As adults, it is essential to teach our children gratitude and what it means to be thankful for all they have.
Research shows that gratitude can make you happier and healthier. So think about all that you’re grateful for at this moment. Even if all you can think of is the Starbucks latte and five minutes of quiet, you had to savor it. Those moments are remarkable and sanity-saving (even if you were locked in the bathroom).
No item, event, person, place, thing, or moment is too big or small to be grateful for. Of course, some days, there will be huge wins: a promotion at work, your baby’s first word, or a trip to Disney World!
On other days, the only things you may be able to say you were grateful for are the roof over your head and a clean shirt. Which consequentially are big items, but we often forget to notice them and take them for granted.
All people have a natural level of empathy, some more than others, but gratitude and empathy can still be fostered and taught through example and patience. Don’t expect your toddler to naturally say “Thank you” when you give them a cookie or for your four-year-old to share her favorite truck with her brother.
Instead, lead by example by sharing things you have, saying thank you, offering gentle reminders of when to say thank you if they forget, and discussing people’s feelings.
Parents.com wrote a great piece in 2006 with some helpful hints and tips on teaching gratitude to toddlers that still work today! A few of those tips include:
- Finding a goodwill project: like donating their old toys or making a card for Grandma
- Have your kids help around the house
- Say no to your kids. They don’t need everything they ask for. This way, they learn to appreciate what they have more.
- Teach them to write thank you cards
Additional Ideas to Teach Gratitude
- Model gratitude and appreciation
- Discuss gratitude with your kids
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Name three good things that happened each day at bedtime
- Say please, and thank you
- Teach them how to share, but don’t force it
- Teach them about empathy
Books are another great way to teach children gratitude!
- Gratitude is My Superpower by Alicia Ortego
- Grumpy Ninja by Mary Ninh
- The Gratitude Jar by Katarina Liu
For more book ideas, check out this list of 45 Books About Gratitude for Kids
Updated April 13, 2023, by L. Elizabeth Forry