If you've been following our blog, you know that gratitude has been a bit of a theme this month. From our first staff meeting of the year, where we discussed gratitude and watched this inspiring TEDTalk, to our last blog post where we shared 19 Children's Books About Gratitude to read with your little ones.
This week, we gathered a list of 9 Gratitude Activities for Children that you can do at any time of the year. Actually, many of the items on the list are perfect for adults too!
1. Write in a Gratitude Journal
Gratitude journals are wonderful tools for both adults and kids. Did you know that people who keep a gratitude list report higher levels of determination and energy (Emmons and McCullough, 2003)? Or that practicing gratitude can increase your happiness by 25% (McCullough et al, 2002)? (I'm grateful that statistic exists!)
If your children are old enough, they can write in their own journal, or for younger tots, they can dictate to you. Not only will it keep them thinking about the things they are grateful for every day, it will be an amazing keepsake when they are older.
You can use a journal, a simple spiral notebook or even index cards like in the photo below.
It is a perfect activity to add to your bedtime routine, helping your little ones wind down after a big day and fall asleep with feelings of gratitude.
2. Make a Gratitude Jar
A gratitude jar is another way that your children can start each day with a thankful heart (in the words of Mama Miss).
Place a jar in a central location in your house with some scrap pieces of paper and a pen next to it. When your children think of something they are grateful for, have them write it on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. At a set interval, empty the jar and read all of your thankful thoughts together as a family.
You can download free printables here to make a gratitude jar like the one below.
Donating helps your children understand how fortunate they are - and everything they have to be grateful for - whether it be a roof over their heads, clothing, toys or a loving family.
When your children outgrows their clothes or toys, encourage them to donate the items to families and children less fortunate. Involve your children in the process by researching the options available in your area, and if possible, take them with you to make the donation.
You could also hold a "gratitude garage sale" to raise funds. You can donate the money raised to a cause that you and children research together, or use the money to buy groceries for your local food bank.
4. Make a Gratitude Collage
If you're feeling crafty, try making a gratitude collage with your children. Grab some crayons, paper, glue, photos and magazine cut outs and have your children arrange items on a piece of paper. Talk about what items they chose and why they are grateful for them.
Another fun idea is to give your children a camera and have them take photos of everything they are thankful for. You can post the images in an online photo album or even create a gratitude photo book using their shots!
5. Create a Thankful Window
I found this activity on a few blogs and absolutely love it!
Pick up some window markers, and have your children write what they are grateful for on a window in your house. If you have a paned window, you could give each section to a different family member (or just section out areas with the markers).
You can wash off the writing when you're done, or have a thankful week where you add to it every day for a week.
6. Write Thank You Notes
Nothing beats the personal touch of a hand-written thank you note. Your children can write thank you notes to a grandparent, sibling, friend, teacher... or even the stranger at the grocery store.
Your children will learn to think about why they appreciate something or someone and how to express that gratitude (not to mention brighten someone's day).
If your child is too young to write their own thank you note, you can involve them in other ways. If the note is for a gift, ask your child what they like about their gift and write their response for them, or have your child draw a picture for the gift giver.
The thank you cards below were made using crayon resist art. It is super easy to do and makes a beautiful thank you card! Check out the instructions are on the Happy Hooligans blog.
7. Read Books About Gratitude
Reading books about gratitude with your children is a great way to start a discussion. Talk about how the characters feel and what it means to be thankful.
You can pull from your own collection, or head to the library for a wealth of options. Print off our list of 19 Children's Books About Gratitude or jot down a few of your favourites when you go.
And remember, as Zero to Three notes in the article Raising a Thankful Child, "your child's understanding of a book at 14 months will be different than what she gets out of it at 35 months - another good reason to share these stories over time." So keep reading and re-reading!
8. Make a Gratitude Tree
Many families make a gratitude tree for Thanksgiving, but who says you have to wait for a special holiday to make one?
A gratitude tree is a simple way for your children to show what they are grateful for in a gorgeous, visual way.
Grab a few fallen twigs and arrange them in a jar. You can use some sand or rocks to help stabilize them. Have your children cut out some leaf-shaped pieces of paper, punch a hole in one end, and attach a small loop of string. Keep the leaves in a jar beside the tree along with a pen or crayon.
Have your children write something they are grateful for on a leaf and hang it on a branch. You can write on multiple leaves at once, or slowly build your tree, writing on one gratitude leaf each day.
It is beautiful to watch the tree "bloom" as your thoughts of gratitude grow!
9. Turn it Into a Conversation
A great way to start a conversation about gratitude is to play the "What Would You Feel Without It" game (wonderful idea from Moments A Day!). Ask your children how they would feel without different items in their life (clean water, a house, a warm bed, school...). If your children are old enough, talk about how some people live without those items every day. It is a wonderful exercise in gratitude that opens up a very interesting dialogue!
As you work through the activities listed above, remember: Gratitude isn't a holiday. It isn't a 30 Day Challenge. And it isn't a lesson to be taught and forgot. Gratitude is something that you practice each and every day through your thoughts, words and actions.
I hope this list of activities has given you some inspiration on ways to help your children learn, understand and practice gratitude ever day!