There Are Simple Ways To Teach A Complex Concept To Our Kids – And Have Fun Doing It!

The upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are often a favorite time for families – especially children.

But with all the marketing about an abundance of rich foods, high-priced toys, and the latest and greatest tech gadgets, kids can become focused on the wrong things instead of the true meaning of the season.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can make a real difference that lasts the whole year through by introducing a true spirit of giving and gratitude.

On Thanksgiving Day, we often ask our children to focus on what they’re thankful for, but young kids may not understand what the concept really means.

And while being thankful and grateful are both positive feelings that are sometimes used synonymously, they are a bit different.  Being “thankful” is more of an inward feeling of peace and happiness, while being “grateful” is directed toward someone or something else.

Teaching children to really feel and comprehend gratitude isn’t difficult, but it can take some time as they’re growing up to cement this value in their minds, and some kids need concrete reminders to do so.  

The good news is, there are so many hands-on ways to teach gratitude to our kids, and we can start to teach this important value from the time they are very young.

 Because all children learn differently, only you may know the best approach to teaching your child about gratitude.  Are they quiet and introverted, or outgoing and expressive?  

Either way, we’ve got some great, fun ideas the whole family can participate in, and they can be done all year long.

A really fun family game that’s perfect for Thanksgiving Day is a Gratitude Scavenger Hunt.  You can write down some prompts or create “clue” cards for older kids, or give verbal prompts to younger ones.

Prompts can be along the lines of “find something in the house that makes you happy,” “find something that’s your favorite color/smell/texture/taste,” or “find something that is useful to you every day.”

They can even create their own Gratitude Journal by writing the prompts down, along with their answer to the clue.  Younger children can draw a picture of their “clues” or Mom and Dad can record their answers as an audio or video clip.

Do this activity each year and, as they get older, show them how their sense of gratitude has changed and matured.  As they grow, the things that they are grateful for will become more complex and increase their spirit of gratitude.

Another concrete activity is making a visual reminder of what kids are grateful for.  Cut out paper leaves or other seasonal shapes and have them write or draw what they are grateful for each year.  

These can be made into a wreath, taped on a “Gratitude Tree” that has been drawn on large paper, or kept in a jar or other container.

Kids can also create “Gratitude Chains” by writing one thing they’re grateful for on a strip of paper that Mom or Dad can tape or staple together.  Each item of gratitude can be added to the chain, and they’ll have fun looking for more things to be grateful for as the chain gets longer.

Keep it going all year by giving each child a “Gratitude Jar” to keep on their desk where they can write things they’re grateful for on small pieces of paper, and then have them read them all aloud each year on Thanksgiving or Christmas.  

Older kids can do this in journal form and share or keep to themselves, depending on their comfort with sharing.

One expression of gratitude that has sadly gone out of style is the thank you note.  Make sure to have your kids start making thank you notes from the time they are small whenever they receive a birthday or Christmas gift.

They can even make a small gift or a batch of cookies with your help and hand-deliver their thank you notes to neighbors and family.

Acts of kindness are another way to express gratitude for all we have.  

It’s important for kids to understand that there are people who have far less than they do.  Programs like Operation Christmas Child by Samaritan’s Purse or Toys for Tots by the Marine Corps help our children give to those less fortunate and teach gratitude for what they have in the process.

You can also do this within your family by having each family member do acts of kindness for one another.  It can be a Thanksgiving or Christmas tradition, or can be done weekly or monthly all year.

They can draw their sibling a picture to cheer them up, bring them a cup of hot cocoa in bed, or even take over their chores for the day.  The point is to do something nice for each other – out of the blue – to show their gratitude for having that person in their lives.

There are also many great children’s books that teach gratitude.  Reading is always a great way to learn and may be a more comfortable learning experience for kids who are more introverted or have trouble outwardly showing their emotions.

And So Much More: A Children’s Book Nurturing Strength, Kindness, Gratitude & Creativity by Jessica Collaco came out just this year and teaches the core of gratitude – being grateful for who we are and for all those who love and support us.

Gratitude Soup by Olivia Rosewood is great for early elementary aged children, and its beautiful mixed-media illustrations and fun, rhyming text tell the story of Violet, a purple fairy, who tells how she learned about gratitude.  

Violet makes “Gratitude Soup,” and a fun extension of this book would be to create your own family version.  The kids can help make real soup by expressing something they’re grateful for as they put in each ingredient, or they can make pretend soup by grabbing a soup bowl and “stirring in” all their little gratitude notes from above!

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems features his fun, vibrantly colored characters like Elephant and Piggie.  The animals learn about what it means to feel grateful, and you can use it as a conversation starter to get your own kids talking about what makes them feel grateful.

These are just a few of our favorites, but there are hundreds of books for all ages that teach the concepts gratitude and thankfulness.  Just check out your local library!

Teaching gratitude can be done in big ways or small ways, but the concept is an important one for all of us and is a great way to bond as a family.  

How do you teach your child the concept of gratitude?  Leave us your ideas!

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