10 Ideas for Teaching Kids Gratitude

“Please” and “thank you” are often among the first phrases we teach our children. However, as we get older, we realize that being grateful is more than just saying “thank you.” It’s never too early to start teaching kids gratitude, and this is a great time of year to do it! For some of us, being grateful might not come naturally. That’s why it’s so helpful for caregivers to teach their kids how to practice gratitude. For kids, the key is learning how to express thanks beyond the act of simply saying it. 1. Ground yourself in nature Take your child on a nature walk, whether it’s in your backyard, a local park, or a nature reserve. As you explore, encourage them to find things in nature that they’re grateful for—like a colorful flower, a buzzing bee, or a beautiful sunset. Discuss why these natural wonders make them feel thankful for the world around them. 2. Explore gratitude with art collage Set up an art station with magazines, scissors, glue, and a big sheet of paper. Ask your child to flip through the magazines and cut out pictures and words representing things they are thankful for. Then, help them create a gratitude collage that they can proudly display in their room, serving as a visual reminder of all the good things in their life! 3. Secret acts of kindness Teach your child the joy of giving by encouraging them to perform secret acts of kindness. Together, brainstorm simple acts like leaving a kind note under someone’s pillow or writing kind words on rocks and leaving them in public places. By doing these thoughtful deeds anonymously, your child will learn the value of spreading gratitude without expecting anything in return. 4. Scavenger hunt with a twist Instead of finding objects, make a list of things your child can find in their day that they’re thankful for. It could be a warm hug, a tasty snack, or a cozy blanket. As they find these moments of gratitude, have them check them off the list and tell you why each one is special. 5. Thankful storytime Incorporate gratitude into your child’s bedtime routine by reading books that emphasize thankfulness. Choose stories that revolve around characters showing appreciation for what they have, their friends, or the world around them. After the story, discuss the lessons learned and ask your child to share something they’re grateful for that day. 6. Set a good example Children look up to their adults to see what’s acceptable and what’s not. Empathy, kindness, and gratefulness are best taught to your child by practicing them yourself. Make a habit of giving thanks or calling loved ones to tell them you appreciate them. Did your child finish their chores with no complaints? Give praise and tell them how much it means to you. They’ll normalize this behavior and learn mimic it naturally. 7. Bedtime reflections Practicing gratitude at the end of each day is a great way to get your little one to appreciate the little things in life. Was it sunny and beautiful today? Was tonight’s dinner extra delicious? Were the evening cartoons really funny? Tell your child about all the things you appreciate. Then, ask your child about the most wonderful moments in their day and rejoice in how lucky you are to have experienced them! 8. Encourage your child to help others Lending a helping hand is another great way for kids to develop a sense of gratitude. Volunteer with your child at a local children’s hospital, collect canned food to donate to a shelter, or bake holiday cookies for the neighbors. 9. Write thank you cards together Everyone loves a sweet thank you note! Ask your child to think of people who they can give gratitude to. A teacher. A friend. Local firefights. Together you can write a thank you card and deliver it to that person. 10.️ Keep a gratitude journal or jar It can be easy to lose track of the things we’re grateful for in the chaos of life. That’s why it’s beneficial to write things down to reflect upon them later. Have a jar on display and anytime your child thinks of something they’re grateful for, they can write it on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. At the end of each month, your family can look through all the things you’ve been thankful for and celebrate! Suzanne Barchers, EdD is the Education Advisory Board Chair for Lingokids. She is the former Editor in Chief and VP of Leapfrog Enterprises and a former Managing Editor at Weekly Reader. She is also an award-winning author of more than 250 books for teachers and children, two college textbooks, and has served on PBS and the Association of Educational Publishers Advisory Boards.
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Couple hugging outside

Acts of Thanksgiving

We all seek unity, interconnectedness and happiness, but we have come to associate feelings of warmth and gratitude mainly with Thanksgiving, other holidays and major life events.As a therapist and believer in the importance of living a fulfilling and contented life, I encourage everyone I meet to start practicing active thanksgiving that goes well beyond the November holiday and religious services. This is not about feeling thankful when something great happens, but a regular part of every day—even the most challenging ones—especially unhappy days!In my work, I see many people in pain, struggling to cope daily. They may be dealing with a terminally ill parent, a child facing problems in school, an unwanted divorce or the loss of a friend or financial investments.It is difficult to introduce the benefits of thanksgiving to someone in crisis.That is why I encourage everyone to learn and use this tool immediately and often. Thanksgiving as a consistent part of your life will not only bring in more positive experiences, but it willarm you with stronger defenses for the hard times that are inevitable in life.Even when things seem to be hummingalong, it is easy to become discouraged by simply watching the news or reading something tragic. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless in this hyper-connected world we all live in.Thanksgiving will help you tune out the disconcerting chatter in your head and promote a sense of calm and focus.By consciously focusing on those people who give us support and care; life circumstances that make us feel lucky and blessed; and any experiences that bring us joy and satisfaction, we are sure to find ourselves in a happier, more productive state. Once you have experienced the positive effects of thanksgiving, you can deliver what I like to call conscious acts of gratitude. Here are some of my favorites:Social media shoutouts—public thanks to a friend who helped you, a mate who made you smile, a child who has made you proud.Gushing appreciation notes—Post-its, Post-its, everywhere! Grab a stack of those little sticky notes and write terms of endearment on 10 or 20. Hide them around the house. Leave the recipient wondering, “Will this gushing of appreciation ever end?”Take it upon yourself to do someone’s mundane household chore. Do this act quickly, quietly and as an expression of gratitude–not to score points or earn some gratitude of your own, but to show that someone cares enough to take a task off their list.Do something that’s surprising or special—bring someone a book from a favorite author or a trail of rose petals leading up to their door with a sign that says“Thank You!”Thanksgiving is not necessarily directed at another person. It is a state of mind to be cultivated inside your own head.If you practice regularly thinking thankful thoughts, they will lighten your mood and likely put a smile on your face–whether anyone knows you are doing it or not. Giving thanks works as a magnet: It redirects your feelings into a positive zone.Most of us know that having a positive state of mind is good for us emotionally, psychologically, physically and spiritually. There are also often secondary gains as well. Your upbeat state of mind can impact how others feel about you and treat you.Last fall, I worked with a client I’ll call Karen. Karen was a 42-year-old single woman who almost always spent the holidays alone. When we met in October, Karen was depressed. Another holiday season was fast approaching, and she was certain she would be by herself. She spent her first session with me talking about her isolated and lonely life, her failed relationships, her financial struggles and her dead-end job. Apparently, Karen was thankfulfor nothing.Still, after some probing, I discovered that she had two friends whom she felt close to; she really liked her boss and she loved listening through her apartment wall to her neighbor playing the piano. I assigned Karen to practice thanksgiving daily toward one of the few precious things in her life we had discovered. She was then to perform some conscious act of gratitude. By December, each person in her life she was thankful for had invited her to an activity over the holidays, and she had even found herself a loveinterest!Welcoming thanksgiving and gratitude into your life promotes feelings of calm and warmth. Thanksgiving makes you feel more motivated, enthusiastic, driven and satisfied. It wards off the blues and negative thinking. People who have an established thanksgiving ritual enjoy more friends, less conflict at work, raise happier children and enjoy more satisfying romantic relationships.Thanksgiving requires very little time, money or skill, yet offers enormous rewards.Don’t just take my word for the magic that comes out of thanksgiving. Make a commitment that you will find a way to observe the wonderful and meaningful people and parts of your life, and give thanks every day for a week…you’ll see what happens.In case you were wondering, I personally count my blessings and give thanks every single day. And so I don’t give Turkey Day short shrift, I count everything I’m thankful for on that daytwice!Stacy Kaiser is a successful Southern California-based licensed psychotherapist, author, relationship expert and media personality. With more than 100 television appearances on major networks, including CNN, NBC, CBS and FOX, Stacy has built a reputation for bringing a unique mix of thoughtful and provocative insights to a wide range of topics. You can learn more about Stacy on her website.
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A Heartwarming Lesson in Gratitude

Recently I had the privilege of attending a charity event for a local organization. It was an evening I was looking forward to. Little did I know that I would be walking away with a heartwarming lesson in gratitude. At the event one of the fundraising activities was a raffle drawing in which the winning ticket holders would receive a $25 gift card to Best Buy. The raffle tickets were $5 each and there were 20 gift cards being given away.After I placed my raffle tickets into the drawing box a fifty-something man slowly walked up to the box and deposited nearly two dozen tickets. A little boy around the age of 6 shuffled up to the box next. He reached into his pocket and pulled out one crumpled ticket. As he tentatively dropped his ticket into the box the boy turned to me and shared that he had raked leaves for hours in his neighborhood to earn the money to buy that one ticket. He explained that he desperately wanted the gift card to buy a video game that his parents said he had to pay for himself. The man and I glanced at one another, smiled and wished the boy good luck. I secretly hoped that the little boy would win.Toward the end of the evening the host announced that it was time to draw the tickets for the lucky winners. Out of the hundreds of people in the room it was easy to spot the little boy sitting in a chair, nervously kicking his feet back and forth, waiting for the raffle to begin. I didn’t win, and neither did he.As both a parent and a therapist, I felt compelled to encourage the boy to keep working toward earning enough money to get that video game. One disappointment didn’t mean he could never have what he wanted. I chuckled to myself, because I just can’t help myself—I’m forever trying to show people “the life lesson” and find “teachable moments” in a situation, and there I was, at it again!Just as I approached him, the fifty-something man walked up and handed the boy two gift cards. He had won and chose to share his winnings with this hard-working little kid. Wow. After the two of them parted ways I went to speak to the man. I felt compelled to tell him how impressed and grateful I was that he made such a kind and generous gesture. After I gushed over him for a moment he said, “I did nothing special. I am grateful that I won and have learned to pass along a piece of anything wonderful that I receive to someone else so that they can also have something to be grateful for. I like to make people feel good.”Remember I told you a little earlier in my story that I can’t help but show people life lessons and teachable moments? Well this life-lecturer learned a few life lessons herself! I realized that gratitude and generosity of spirit are contagious—that even a small gesture can have a big impact on others.Stacy Kaiser is a successful Southern California-based licensed psychotherapist, author, relationship expert and media personality. With more than 100 television appearances on major networks, including CNN, NBC, CBS and FOX, Stacy has built a reputation for bringing a unique mix of thoughtful and provocative insights to a wide range of topics. You can learn more about Stacy on her website.
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