Top 5 ways for kids to express gratitude

boy wearing red sweater

The holidays are right around the corner and the excitement of the season increases with each passing day! From extra time with family to an abundance of gifts, the holiday season brings delight to everyone - especially the kids. 

While the season can bring lots of fun, it can also make it easy to lose track of time and what’s most important in life. With lots of time devoted to traveling and celebrating with family, the holidays are a great time to get back to the basics and help your kids reassess and reinforce their values, especially gratitude. Making sure your child is able to appreciate the things they love in life will not only improve their manners, but will also make them happier in the long run. In fact, a  neurobiological research study from UC Davis shows that a heartfelt sense and practice of gratitude can ensure better mental and physical health, including improved sleep, reduced anxiety, and decreased fatigue and inflammation, as well as reduced risk of heart failure. Therefore, learning gratitude at a young age can go a long way in helping your kids grow into mentally and physically healthy adults. 

Make Gratitude a Habit

Invest in small acts of service and daily habits to strengthen your children’s “thankful” skills by creating a gratitude jar! As a family, make a daily practice of dropping in little notes about what you feel thankful for. For instance, “I am thankful for the delicious sandwich Dad put in my lunch today!” or “I am grateful that Mom picked me up from soccer practice!” This can then be taken out on weekends or at dinner each night and your family can share in the gratitude together!

Train of Thought

Family playing train of thought

Whether they tell us or not, most children are actually eager to be a part of meaningful conversations or “deep talks.” Kids like to be included and feel important enough to talk about big things with the adults in their lives, and Train of Thought is a productive and fun way for those conversations to happen. The game helps children think about the big questions in their life including meaningful memories and family relationships. Ask them meaningful questions about how they feel while getting gifts, how it differs for their friends, and how they can show more gratitude to the people around them.

Share Happy Stories

Often our most vulnerable moments are at night before going to bed. This is the time when we recollect the feelings and actions of the day. You can use this time to make a routine habit of asking the kids what the best part of their day was while sharing yours with them, too. As they grow up to be young adults, this will subconsciously help them create a habit of dwelling on the positives at the end of the day and being grateful for them, along with sharing positivity and practicing listening.

Gratitude Turkey Paper

turkey paper

Around the holidays, creating little crafts is a creative way to practice gratitude. Grab a Gratitude Turkey paper craft, label its feathers with sections like home, family, friends, pets or books, and let your kids tell you what they appreciate about each section. Incorporating creativity and joy with gratitude activities is a great way to make showing thanks easy and fun! You can also try this with a wintry tree, using its branches to label with themes of gratitude. 

Express your Gratitude

Teaching and encouraging your little one to express gratitude is an important and moving way for you to help them grow into a kind and healthy person. This holiday season, encourage them to make cards thanking their friends, grandparents and extended family, pets, teachers, and even you if they want to! Children are full of wonder and you can help them voice their appreciation for everything special in their lives! 

The concept of gratitude can be made more practical and tangible to kids by engaging them with meaningful toys, and craft books like those by Skillmatics that encourage them to think deeply and communicate compassionately with others. Beyond that, families can put compassion into practice during the holiday season and year-round by making time to volunteer at places where people need food or by donating toys, books, and clothes they don’t use anymore. Donating items can be a great way for your kids to appreciate a game or a favorite dress that they don’t wear anymore and get excited about how much joy it can bring someone else. 

The holidays are meaningful days of joy that bring us closer to each other, and practicing gratitude is a wonderful way to strengthen bonds and brighten the season. This year, encourage and practice thankfulness with your kids to bring them into a happy and healthy new year!

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