be respectful and mannerly citizens of society. It influences their social emotional development in a multitude of ways to include: compassion for others, positive mindset, and increased self-esteem. Below are a few creative ways to incorporate the teaching of gratitude.
5 Creative Ways to Teach Children About Gratitude
Sphere of Thanks
Grab a pumpkin, a large grapefruit, or a beach ball and a sharpie. Then, talk with your child about what they are thankful for and start writing a word or two on the top of the sphere item each day until it fills up. Be sure to write the words in a circle and they will spiral around the sphere, so more words can fit. This activity can begin in the month of November, the week before Thanksgiving, or anytime throughout the year (hence using something other than a pumpkin).
Children love music so there’s no better way to learn about it than to sing about it. A few big hits with kids are: Please and Thank You by Coco Melon which also teaches sign language, I’m Thankful Song by Coco Melon which gives examples of things to be thankful for, and Thankful by The Juicebox Jukebox, which gives ways to be grateful on the tough days.
Random Acts of Gratitude
Pick one person a week and randomly show them how much you are thankful for them. This is an activity that can involve the entire family. What a great way to learn about gratitude together. In addition, it will surely brighten the day of the person on the receiving end of the random act of kindness. Here are some great tips on showing kindness.
Grab a large plastic jar, colorful strips of paper, and pens. At the end of every day or weekly, write down something you are thankful for that day or week and place it in the jar. This can be a yearlong activity or a month-long activity. At the end of the month or the end of the year, open all the pieces of paper and read all the great things your family is thankful for during that month or year.
Thank You Expressed in More Ways Than One
Learn how to say “thank you” in other languages. The world is full of diverse cultures and teaching children how to say “thank you” in other languages not only teaches gratitude but also appreciation for other cultures and languages other than their own. To read how to pronounce and say thank you in other languages, click here.
Gratitude is more than thankfulness and simply saying “thank you.” It should evoke a positive emotion on the inside and inspire acts of kindness, a grateful heart, and impact self-esteem. These are just a few of many reasons why teaching gratitude to children is so important. It can positively affect their social emotional development for a lifetime.
Wendi Iacobello is a graduate of Appalachian State University with a Master of Arts in Educational Media. She also has a BS degree in Early Childhood Education. Her professional career in education spans across nine years in the public education sector to include; middle and high school special education, adult education for incarcerated men, women, & youth, compensatory education, High School Equivalency instruction formerly known as GED, and community college instruction in Early Childhood Education curriculum courses. Wendi is an Army Spouse and first time mom to an adorable infant boy. Her hobbies include; volunteering in the local community, gardening, teaching aqua cycling and stroller fit classes on the military installation, and encouraging the military community through her blog Strength 4 Spouses.