There are many studies that show the benefits of incorporating a gratitude practice into children's lives (and their caretakers!). Scientific research shows that people who make noticing, feeling, and expressing gratitude a part of their daily routine experience many helpful results: improved emotional intelligence, better sleep, high self esteem, positive mental health, healthier relationships, and a stronger immune system to name a few.
Here are some ways to develop a gratitude practice with children:
Modeling Gratitude - By noticing, appreciating, and using descriptive language to express what we feel grateful for we are helping to create fertile ground for gratitude to flourish. As teachers we are very aware to model gratitude by noticing and appreciating the little humans around us as well as our environment and the wonders of the natural world. By using vivid descriptive language that emphasizes the positive we are supporting a rich vocabulary and reinforcing that we are blessed to live in this beautiful world together. What you focus on grows.
Gratitude Rituals - We love to incorporate daily rituals that focus on gratitude. We sing a gratitude song before we eat together and share what we are grateful for while we are eating. At the end of our day we share something that we especially liked about our day. We also have a kindness jar that the children or teachers add pom poms to when we notice another child being helpful or kind. At home families can express gratitude at dinner or before bedtime. Writing thank you cards is a wonderful gratitude activity - even younger kids can make a drawing and learn the art of expressing thanks.
Gratitude Games - Make gratitude fun and play games that reinforce an attitude of gratitude - see some of our examples below.
Gratitude Journals - Keeping a gratitude journal is a powerful tool to create more awareness of our blessings and express gratitude.
Being Helpful and Making a Contribution - Involving children in the work that goes into daily living helps them to better understand why gratitude is important. The children help to take care of our garden, tidy up our environment, and prepare healthy food together. We love to see their self esteem blossom as they make a contribution.
Read Books About Gratitude - Kids learn so much from stories and picture books. Selecting books that focus on expressing thanks helps to support a thriving gratitude practice. We love "The Thank You Book" by Mo Willems, "All the World" by Liz Garton Scanlon, and "Bear Says Thanks" by Karma Wilson.
Say What You Love is another fun gratitude game we often play together to inspire kids to focus on what they are grateful for - some kids will get really enthusiastic with their heartfelt appreciation: " I love my mama! I love ice cream! I love the moon! I love dragons! I love coloring! I love hugs! I love swimming..." The joyful expression is contagious!
I bow to Mother Earth
I lift to Father Sky
I open to the wind
and the clouds floating by
I welcome the rain
that flows to the sea
I honor the kindness
in you and in me
The Thankful Pumpkin
Thank You Letters
Give thanks to the Mother Earth
Give thanks to the Father Sun
Give thanks to the plants in the garden
Where the mother and the father are one
- 2 carrots, chopped 1/2 moons
- 1 delicata squash, de-seeded, chopped small cubes
- 1 sweet potato chopped small triangles
- 1 purple turnip, chopped small cubes
- 2 cups collards, chopped bite size
- 1 cup dinosaur kale, chopped bite size
- 1 cup sorrell, chopped bite size
- 1 handful rosemary, chopped fine
- 1 handful parsley, chopped fine
- 1 handful sage, chopped fine
- 2 TBS coconut oil
- Salt to taste
Sauté the root veggies and half of the fresh herbs with a pinch of salt until their fragrance is released. Add the greens, another pinch of salt, and add water just to cover the veggies. Bring to a boil, then cook on a low simmer for about 20 minutes until all the veggies are tender. Add salt to taste and garnish with the other half of the fresh herbs.
When encouraging the kids to eat new vegetables we love to ask them questions to help them feel more friendly with new foods:
- Can you see any of the vegetables we picked from the garden?
- Can you smell any of the herbs from the garden?
- Do you see any shapes in the soup?
- What happened to the color of the purple turnips?
- Taste your soup, would you like to add more salt or fresh herbs?
Making a Contribution
I love you
Please forgive me