“Put popcorn in the microwave and have children shout out something for which each child is grateful when you hear the sound of the kernels popping!”
Teaching Gratitude – It Makes Us Healthier!
Practicing gratitude and thanks-giving makes you a happier person. What people of faith have known for generations now has the stamp of approval from therapists who heal with mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy. The researchers at Greater Good Science Center study emotional and emotional well-being – the science of a meaningful life. Their studies show that feeling grateful motivates students to help others and use their strengths to contribute to society. Gratitude does good!
It takes intentional modeling to teach thankfulness. Notice the thought behind an action or gift; appreciate the cost of an action, and the value of other people in our lives. One way of modeling this last gratitude lesson is to notice how one person’s action influences those around them: “My day (or life) is better because…” Example: “My day is better when everyone says ‘hello’ when they walk in the door.”
10 Ways to Practice Gratitude with Children
Here are 10 ideas for practicing gratitude at home, in church, Sunday school, children’s chapel, or school.
1. Create a Space for Thanks
Designate a gratitude area in the home or classroom which has a variety of paper, pens and markers, index cards, and tape. Use it as a place for some of the ideas in this list as well as a place to write quick thank you notes. Over time it can be decorated with a candle, items from nature, and other surprise blessings.
2. Carry Scripture Passages on Gratitude
Look up Bible references for offering thanks (practicing gratitude). Write down the passages on small pieces of paper, and put them in a jar. Pull one out every day to carry around, savor, and memorize.
3. The “Best Thing” Game
Play the best thing about game. Think of a person, a situation, a place, and take turns saying things like “The best thing about _____ is _____.” Example: “The best thing about my church is the music we sing.” To help spark ideas, get a pack of wide, wooden sticks, and write down people’s names, places, pets, etc. Place the sticks in a decorative jar, and keep it in a place where the family or children gather. Draw one stick out for each time you play the game.
4. Make a Thankfulness Window
Start a stained glass gratitude window each month or season. Tear up pieces of different colored tissue paper, and keep them in a basket or a box. Then have children write down something they are grateful for on each piece of paper. Tape the pieces to a window that gets lots of sun, and watch the window’s design evolve over time. (Tips: If the idea of scraping off all that tape is not something for which you’ll feel grateful – use wax paper over the window!)
5. Create a Gratitude Newspaper
Become the editor of you own paper: The Thanksgiving News. Write the date, draw a picture, and write down the news of the day from the point of view of being grateful. Post these news items and watch the gratitude grow over time. This could be done with scrap paper, large post-its, a magnet or chalk board, or if you have the space, with markers on a wall painted with white board paint.
6. Say Goodbye to Some “Stuff”
Designate one day a month for the family to toss things which have served you well, but you don’t need anymore. Put them all together, and say a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing. Then list them on a site like Freecycle or put them on the street with a sign that says “Free.”
7. Giving Thanks with Popcorn!
Put popcorn in the microwave and have children shout out something for which each child is grateful when you hear the sound of the kernels popping. Keep going until the popping stops!
8. Make Blessing Cards
Write down a blessing – any good wish or deed – for another family member or classmate. Tuck the card in a pocket or under a pillow as a surprise. Blessing cards look particularly lovely when using gold or silver metallic pens on black or red paper.
9. Create a Gratitude Song Book
Take a simple thanksgiving or seasonal hymn such as “Tis the Gift to Be Simple” or “For the Beauty of the Earth” and make a picture book from the lyrics. You can download images from online, draw pictures yourself, or use family photographs. Match an image to each line of the song. A great intergenerational activity!
10. Capture Gratitude on Film
On Thanksgiving, or whenever the extended family is gathered, take annual photos or videos. In the videos, have people say what they are grateful for. Create and album and share it with family at your next gathering. Or consider videotaping an interview with the oldest person there.
Brook Packard is an educator, musician, and Gaia Women’s Leadership certified life coach in addition to many other creative endeavors. She is the author of When the Bishop Comes to Visit, an Activity Book for All Ages. Brook helps families make bedtime simple and put sleep first at the Sleepytime Club. Sign up for a free guided meditation with illustrated booklet that helps children “Put the Day to Bed.”