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Key Takeaways:

  • Gratitude is a positive emotion that kids can feel when they acknowledge what they are thankful for.
  • Gratitude can have many psychological and interpersonal benefits for children.
  • There are many ways to practice gratitude, whether individually or in groups.

Sometimes it is easier to focus on the negative experiences in our lives rather than pay attention to the things that go right. This can make it difficult for kids, whose minds are still developing, to see the positive side of life. Fortunately, practicing gratitude is a skill that can be taught through gratitude activities for kids. Being grateful can enhance children’s moods and lead to other benefits as well. Here, we’ll talk about why it’s important to practice gratitude and introduce some activities you can do together.

What is Gratitude?

Gratitude is a type of positive emotion that anybody can feel when they focus on the good aspects of their lives and stay thankful for the things that they have. Gratitude is all about pausing to notice and appreciate what is often taken for granted. It is also about reflecting on how fortunate one is when something good happens, no matter how big or small.

The Importance of Teaching Gratitude to Kids

As a positive emotion, gratitude feels good. However, it doesn’t stop there. Gratitude may actually be good for our health [*].

Positive emotions like gratitude also allow children to be open to more possibilities since they are more receptive to learning and growing. It also helps to balance out negative emotions. People who are grateful and appreciative are often happier, less stressed, less depressed, and more satisfied with life [*].

Gratitude can also result in positive actions. Adults and children who experience kindness are more likely to extend kind acts to others in return. This in turn helps build better relationships.

Benefits of Practicing Gratitude for Kids

Kids that practice gratitude on a regular basis can experience some psychological and interpersonal benefits, such as:

  • Being more generous to others
  • Feeling less stressed [*]
  • Being able to stay more positive
  • Feeling happier
  • Performing better at school
  • More able to cope with difficulties
  • Having better focus
  • Having fewer health problems

Best Gratitude Activities for Younger Kids

One of the best ways to instill a sense of gratitude in children from an early age is to do fun gratitude exercises for kids. Here are a few that you can try that are suitable for kids aged 4 to 6:

1. The thankful tree

Creating a thankful tree is a fun and easy way to engage kids at home or in the classroom. Have your kids cut out leaf shapes from construction paper. They can then write down things they are thankful for on each leaf before putting them onto a cutout tree trunk. This will help create a visual reminder that it’s good to be thankful for different things in one’s life.

2. The gratitude game

In this activity, prepare different colored sticks that correspond to prompts, such as naming a person or a thing that one is grateful for. Have your kids pick a colored stick and discuss the prompt that it goes with. This is an excellent way to teach children about expressions of gratitude.

3. Thankful ABC

The thankful ABC activity is a great way for your child to get creative on what they are thankful for. Have them list down what they are grateful for with words starting from A to Z on a piece of paper. This can also be done with the whole family or together with classmates.

4. Gratitude stones

Painting smooth stones to give away as presents can be a fun way for kids to show their gratitude. Have your children collect the smoothest stones they can find and use paint to create designs on them. They can pass out the finished stones to people they are thankful for.

5. Gratitude garland

A gratitude garland is a beautiful and easy creation for your kids to make. Have them write down messages of gratitude on small pieces of paper and then help them string it up into a garland. You can discuss things from the garland to encourage gratitude as a family.

6. Gratitude wall

Having a gratitude wall is a great reminder that there are many things to be grateful about in life. Have your kids write down something they are grateful for on a post-it before placing it on the board. Seeing what everybody is thankful for can be very encouraging.

7. Thankful sunflowers

Cute crafts are always a great way to remind ourselves to be thankful. Cut out parts of a sunflower from different-colored pieces of construction paper. Have your child write down things they are grateful for on each petal before attaching them onto the stem. This will add joy to days when your kids are down.

8. Gratitude jar

Gratitude jars are excellent for families. Have your child decorate a jar of their choice and encourage the whole family to drop messages of gratitude into it. You can read out what everybody is grateful for weekly or monthly; it can even turn into a nice family celebration or tradition!

9. Gratitude quilt or tablecloth

Using a quilt or a large piece of manila paper, create a gratitude quilt or tablecloth. This is suitable for classes and families. To make the activity fun, you can add handprints in paint and use markers to write down messages of gratitude onto the quilt or tablecloth.

10. Thankful turkey box

Practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be limited to seasons like Thanksgiving. Giving thanks can be extra fun with little turkey boxes. Using tissue boxes and paper, design a turkey box where you and your kids can drop slips of paper with things you are thankful for.

11. Gratitude suncatcher

Suncatchers are a great addition to any window, whether it’s in your home or in the classroom. You can choose colors that match the season for the translucent paper you’ll be using. You and your child can add things you are thankful for onto the paper and make it into any shape you want.

12. Thankful pie spinner

Pie chart spinners are very engaging to make and play with for kids. Have your child write the things they’re grateful for on each section of the pie so that they can see it when the top part spins. For added fun, decorate the spinner into an actual pie design.

13. Gratitude hopscotch

Instead of using numbers in a hopscotch game, write out things that one can be grateful for. Children can hop onto the squares that they are most grateful for while getting some physical fitness in at the same time.

14. Gratitude sphere

Rustic decoration always makes a place look a little cozier. Gather some twine balls, string, and pieces of paper and decorate the spheres with hanging elements, each of which should include something to be grateful for. Hang them up in different areas of the house or the classroom to remind everyone to be appreciative and grateful.

15. Thankfulness chain

Grab a handful of markers, some construction paper, and an adhesive (like tape or glue) so you can make paper chains with words of gratitude on them. This will remind your children that one act of gratefulness is connected to the next.

Best Gratitude Activities for Older Kids

When teaching gratitude to kids who are older, you can have more activities that require reflection and introspection. Here are some that you can try together:

16. Gratitude Journal

Journaling is an excellent activity that inspires positive thinking. Ask your kids to write down what they are grateful for and why so they can begin to develop a regular gratitude practice. Journaling can be done individually, as a family, or even as a class. If your child has trouble coming up with something to write, you can use a gratitude exercises worksheet for easy prompts to elaborate on in their journal.

17. Read a book

Reading picture books that model gratitude is a great way for kids to learn about the concept and practice it in daily life. Have discussions with your kids after reading to reinforce the idea of being grateful in many aspects of life.

18. Gratitude cards

Writing cards to give to people allows children to develop a more appreciative view of life and the people around them. Have your kids write a letter to a friend, teacher, or other people who are important in their lives. Teach them the value of saying thank you in a concrete act of gratitude.

19. Gratitude scavenger hunt

This activity is a little more unique, which will make it fun for kids to do. You can have kids look for things that they enjoy using, people they appreciate, and various other things that they are thankful for. You can conduct the hunt and then share your findings afterwards for a bit of reflection.

20. Gratitude collage

Creating a collage or a graffiti wall of grateful phrases and sentiments can encourage your kids to be more thankful and appreciative of what they have. This is a colorful and creative way to express gratitude.

21. Gratitude gifts

Give your kids free rein on creating their own gratitude gifts for others. Here, they can exercise thoughtfulness as they think of a gift that people in their lives might appreciate. You can help them do anything, from crafts to drawings and poems or other forms of writing and art expression.

22. Thankful hearts

This is a wonderful activity that will teach your kids a new and important skill: sewing! Show them how to carefully sew together fabric hearts that they can gift to people they are grateful for. This activity teaches them to put effort into their acts of gratitude.

23. Gratitude yoga

Gratitude yoga may sound foreign, but it is quite beneficial in many classrooms. It incorporates yoga, mindfulness, and gratitude all in one. Your kids will enjoy the physical movements and relaxation that it gives them. Their moods will also improve as they internalize the things they are grateful for from the exercise.

24. Gratitude drawing prompts

You can start the day by having your kids complete different gratitude-based drawing prompts. Similar to writing prompts, you can ask how they feel about certain positive aspects of their lives and have them draw it out. These can be added to the gratitude journal.

25. Roll the dice gratitude game

Using printable squares, write down gratitude-based prompts and fold up the dice. Throw them and ask your kids to answer the prompts about what they are grateful for. This allows them to think of their experiences and express their gratitude.

26. Gratitude letter or email

Encourage your kids to write a letter or an email of gratitude. They can pick whoever they want to send it to. This exercise is helpful because it allows children to personally thank someone for being in their lives. You can set a minimum word count so that your kids can express themselves thoroughly.

27. Thankful nature walk

One way to practice gratitude is to be present in our surroundings and thankful for what we have. Walking in nature is a great way to appreciate the beautiful things that are all around us; perhaps some of these things are ones we take for granted. Take it one step further and have your kids journal about the experience using a gratitude walk worksheet.

28. Gratitude conversation starters

This is a great activity for children who are older, but it can really be for any age since you can tweak the conversation starter statements to the age of your kids. Start off with statements that they can finish, or ask questions about the things that make them grateful. Try asking “why” and “how” questions that are open-ended instead of ones that can be answered with a “yes” or a “no.”

29. Watercolor gratitude project

Have your kids use their pencils to draw a spiral on a sheet of paper. Then, fill in the spaces with things they are grateful for. Using watercolors, ask your kids to paint over the spiral and their words slowly, taking the time to appreciate what they are thankful for.

30. Smile it forward cards

Create smile it forward cards with your kids. Taking cards, write out statements that start with “Hey you!” followed by a compliment. Then, ask your kids to pass them out to people. They’ll certainly make someone’s day with the smile it forward card!

Ideas for Incorporating Gratitude Activities Into Kids’ Daily Routine

You may be wondering how to teach kids gratitude. Incorporating it into your child’s daily routine is easier than you might think. It just takes one or two extra steps to be more grateful every day.

One way to incorporate gratitude activities is to add them to conversations, such as the ones you have at the dinner table. You can try activities such as conversation starters and the dice during these discussions.

Teach your child how to be grateful. Remind them to say thank you to people who do things for them. Whether it’s a server at a restaurant, a sibling who helps them, or a friend who gives them a birthday gift, help them go the extra mile by adding activities such as creating a card or a letter.

It also helps to have some posters in your home or classroom. Character education posters can teach kids how to be more grateful, compassionate, and kind.

Last, it is important to be consistent with your gratitude efforts. Gratitude isn’t learned in just one sitting, so add these activities throughout your day when you can. You can also keep a poster all about gratitude on your fridge or in your child’s room to remind them of what gratitude is and to practice it whenever possible.

The Bottom Line

The secret to happiness is gratitude, and it should be continuously practiced on a regular basis. Gratitude can have a snowball effect, so the more you do these fun gratitude activities, the more you can practice being grateful in everyday life. You never know how being thankful will make other people feel good or how it may affect them in the future.

References:

  1. Harvard Health Publishing. Giving thanks can make you happier. 14 August 2021.
  2. Vadaq N & Widyatno A. Effectiveness of gratitude journaling in reducing stress level on children victims of domestic violence. 30 August 2022.

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