Below I share 5 simple gratitude activities your young kids will love. It’s never too early to start!
As my kids get older I see how planting the seeds of gratitude when they were young really does matter.
Now that my kids are older I realize how important it was for us to cultivate the seeds of gratitude in them when they were little. I weaved thanksgiving into our day, on our walks at the park, at dinner, in our bedtime prayers and in song.
I have three boys and one child in particular was always just spilling over with gratitude. He was just wired to see life from that perspective. Unfortunately, not all of us are wired that way.
My other boys went through phases of saying thank you for everything and it was absolutely precious but as they got older they out grew it and we had to be more intentional about teaching thankfulness.
I do want you to know just because we did these things doesn’t mean my kids are always overflowing with gratitude and they don’t struggle with entitlement. But all I can do is plant the seed, nurture it, and pray that it grows roots! I leave the rest in God’s hands as I continue to imperfectly model it for them.
I found some fascinating research that shows how gratitude helps lower stress and overall makes us happier which then keeps depression at bay. When we spend a lot of our time dissatisfied with what we have and looking at what we don’t have instead of what we do have, I’m not surprised that it can lead to unhappiness. A person who is grateful tends to spend less time comparing themselves to others.
Gratitude also fosters empathy when we put ourselves in the shoes of others and realize the act of kindness you just received didn’t have to happen.
In a later study by Emmons, people were asked to write every day about things for which they were grateful. Not surprisingly, this daily practice led to greater increases in gratitude than did the weekly journaling in the first study. But the results showed another benefit: Participants in the gratitude group also reported offering others more emotional support or help with a personal problem, indicating that the gratitude exercise increased their goodwill towards others, or more tehnically, their “pro-social” motivation. ~Huffpost
Beyond Thank You
Most of us as good parents have taught our children the importance of saying “gracias and thank you” by the age of 4 but then comes the bigger job of cultivating thankfulness into gratitude.
Here’s the thing gratitude is an action of the heart so we not only need to teach them to say thank you but also to cultivate gratitude. Which can happen in many ways by modeling it ourselves. Asking them questions to think through what they are complaining about. Involve them in serving others.
One of my boys has always struggled with gratitude but he’s usually the one that reminds me to stop and be thankful. Those are the moments that remind me that all of the tending and nurturing of seeds is paying off. It’s in his little heart even if he choses not to do it.
Simple Gratitude Ideas Your Young Kids Will Love
- Make a Gratitude Tree- We did this at some point when they were little and we all loved it. You can draw a tree on a poster board and have your little ones tell you one thing each day they’re thankful for and you can write it on a leaf. They can add the leaf to the tree and by Thanksgiving you should have a tree full of colorful leaves.
Here’s a different way to do it. Use a dry erase marker on your window to draw a tree then tape the leaves to the tree as you write what you’re thankful on each one. My sister in law gave each one her family a color so they know which ones belong to them.
- Songs are a great way to help our little ones get excited about gratitude. Teach your children a thankful song – You can sing–If you’re thankful and you know it. Clap your hands… to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it…”
- A game- A fun game you can play is Duck, Duck, Gratitude. Instead of saying “goose” you say “gratitude”. The person who is the “duck” is the one who shares what they are thankful for and then they pick the next person. You can keep or leave out the running around.
- I spy Gratitude – Take a walk around your neighborhood and play I spy. Whatever it is they spy it’s something they have chosen to be thankful for. Once you guess they can tell you why they’re thankful for it. If they are too young for the “why?” questions still ask but you answer it or guide them to the answer. You can also play this in the car.
- Gratitude Hike/Walk- If they know the alphabet you can do an ABC’s gratitude walk/hike. If they’re too young for the ABC’s what I did while my son was in his stroller is I would have him name things he’s grateful for then I would tell him what letter it goes with. So if he said, “I’m thankful for birds.” Then I would say, “B is for Birds.” I share HERE more about a gratitude hike. You can do this activity in your neighborhood or at the park.
- Me! Read a book about how unique they are! I like When God Made You or The Oak Inside the Acorn both are great books. (affiliate links) Ask them to think about one thing they did today they’re proud of. Gratitude doesn’t always have to come from observing the world around us but it can come being thankful about something you’ve done or like about yourself.
- Gratitude prompts – I have some great gratitude prompts you can download in my shop. We place ours on the table and use them at dinner.