Gratitude activities for kids are important in teaching children to appreciate the little things around them.
These activities enforce the value of being grateful to the people who have helped us with their actions, solicited or not.
And it helps children build lasting friendships, the kind that they can rely on through the years.
What is Gratitude?
Coming from the Latin word gratia, gratitude can mean grace, graciousness or gratefulness. It is the appreciation of everything you receive, whether it is in material form, in actions, or in words, some even in thoughts and prayers.
And gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.
This is what children need to learn at an early age, because when they develop the moral value of gratitude, they will acknowledge all the good in their lives.
Why is Gratitude Important?
According to a 2003 research done by psychologists Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, people who focused and wrote about gratitude were seen to be more optimistic and felt better about their lives.
They also exercised more and visited the doctor less. This is in contrast to those who thought about the negative things in their lives and wrote about daily irritations and things that displeased them.
The research clearly revealed that gratitude has a lot of positive effects.
- It helps people feel more positive emotions.
- It also lets people take delight in good experiences.
- It improves health by reducing fatigue and inflammation.
- It encourages mental resiliency.
- It makes dealing with adversity better and more effective.
- It helps kids make friends easier.
- It helps build strong and lasting relationships.
Activities that Teach Gratitude in Children
Gratitude is a value that is clearly important in everyone. And, in order to reap the benefits that being grateful have, teaching it early in children is a must.
Here are some activities that will help develop this trait in young kids.
1. Keep a gratitude journal
During the research done by Dr. Emmons and Dr. McCullough, groups of people were made to write about particular topics, this shows that those who wrote about gratitude exhibited a higher level of optimism, energy and determination than those who wrote about something else, specifically about negative things.
Children can do this at home, too. Parents can give their children a gratitude journal where they can write about certain things within the day that made them happy and were thankful for.
Make it an activity that they do after dinner or before they go to sleep.
They can write on the journal themselves if they are old enough to do so, or they can dictate them if they are too young to write.
To make it more meaningful for them, you can challenge them to give more specific reasons about what they are grateful for and why they are grateful for it.
2. Making a gratitude art
This can be a fun and engaging activity, especially for younger children.
Plus, you get to hit two birds with one stone on this one: teaching kids about art and creativity and having them express gratitude, at the same time.
One of the most popular ways is to make a gratitude tree. This activity involves your children tracing an outline of their hands on cardboard, cutting the outlines, and writing one of the things they are thankful for in each finger. Then they pin the hand they made to a tree.
Another activity is a gratitude collage. With some glue, crayons, paper, magazine cutouts and photos, your children can choose images that they want to go into the collage. Let them talk about why they are grateful for the things they chose.
3. Create a gratitude jar
Have your children write down one or two things that they are grateful for that day or yesterday on a piece of paper, then place it inside a jar.
You can make it a part of their morning routine. Simply put the jar somewhere accessible, like the kitchen counter or in the living room, along with ready-made gratitude pads and a cute pen or pencil.
Let them know that anytime they think of something they are grateful for, they can always write their thoughts and put them inside the jar.
When the gratitude jar is full, you can spend your family time reading the notes together.
4. Writing thank you notes
This is also a very popular activity for children and they can do it just about anywhere. What’s special about this is that thank you notes have a personal touch to them, especially if they are hand-written.
Your kids can write thank you notes to each other, to Mommy and Daddy, to their grandparents, to their teachers and even to the random stranger who helped Mommy at the grocery store.
This way, they can learn to think about why they want to thank somebody and find ways to express their gratitude. You can also bring an artistic theme to the notes by having the kids draw designs on them so they can be used as thank you cards.
It is super easy, fun and will definitely teach gratitude.
5. Expressing thanks to others
Kids are easier to influence when they see something firsthand. So, when they witness you saying thank you and expressing your appreciation for other people or the things you got, it will make them more inclined to follow your example.
They will see that it is a significant part of being an adult and will practice the deed themselves.
When you have instilled the value of gratitude in your children, you can have one of them model it for their younger brother or sister. Then, let them do something nice for the person that they are grateful to, like baking a cake, drawing a picture or simply writing a thank you note.
Showing them how to be thankful and then letting them lead the way for their siblings will have a snowball effect and have a huge impact on your family.
6. Showing the value of self-gratitude
Being self-aware and expressing appreciation for being yourself is an important part of the value of gratitude.
And this is why your children need to develop it early in their lives.
You can have them practice self-gratitude by having them think some things about themselves that they are thankful for. Then ask them if they want to share their thoughts with you and the whole family.
You can also reinforce the value by adding your own reasons why you are thankful for your children.
7. Reading literature about gratitude
There are lots of books with stories and lessons about gratitude.
Having them read about such stories is a great way of learning the value of gratitude.
And you can start a discussion about it and its importance.
If your children are too young to read, you can read for them. Talk about the characters and how they were feeling in the story.
What your children get out of the stories differ as they age so you can re-read the stories anytime for reinforcement.
Gratitude can be shown in so many different ways and there is a myriad of benefits that one can gain from it.
Getting children to start expressing gratitude early on can have a big impact on the child, his family, and the community.
And it begins with setting a positive example inside and outside the home.