Six Ways to Practise Gratitude With Children



We are all becoming more and more aware of the importance of gratitude and how it can improve our mood, our productivity, our relationships and even our overall health and well-being. When I say gratitude, I don’t just mean the importance of saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ or sending out thank you letters once or twice a year. It starts there, of course, but real gratitude goes much deeper than that.


So, it makes sense that we would want to teach our children about the importance of gratitude and get them into the habit of looking for the positive aspects of life.


Over the past 20 years there have been many studies into the importance of gratitude and we are beginning to realise just how much it can improve our mood and change our thinking patterns. The more we focus on the negative aspects of life and all that we don’t have, the worse we feel. It is amazing how much better and more positive we feel when we start to look at what we do have and focus on all the great parts of life. If you would like to read more about how gratitude improves all the many areas of our lives, please take a look at this article by Positive Psychology.


This blog post is really just to give you some ideas on ways you can start your children practising gratitude on a daily basis and learning to focus on the positive, no matter what is happening. However bad your day seems, there is always something to be thankful for and it has been shown that going to bed with positive thoughts in your head can even help you sleep.


First…Some Statements to Get You started

These statements can be used to get your child thinking about things they enjoyed about today and things that made them happy. Just ask them to fill in the blanks and then they (or you, if they are younger children) can copy the statement onto a piece of paper or into their gratitude journal.


Some days will be better than others but it is important to always find at least one good memory to focus on. On these days it may be a little like panning for gold, just trying to find the tiny nuggets in amongst the dirt. Even the smallest thing counts, such as a friend smiling at you or noticing a funny shaped cloud!


You will learn to look for the chinks of light during these difficult days so that you have something to write about or draw at the end of the day.


Other days you may have five or six things that you want to add to the journal, jar or tree and find it hard to choose. Just be flexible with it and try not to set too many hard and fast rules. It is important to recognise that life is full of ups and downs and some days will have lots of happy things to reflect on and some not so many. There’s always tomorrow and you can, of course include some happy events that are coming up. They all contribute to the positive state of mind.


………………………………….…………………… made me smile today.

…………………………………………………….... made me laugh today.

………………………………………………………. made me feel happy today.

I liked it when ……………………………………………………………………...

I loved it when ……………………………………………………………………...

I am excited about ………………………………………………….……………..

I am looking forward to ………………………………………………………….


So, what do we do with all these positive statements, pictures and memories? There are many different ideas depending on what you prefer and how creative you’re feeling. I have listed 6 of the most popular, but I am sure there are many more and you might come up with something completely unique and personal to you.


1. The Gratitude Jar


You could buy a jar to use specifically as your Gratitude Jar or wash out an old jam or mayonnaise jar. We used an old plastic dog chew jar!


Feathers, stones, pennies...all special things a three-year-old is grateful for!

You can then either use some printables like these ones from Mama Miss...


Image from Mama Miss

Or decorate it with gems, shells, photos, pictures, ribbons, stickers or anything else you can think of and make it truly unique to your child. Every day add a picture, some words or a little keepsake to remind you of the things that made you smile today.



2. The Gratitude Tree


To make your gratitude tree, find a small branch and secure it in a vase or pot with some pebbles and stones. Cut some coloured paper into leaf shapes and punch a small hole in each so that they are ready to hang on to your branches. There are plenty of templates available online if you need help or, of course, you could use some real leaves to draw around. Along with your child you can write or draw a picture on one or two of the paper leaves every evening. You can either attach the leaf straight to the branch or you can hang each leaf using some string or wool.


The DIY Mommy has some step-by-step pictures and a video that might help:

http://thediymommy.com/make-a-thankful-tree-a-thankgiving-kids-craft/


However, instead of a one-off Thanksgiving project, I would do this on a daily basis and focus on the previous statements to get your child thinking about what they could write or draw on their leaves every day.


3. The Individual Gratitude Journal


Buy a book that your child can fill with daily thoughts, pictures, photographs and other little mementos. This could be a simple notebook that they decorate themselves to make it their own, or a special journal picked out for the purpose. Older children can write their own thoughts while younger ones might want to dictate something for you to write and then add their own pictures and photos.


4. The Shared Family Journal


Image from Not On The High Street

Again, this can be as cheap and simple as a spiral-bound notebook or it could be an expensive, leather-bound hardback journal. Not on The High Street has a range of family journals and scrapbooks if you need some inspiration. Choose something that the whole family will be excited by and eager to use as it can be a real treasured keepsake to look back on. Keep the journal in a place where anyone can use it and add to it. It can become an especially nice way to keep good memories about each other and you can use it to write nice messages to other family members.


You can of course, include words, pictures, photos, ticket stubs and anything else that seems appropriate. Keep pens handy and maybe some pieces of double-sided tape so that you can stick other bits and pieces in.


5. The Paper Chain of Gratitude


Image from Smashed Peas and Carrots

Children love to make really long paper chains so this activity encourages them to think of as many positive things as possible to add every day. To make your paper chain, you just write your thoughts on a piece of paper and chain them together! Children can keep their own individual paper chain in their room (which they will want to compare with everyone else’s to see who has the longest) or you can make a family chain. You can cut up your own paper chains and stick them together using staples, glue or sticky tape or buy ready-made paper chains. Smashed Peas and Carrots has some downloadable printouts you can use on coloured paper. Or MimsKits on Etsy has a range of different colour themes.


6. Journaling Apps



Older children and teens may prefer to go digital and create a gratitude journal on their phone or tablet. The advantage of this is that they can add a little picture or thought on the go and then look back over it that evening. Some apps even let you record your thoughts via the microphone, so they won’t even need to write anything!


I know very little about Journaling Apps, so I will refer you Zapier and let you decide which you think would suit you or your teen best. There are plenty to choose from.


These templates will help your youngster get into journaling by providing a handy format. You can choose from a number of different templates, so go for whichever suits you or your child or teenager.


I am currently working my way through these journals and trying out the templates, too, so I will update you in a few weeks and give you my personal thoughts when I have tried them out. I would love to know how you got on with them and which you would recommend for older children and teens so I can pass on your suggestions to my clients.


I would also love your thoughts on the ideas for younger children, too. Please send me a message or comment on the blog if you have any thoughts or ideas.


Most importantly...have fun!

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