5 Ways to Teach Thankfulness to Kids

Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday to help students and our own children cultivate an “attitude of gratitude.” And it turns out, there’s a lot to like about gratitude. Research from the Greater Good Science Center tells us that gratitude actually blocks toxic emotions even as it allows us to celebrate the present. What’s more, grateful people are more stress-resistant and have a higher sense of self-worth. 

In this video, Greater Good Science Center's Christine Carter discusses the connection between gratitude and happiness in children discusses gratitude as a tool to help people become more helpful and feel happier, stronger, more energized, and more determined.


Here are few activities to inspire gratitude as a family or in the classroom


Activity #1: Put together a Thankfulness Tree

Create a large tree and cut out leaves.  On the leaves write things you are thankful for.  Thankfulness fills us up and reminds us how beautiful is, just like when we add leaves to the Thankfulness Tree.  Add leaves to your tree for a few weeks. You can also make a 3D version with a tree branch and hang the leaves from the branches with yarn or string. 


Activity #2: Make a Giving Thanks Jar

Dedicate a jar (decorate one, if you wish) and have little pieces of paper ready to write on beside it.  You may want to make a routine of adding cards to the jar, or just let people add items as they wish, each with something you are grateful for.  At a specified time, sit down with the family and read the cards together as a family or class.  Here is a very simple version that is super sweet: http://www.thatswhatchesaid.net/giving-thanks-jar/


Activity #3: Three Good Things 

This activity has been shown in research studies to cultivate feelings of well-being. In clinical trials, writing down three positive things (either daily or weekly) for a period of six months was found to increase levels of happiness that persisted six months later. Take the time to consider 3 events or interactions that wen’t well today. Identifying and talking about “3 good things” can be done a variety of ways. Here are a few ideas: 

  • Take turns sharing around the dinner table
  • Write down 3 good things at the start of a week in a journal
  • Contribute 3 good things to a gratitude jar
  • Take a break after lunch to reflect on 3 good things that have happened already today. 


Activity #4: Read a book on Gratitude Together (here are few great ones)  

   1.  All the World By Liz Garton Scanlon (Preschool to 3rd grade)

Following a circle of family and friends through the course of a day from morning till night, this book affirms the importance of all things great and small in our world, from the tiniest shell on the beach, to warm family connections, to the widest sunset sky.

    2.  Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Deuss (Preschool-4th Grade)

This classic book provides the perfect antidote for readers of all ages who are feeling a bit down in the dumps. Thanks to Dr. Seuss’s trademark rhymes and signature illustrations, readers will, without a doubt, realize just how lucky they truly are.

    3.  Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes (1st Grade to 5th Grade)

In sixteen extraordinary poems that range in form from a haiku to a rebus to a riddle, Nikki Grimes reminds us how wonderful it is to feel thankful, and how powerful a simple “thank you” can be.


Activity #5: Play the Gratitude Game: Pick Up Sticks

This is a homemade version of Pick-up Sticks, with a twist. With this game, each time you pick up a stick you have to name something you are grateful for. Each color represents a different type of thing. It’s a great way to get the kids really thinking in different ways about all that they can be grateful for! Check out http://teachbesideme.com/gratitude-game-pick-sticks/ for instructions on this activity. 



Mayuri Gonzalez (E-RYT, RCYT)  has been practicing yoga and meditation for over 20 years since her own childhood and specializes in bringing yoga and mindfulness to children. She has taught for Little Flower Yoga since 2010 and is currently the Director of The School Yoga Project, a program of LFY offering direct service yoga and mindfulness classes for preschools and K-12 schools in the Greater New York Area, staff development workshops, staff yoga, and a national affiliate program.

 For more information about Little Flower Yoga and The School Yoga Project, visit www.littlefloweryoga.com. Contact Mayuri by email at mayuri@littlefloweryoga.com

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