It’s the holiday season! What better time is there to teach and encourage thankfulness within your home or classroom. Kids and particularly preschool aged children are notoriously known for being self-centered. Thankfulness, empathy and sharing are all skills that crucial to nixing that preschool aged egocentric behavior, but these are also skills that aren’t inherent, they need to be taught and fostered.
Teaching a child how to be thankful doesn’t only result in a child with good manners, but a child who is thankful tends to be happier, more content and less stressed and depressed. Personally, I can say that is true as I feel much happier when I make a conscience effort to be thankful for all my blessings instead of focusing on all the challenges I’m facing.
So, what can you do at home or within the classroom to foster thankfulness in young kids? Below are five simple and fun activities that you can do with your children. While truly being thankful and understanding thankfulness takes years and repetition, it’s never too early to start!
As I mentioned before, toddlers and preschoolers are egocentric but children as young as 18 months can begin to grasp the concept of thankfulness. Age 2 and older can talk about specific objects or people to be thankful for – my mommy, my football, and so on. Age 4 and older understand being thankful not only for material things like toys or food but for acts of kindness, love, and caring. Take a look below and find an activity or two and book that works for your family. Have fun and Happy Holidays!
5 Activities to Teach Thankfulness
- Create a Thankful List- Talking about what your child is grateful each day is a great way to get your child thinking about the good parts of their day. Create a homemade journal (staple paper together to form a book) and have younger child dictate to you what they are thankful for at the end of each day and write it down for them. Older children of course can write it down themselves. If keeping a journal isn’t for your family, try Post-It notes! Have each family member share what they are thankful for and write on Post-It and place on a mirror window etc…Try and make sharing these thankful thoughts a habit and do at consistent times- at breakfast, dinnertime or before bed.
- Make Personalized Thank You Notes- Create homemade thank you postcards; this is a great snowy day project! Gather blank 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 index cards and have child “draw” or “scribble” pictures on one side of a to make thank you postcards. An adult can write on the other side a thank you message to the receiver. Just draw a line down the middle of the back of the card using one side for the message and the other side for address and stamp. By having these cards ready to go, it is easy to quickly send a thank you. Sit down with your child along with paper and crayons, to create a picture to give to say “Thank You”. This will lead to an older child naturally knowing to write a thank you note for not only material gifts but for acts of kindness too.
- Participate in a Service Project- Participating in an event with your whole family to help someone else makes you thankful for what you have. Perhaps a Canned Food Drive is happening at your church or school. In our city volunteering in food banks and soup kitchens, providing supplies for Homeless shelters, checking in on a Senior citizen, helping at an animal shelter, are just some of the opportunities. Go to volunteer match.org and type in your city to find a way to volunteer. For young children, filling and decorating a shoebox of needed items for a child can help them become aware that not all children have toys, food, or clothes. Shopping and packing the box while chatting about how grateful we are to be able to share with others helps a child to feel like he is contributing. Check out samaritanspurse.org or Military Moms Prayer Group Thank You Package for more information.
- Thankfulness Holiday Chain- Remember those red and green paper chains we would made as kids using construction paper about 1 inch wide and 5 inches long that we would glue together in circles and place on the Christmas tree? Make a “Thankfulness Chain” by cutting 1inch by 5inch strips out o construction paper or even old newspaper. Write something you and your child are thankful for on each piece and then see how long you can make your chain by looping circle through previous circle and tape or staple shut. You can also purchase Pre-Cut Christmas Paper Chain strips on Amazon if you don’t want to cut your own.
- Donate! Old toys in good shape can be a source of joy to someone else, and out grown clothing can be used by another family. Allowing your child to select a toy or outfit to share with others, is another way for you to share how thankful we are that our family has clothes and toys. Explain in an age-appropriate way that there are people who do not have toys, clothes, or food for numerous reasons – they are sick and can’t work, they live in area of the world that has no water to grow food, etc.
Books: check with your local library
- “How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath
- “The Blessings Jar: A Story About Being Thankful” by Colleen Coble.
- “Bear Says Thanks” by Karma Wilson
Elissa Sungar is the Co-Creator of If Not You, Who? a free website that offers easy and fun in-home educational activities that help prepare children for kindergarten and life and has a 1.5 year old son! Her passion for early childhood education grew out of her experience as a pre-school teacher at Stanford University’s Bing24 Nursery School. Elissa loves spending time with her family, hiking, running, tennis, yoga, cute workout clothes, good cheese, great baked goods and exploring Denver! Twitter: @ElissaINYW