Helping Children Practice Gratitude at Thanksgiving

Parents have a special opportunity in the month of November to dedicate the season to the practice of giving thanks for the people, places, experiences and things we have in life. Research studies suggest that gratitude has some of its deep roots in childhood experiences. Other studies demonstrate that people who experience gratitude have a happier life experience and have greater health. 

There are creative and playful ways parents can help their children learn how to consciously focus on feeling and expressing gratitude.  I would love to share some ideas that I have shared with parents of child clients in my practice as a play therapist. 

5 Ways for Helping Children Practice Gratitude This Month:

  1. Explore the vocabulary of thanks with books and songs at bedtime.  Grateful: A Song of Giving Thanks by John Buccino, a picture book accompanied by a CD with song sung by Art Garfunkel helps children and parents together to explore the beauty of appreciation, thanks and gratitude. Gratitude Soup  by Olivia Rosewood does a beautiful job of teaching children the concept of cultivating gratitude. All the World  is a book by Lisa Garton Scanlon is a book that follows a family through a day suggesting the practice of noticing the small things for which we can feel grateful. 
  2. Make a gratitude chain.  Cut 1” by 6” strips of various colors out of construction paper and each day sit as a family and share what each person feels grateful for, writing each down on a strip and create a link to add to the chain of gratitude. At the end of November, the chain can be used to decorate for the holiday season that follows. 
  3. Play Gratitude Pick-up Sticks. Using colored Pick-up-Sticks create a home-made spinner with a circle cut out of poster board divided into pie pieces with a color in each piece of pie designating the following categories: (person, place, thing, a food and freebie). Attach a spinner with a brad in the center. Spin the spinner and for the color and category the arrow lands on will tell you which color Pick-Up-Stick to try to remove from the pile and state what you are grateful for according to the category that color correlates with on the spinner. 
  4. Create Thank You Cards. Use the month of November to talk about thank you notes while creating hand-drawn cards in anticipation of gift giving season in December. Discussion about expressing thanks to people when they do nice things for us or when they give us gifts is such an important lesson for children to learn and this will allow your child to feel a sense of ownership and exercise imagination in creating his own thank you cards to send to others. 
  5. Play Pictures of Thanks. Give children a digital camera or use of a camera phone and encourage them to take photos of people, things, places around the home for which they feel grateful and happy. Once photos are collected, encourage your child to share the photos with you and other family members and create a digital collage that can be printed or transferred to a larger screen for viewing. 

When parents can slow down and realize the opportunity to make November a month of cultivating an attitude of gratitude, children will be likely to continue the practice throughout the next year and will reap the benefits of this important practice for years to come. 

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