Thanksgiving and the season of gratitude and thankfulness are here. And while our traditions and celebrations may be vastly different, we can all agree that an attitude of gratitude is the main focus…and with good reason!
Grat·i·tude /ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/ noun : the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Studies have shown that gratitude is the healthiest human emotion we can practice and by changing our mindset to one of gratitude we are actually happier. It allows us to celebrate the present, makes us focus on the positives in our life and cultivates a higher sense of self worth. Having a positive attitude often leads to more positive actions as well.
A study published in The Journal of Happiness Studies found that gratitude is linked to happiness in kids by the age of 5. It said that kids with an attitude of gratitude tend to be happier, more engaged in activities and schoolwork, have better relationships with peers and an overall greater sense of satisfaction.
Those are very enlightening statistics but what does that mean for caregivers? How do we teach gratitude to the littlest people in our lives? To be honest, it’s not an easy concept to grasp or teach! We’ve rounded up several activities you can incorporate into your daily life to help teach gratitude. We’ve organized them from activities with no prep work or materials to those that require a little bit more.
1. Take turns saying one awesome thing about your day. Keep it simple and start small. An awesome thing about their day could be eating their favorite snack or watching their favorite show. Once they get the hang of that, start sharing 3 things about each other that you appreciate. Don’t panic if their list of things seems insignificant or trivial. The more you practice together the more in tune with a grateful mindset they will become.
2. Put that leftover Halloween candy to use and play a game while eating M&M’s.
Red - Say one person you appreciate
Orange - Say one food you love
Yellow - Say one activity you love
Green - Say one place you love
Blue - Say one experience you are thankful for
Brown - Say anything you are grateful for
3. Start a gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to be a fancy, leather bound book. A simple spiral or composition notebook will do the trick. Each member of the family could have their own or you can have one for everyone to write the things they are grateful for that day. Writing the things down that we are thankful for also helps for when we’re feeling sad and can look back at all that we appreciate and love.
4. A Graffiti Gratitude Wall is super easy and fun! All you need is a stack of Post-It Notes, a pen and a wall!
Each day, write down one thing you are thankful for and slap it up on the wall. Minimal effort with maximum return because seeing it front and center each day will for sure lead the way to an attitude of gratitude! Another alternative to the Graffiti wall could be using a chalkboard and simply writing what you are thankful for on it. Either way, it’s still front and center and a great reminder for everyone!
5. A Gratitude Jar is another minimal material activity that packs a big punch! Clean out that pasta sauce jar, find some scrap paper and write down one thing you are grateful for that day. Watching the jar fill up will have you all bursting with gratitude! At the end of the month, open the jar and read all of the pieces of paper aloud. Together, reflect back on each day and relive that feeling of happiness!
5. And last, but certainly not least, is a Thankful Chain. This one requires a little preparation but the end result is so fun!
Cut strips of colored construction paper and each day write one thing you are grateful for. Loop the paper and tape the ends together. Each day, add a new loop of thankfulness and watch the chain grow. You can then proudly display your Thankfulness Chain as decoration!
No matter which activity you choose, the most important thing is the memories you are creating together with your littles. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they get into it and look forward to the activity each day. Spending time together by reflecting on what brings us joy and gratitude will help everyone’s mindset and outlook on life. And that’s a win all the way around!