Gratitude for kids is a tricky concept to teach. How do you help kids develop a sense of appreciation for the things they have or for the people who care for them? In this post, I share a really fun and interactive way that will get kids thinking about just how much they have to be grateful for.
HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THANKFULNESS TO A CHILD?
According to dictionary.com, thankfulness is “feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.
Over the years, I’ve asked many young kids in my child care group, “What does it mean to be thankful?” and most of the time, I get tiny (albeit adorable) blank faces staring back at me.
I can usually generate more answers from my young audience when I rephrase the question to get them thinking about thankfulness:
- “Can you think of a person you are happy to be around or who takes good care of you?”
- “Is there anything in your house that makes you smile or feel good?”
- Is there a place you go that makes you feel excited or calm?
These types of questions produce lots of ideas from the kids. TIP: Write the ideas down on a large board or piece of paper. At the end of the discussion, you should have a hearty list of things, (including people and places) that bring the kids joy, relief, happiness or fulfillment.
Show the kids that these are all things to be “thankful for”. Next insert the ideas that the kids have shared into the phrase, “I am thankful for _______.” Repeating this activity over and over helps drive home the idea of what it means to be thankful for something.
- I am thankful for grandma. (person)
- I am thankful for my blanket. (thing)
- I am thankful for the library. (place)
Teaching Kids Gratitude
I have to admit, anytime I need to teach an abstract concept to young children, I feel a bit frazzled. I’m a big believer in providing kids with experiences through play in a meaningful way.
Gratitude is a feeling humans have that can’t be seen or heard or held. So how on Earth do we teach kids to be grateful?
Young children are naturally egocentric, meaning they think mainly about themselves and less about others. Acting selfish comes naturally to young children. While it may make the adult uncomfortable, selfishness is a totally natural stage of development for young kids. As kids grow, they become better able to broaden their scope of thinking as it pertains to other people.
This activity I’m about to share does a really great job of teaching kids about what it means to be thankful. Here’s why I love it so much:
- The activity builds community within your group.
- It creates discussions at school and at home about what it means to be thankful.
- Parents & siblings share ideas of things they are grateful for, which becomes a natural form of modeling for the child.
- By the end of the activity, your group will have created a really beautiful and visual representation of gratitude.
An Activity for Thanksgiving Preparation
This is one of my favorite thankful activities for youth. It has all the feels. Parents love it, kids love it and the best part is, it doesn’t cost a lot of money or require a ton of prep time. Is your curiosity peaking yet?
Let’s get started.
THE THANKFUL PROJECT
- Strips of construction paper in various colors
- Stapler or glue
- Parent letter (see below)
- Near the end of October, send home the parent letter along with a few strips of construction paper with each child.
- As the strips are returned, link them together using a stapler or glue to form a paper chain to be on display.
EXTRA TIPS & IDEAS!
- During group time, allow the kids to share what they wrote on the strips with the group before you add them to the chain.
- Color code the strips to represent people, places and things.
- Color code the strips to represent mom, dad, child and siblings. This will encourage lots of involvement from the child’s family!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to create meaningful experiences for kids. In the end the paper chain will serve as a beautiful representation of all of there is to be thankful for!
THANKFUL BOOKS FOR PRESCHOOLERS
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Try the following thankful books to expand your lesson on gratitude for kids! The Thankful Book by Todd Parr is by far my favorite!
Other Activities for Thanksgiving
THANKSGIVING KEEPSAKE PART 1 – turkey sculptures
THANKSGIVING KEEPSAKE PART 2 – photo keepsakes