Tis the season to express gratitude. So, how do we, as parents, help instill an attitude of gratitude in our young children? And honestly, what exactly IS gratitude? Gratitude isn’t just feeling thankful; gratitude is the outward expression of that thankfulness. Everytime we say, “thank you” to someone, we are expressing our gratitude. (And how often do we remind our little ones to do this each day?!).
Kids are never too young to begin learning how to express gratitude for everything and everyone that they are thankful for in their lives. Science is also on the side of beginning to teach gratitude skills at an early age. Research has shown that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by age 5. This means your Pre-K child is in the perfect window of opportunity to hone in on these skills to build happiness. Gratitude has been shown to increase both psychological and physical well-being. Grateful people live longer, happier lives. By showing gratitude for something, we are learning to be present and appreciative in the moment. It is a great way to build resilience for those times when life tries to get us down.
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So, now we know WHY teaching our kids gratitude is important. But, HOW do we do it? Here are a few tips below!
Praise prosocial behavior
Did you catch your child saying “thank you” without needing to be reminded? Let them know what a nice job they did. And be specific! “Nice job saying thank you when Grandma handed you that cookie! Those are great manners.” Positive reinforcement is key to encouraging future occurrences of the prosocial behaviors.
Express gratitude together
Carve time out each day to discuss 3 things that you are each grateful for. This could be around the dinner table, in the car on the way to dance class, or even in bed before falling asleep. Speaking the gratitude out loud will strengthen those mental muscles that allow our children to be aware of things that make them happy.
Read books about gratitude with your children
Books are an easy, yet effective way to teach children all about the art of gratitude. Some great books for your Pre-K child include Giving Thanks with Max, An Awesome Book of Thanks, and Have You Filled a Bucket Today. But, don’t give up right there. Type “gratitude” into the search engine of your library’s page and fill up your queue with your findings!
Feeling a little more inspired? Check out these great activities to complete with your child to continue practicing gratitude!
Make a Gratitude Jar
Decorate a jar or container in any way that your child likes! They can cut out pieces of tissue paper and glue them on there, cut out pictures and paste them, paint it - the sky's the limit! Each day, you can help your child put a slip of paper in with something they are grateful for. When kids are feeling especially down and need a quick pick-me-up, take a few notes out of the jar to remind them of who, and what is good in their life.
Handprint Tree of Gratitude
This cute craft also serves as a great decoration around the Thanksgiving holiday! Have a child make a tree with three overlapping handprints made with paint. On each tree branch (finger), help your child write something they are grateful for! Years from now, you will both be able to look back and remember a few of things your child was grateful for when their hands were that small.
Gratitude Scavenger Hunt
Get your child moving and noticing all of the wonderful things in their lives with a fun gratitude scavenger hunt. Create a list of scavenger hunt items for your child to find around the house or outside. An example could be, “Find something that makes you smile.” Don’t feel like coming up with your own? Check out our free scavenger hunt here! This activity will help your child think positively about all of the blessings in their lives.
We can read books, praise prosocial behaviors, and complete activities with our kids, but the most important thing we can do to teach our kids gratitude is to model it for them. Grateful parents raise grateful children. Children pick up on it when we express gratitude for the big and little things in life. So, make sure you are adding gratitude as a daily practice in your life, too. And yes, while it sounds easy, it actually can take some time for this to become an organic part of your life. Like all things, it takes practice. But, if you continue to work on it, you and your little ones will be feeling more grateful (and even happier) in the near future.
Ready To Go Gratitude Activities
We absolutely LOVE seeing your preschoolers learning through play! Please take photos and videos of your child engaging in these Gratitude crafts and activities and share your photos with us on Facebook and Instagram!
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