Mom hugging daughter in bed after teaching her about gratitude.

Teaching Kids About Gratitude: 21 Ways to Teach Kids to Be Thankful

One of the most important things that you can do is teaching your kids about gratitude.

But sometimes, teaching children to be grateful for what they have can be challenging as gratitude is a bit of an abstract concept for them. 

But showing them the value of gratitude will help them develop a positive outlook on life and help them appreciate the good things that come their way.

In fact, psychological research shows that gratitude is often associated with much greater happiness. It helps us feel more positive emotions, build stronger relationships, and can even improve our health.

So, we’re going to discuss some tips on teaching kids about gratitude and helping them be more thankful for the things they have.

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    What is gratitude?

    Gratitude is the state of being thankful and the willingness to show appreciation and kindness in return. It’s one of the greatest qualities someone can have, which is why teaching gratitude to your kids is so important.

    When you teach gratitude to your children, UNC-Chapel Hill says that gratitude has four parts or skills you practice:

    Notice – Notice the gifts that you have in life.

    Think – Think about how you received each gift, who made it possible and why.

    Feel – Feel the positive emotions associated with receiving gifts from others and feel the love, kindness, and generosity someone has shown you.

    Do – Do something to show your appreciation for the gift.

    While this may seem simple enough, it’s hard to put it into words when you’re trying to teach children about gratitude. That’s where understanding these four parts of gratitude and the activities below come in handy.

    Family of three laying in bed giggling after talking about gratitude for kids

    Why is it important to teach children about gratitude?

    When teaching kids about gratitude, you’re helping them become better tiny little humans. It also teaches them manners that will follow them as they grow to be adults.

    Gratitude isn’t something our society often encourages, and entitlement doesn’t make it easy to teach your kids how to be grateful (especially with all these YouTube videos of kids showing their lavish lifestyles). 

    But don’t worry, with these simple tips and activities, it’ll be much easier for you to teach your kids about gratitude..

    Plus, my fun, free gratitude challenge inspires them to want to practice gratitude for the things they have.

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    21 Ways to Teach Kids About Gratitude

    Now kids enjoy having fun (no shocker there LOL). So the best way to encourage them and teach them about gratitude is by doing some gratitude-specific activities and sprinkling in some of these ideas throughout your normal day-to-day life. 

    Here are some of the best ways to teach your children gratitude.

    Mom and daughters playing with blocks

    1. Teach children to be grateful by saying “thank you”

    Teaching your kids to say thank you is one of the most powerful (and easiest) ways to show them how to express gratitude. 

    Make it a habit to say thank you often as it will help your children learn proper manners too.

    Mom and daughter completing the gratitude challenge at the table.

    2.  Complete a Gratitude Challenge regularly

    You can also encourage your kids to complete this gratitude challenge regularly, and can even make it a part of daily routine after school.

    The challenge allows you to rotate out several gratitude-specific printable activities over the course of 7 days, but can be completed again anytime.

    Related Post: After School Routine Chart to Simplify Your Afternoons

    Mom and daughter writing a thank you letter

    3.  Encourage your children to write a thank you letter

    You can also help them to write thank you notes. Overtime, writing thank you has become less common, but is truly a great way to show kids saying thank you is important.

    The most touching gift anyone can receive is a simple thank you note written from the heart. So, encourage them to write thank you notes to friends, family members, and other people in the community like their teachers.

    Mom and kids hugging

    4.  Model gratitude for your kids

    Your children are always watching you, so it’s important to model gratitude for them. This could be as simple as letting the kids know something positive that happened that day that you’re grateful for.

    When you’re out and about, make sure to say please and thank you often. If someone holds the door open for you, point it out and say thanks. If your children see that you’re grateful, they’ll be more likely to show gratitude as well.

    5.  Volunteer with your kids

    Help your kiddos understand what they have so they can be grateful. Sometimes kids take things for granted because they don’t realize how lucky they are. 

    They really only know how they themselves live, and having them volunteer to support the less fortunate can be very eye-opening. So take a look at how you can volunteer in your local community.  

    Boy placing shoes and other items in a donation box as a sign of showing gratitude

    6.  Donate to the needy with your children

    Donating clothes or food to the needy is another activity parents should consider when teaching kids about gratitude. Have a day where the whole family goes through their closets and drawers to find things to donate.

    Then, bring your kids with you as you drop off these donations to your local Salvation Army or local shelters. It’s a great opportunity for your kids to see that they’re not the only ones who have donated. 

    Mom writing in a gratitude journal

    7.  Write in a gratitude journal

    Similarly to writing your tasks in a brain dump journal for productivity, a gratitude journal can help your children understand gratitude better. Writing in a journal can help them express their thoughts and feelings about certain good things that happened throughout the day. 

    Plus, journaling is good for your mental health, so helping your kids get their thoughts on paper is a valuable lesson that’ll help them throughout their lifetime.

    Mom hugging daughter while asking her gratitude prompt questions while teaching gratitude

    8.  Ask them gratitude prompt questions

    Along with the journal, you can ask them gratitude prompt questions centered around being grateful. Gratitude prompts are very helpful when you’re trying to foster gratitude in your child.

    You can ask them questions like: 

    • What was one nice thing you did for someone at school today?
    • What do you love about ___? 
    • Why is ___ your best friend? What do you appreciate about them?

    The more children notice the nice things done for them and that they’ve done for others, the more they learn to be grateful.

    Related Post: 220 Kids Would You Rather Questions They’ll Actually Want to Answer

    Parents doing a family painting project together with their son

    9. Create a family project about gratitude

    Creating a family project is a great way to involve everyone in expressing gratitude. Even parents can learn from this activity as it helps them not take the little things for granted.

    A gratitude project is something the whole family works on together that focuses on what everyone is grateful for, like the time capsule included in this gratitude challenge here.

    Mom sitting on the couch and teaching kids about gratitude

    10. Ask them why they are grateful

    Teaching kids about gratitude can even be as easy as just plain asking them why they’re grateful. 

    When either one of you is journaling or when you’re asking your children questions about gratitude, help them dig a little deeper to understand why they feel the way they do. Ask them why they feel grateful and how it impacted their day.

    A jar with gratitude sticky notes

    11. Create a gratitude jar or tree

    Creating a gratitude jar or tree is another project parents can do with their young children. 

    Each child and parent can write down one thing they are thankful for every day and place it in the jar or on the tree. Then you can all sit down and read the things everyone is grateful for together, maybe once a week or once a month.

    Related Post: Fun Gratitude Challenge for Kids (Free Printable)

    Prayer hands

    12. Make gratitude part of your everyday life

    One of the easiest things you can do is make gratitude a family tradition or find a way to incorporate it into your daily life.

    You can do something as easy as asking your kids one thing they’re grateful for that day during their bedtime routine, or at the dinner table like we do in our home. 

    Or you can turn it into a car ride game on the way to school where you take turns mentioning all the things you love like hobbies, songs, sports, color, movies, etc. Both are great ways to make gratitude part of your everyday life.

    Two sisters hugging each other

    13. Teach your kids how to perform acts of kindness

    Parents should also teach their kiddos how to do nice things for others. It can be as simple as sharing a toy with a friend or buying a gift for someone with their allowance.

    Each child can also do something nice like a service for someone else. They can help grandma rake the leaves as a thank you for attending their soccer games.

    You can also let them know they can show gratitude for people they don’t know too, like the local first responders and police in your area.

    Mom and daughter reading a book that teaches kids about gratitude while laying upside-down on the couch

    14. Read books about gratitude

    Another way to help teach kids about gratitude is by reading books together. There are many great children’s books that focus on being thankful and grateful for what you have. 

    Some great books include:

    These books also make great gift ideas for young boys and girls.

    Mom and daughters dancing while teaching kids about gratitude

    15. Be positive

    One of the best gifts you can give your kids is positivity. Looking on the bright side of things helps you feel better in general and deal with negative experiences easier.

    Families that encourage their children to think about the positive no matter what happens are giving children valuable life skills by helping them focus on the good instead of the bad.

    Daughter giving mom a present as a sign of gratitude

    16. Give someone a present

    Encourage your kids to give someone a gift, whether it’s free or inexpensive. You can help them earn the money with an allowance or choose something that doesn’t cost anything, like a flower from your garden.

    Encourage them to really put some thought into their gift though, as kids tend to give something that they would want to receive instead of want the other person would actually like. But once they’ve brainstormed some ideas, giving a gift to someone would be even more special. 

    Little girl looking sad at her birthday party

    17.  Help them avoid comparison 

    Envy and jealousy are naturally occurring feelings in people of all ages. Help your kids work through those feelings and stop comparing themselves to others.

    Explain to them that there will always be people less fortunate and more fortunate because everyone has unique circumstances that affect them differently. Then, remind them why their own life is awesome. 😉

    Two friends complimenting each other after learning about gratitude for kids

    18. Compliment others

    Share the things you appreciate about others verbally and encourage your kids to do the same. People love receiving compliments, and it’s a simple way to show people you care.

    And when giving compliments, don’t forget to compliment your kids too, even if it’s for something tiny like putting their dish in the sink after they’re done eating. 

    Mom and daughter touching foreheads

    19. Tell your children why you’re grateful for them

    Letting your children know they are loved by you and what makes them special is a great way to help them understand gratitude. 

    Be specific and mention things they’ve done like, “I appreciate how you picked up your baby sister’s pacifier when she dropped it,” or “I love how you come running to help whenever your sister is crying, you’re a great big brother!” 

    Yes, these are specific examples that happen in my home LOL, but they’re simple enough but also encourage them to repeat the behavior often. 

    Little girl painting on the floor looking up at mom

    20. Be patient with them

    Above all else, be patient with your children as you work through these activities. Just like developing any other habit, it takes time to nurture gratitude and appreciation in your kids. 

    It may take a few days, weeks, or months to see it starting to stick, especially if this is brand new to them. So have patience and start small if needed. 

    Mom tapping son's chin while teaching him gratitude

    21. Be consistent and don’t give up

    As I mentioned earlier, learning gratitude is just like any other habit. So besides remaining patient, it’s also important for you to practice teaching kids about gratitude consistently. 

    Children need consistency and repetition for it to become second nature. And while there may be some times where practicing gratitude with your kids will be slightly harder than others, don’t give up and keep on going. You got this! 

    how to teach your kids about gratitude

    Make Teaching Kids About Gratitude a Priority

    It’s never too early to encourage young kids to be grateful. By learning these qualities early on, you can help them develop a strong sense of appreciation for all they have as children and adults. 

    Gratitude is a skill that will help them throughout their lives. What are some other ways you’ve taught your kids about gratitude? 

    Share in the comments to let me know. And remember to grab your free gratitude challenge checklist here to make implementing this a lot easier.

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