Gratitude and Toddlers

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. And we shouldn’t save our gratitude only for days like Thanksgiving. 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.

Teaching Gratitude

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. 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!

For more book ideas, check out this list of 45 Books About Gratitude for Kids

Updated April 13, 2023, by L. Elizabeth Forry

written by

L. Elizabeth Forry 

L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with fifteen years of classroom teaching experience. She earned a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education from The University of North Dakota and has a Bachelor of Arts in English and one in Music from Lebanon Valley College. She has taught children in Japan, Washington D.C., Chicago, and suburban Maryland. She is trained as a reading therapist, has a TEFL certification, and has done extensive work with children regarding mental health, social-emotional development, gender development. She has written curriculum for children and educators and has led training sessions for parents and educators on various topics on early childhood development. She is the mother of two boys and resides outside of Annapolis, Maryland.

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