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7 Ways to teach thankfulness to kids

Amidst the “I wants,” the “gimmes (please)” and the constant adding to holiday wish lists, comes a moment of clarity: This is a season for being grateful. However, teaching this to kids isn’t always easy.

Raising thankful kids

Contributed by Katie Bugbee, global parenting expert and senior managing editor,

Thanksgiving is a fantastic time to pause and build the feeling of thankfulness — not only for the tangible toys, but for the people and feelings they get from loved ones.

Gratitude crafts

We’ve all seen the hand turkeys with the thumb face and fingers representing feathers. Kids fill out the feathers listing the four things they’re most grateful for. Take these turkeys up a notch with crafts like handmade thank you cards (you write notes just because) or a paper “gratitude” chain that counts down to Thanksgiving and each “chain link” piece of construction paper shares something they are grateful for. They can then spend that day focused on that person or thing.

Make a thankful tree >>

Jar of thanks

I know a family who has a quote jar. When their kids say anything funny that they want to remember, they write it on a piece of paper, and put it in the jar. This can work similarly for the thankful jar. Take a large empty spaghetti sauce-sized jar (or bigger), decorate it with the kids and explain that anytime they have a moment where they feel something is really special, they (or you, depending on their age) write it down and add it to the jar. Start with an example such as, “I’m so glad Daddy made this delicious dinner tonight” or “I loved seeing my friend Robin at the store today.” Then see what the kids add and encourage them to share something each day. At the end of the month, you can open the jar and reach each one with fond memories.

Old toys, new homes

It’s hard for me to find a place that will take my kids’ old toys. But I still do a big clean-up two times a year. The broken stuff goes to the trash, but the nice toys my kids just don’t use anymore go in a pile for “kids who don’t have toys.” We talk a lot about these kids in my house. At first, my son didn’t believe they exist. After all, what kids don’t have toys? But I explained how some kids don’t have nice houses or parents who have jobs, and it can be very hard to have nice toys. He was a little more likely to hand over an old train set after that. In terms of where you can send them, I’ve found churches who accept them, as well as veteran groups.

How to teach your kids to be grateful >>

Personalized place cards

What better way to sit down to the table than with a special spot dedicated to you? Print pictures of all your Thanksgiving guests. Then get kids to glue the picture to a piece of construction paper and write (or recite) fun memories and loving statements from the kids about each guest.

Team tasks

Start doing some teamwork at home — whether it’s making cookies, raking the leaves, cleaning up rooms or helping with dishes. Comment on how each person helps the other and how nice that feels when you can help others. Take this teamwork on the road by doing a “Daily Act of Kindness” and talking about your good deed over dinner.

Nightly recaps

As you read books and tell stories at night, talk about your day. What did you love about the day? What were you grateful for? Who did you enjoy seeing? Why? You can also share things you didn’t love and would want to do better next time.

Happy collage

Gather pictures of family, friends and pets. Get magazines and catalogues that represent beloved objects and things. Then get out the scissors, poster board, glue and decorative goodies. Ask each kid to create an “I’m grateful board” in which they cut and glue pictures of some of their favorite people, words, activities and household items. While crafting, discuss your own grateful board and explain why something like your house is on it. Something they might take for granted, but add to their board as well.

More about raising grateful kids

Gifts for fostering gratitude
Parenting Guru: Raising grateful kids
Kids respond: What are you thankful for?

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