Because the benefits of gratitude are so powerful, it is important to introduce this concept to young children at a young age. As with many skills introduced in early childhood, you may only be laying the foundation upon which more advanced skills will be built, but that foundation is essential to the children in your care.
Begin your introduction of gratitude with children by defining what the word means, depending on the children in your care, you may want to introduce and use different words such as:
- People or things that make us happy
- The good stuff in our lives
- People who are nice/kind
- People or things that make our hearts smile
- People or things we want to high-five
- People or things we appreciate
- People or things we want to recognize or acknowledge
The language or visualizations that resonate with the children in your care is more important that knowing the vocabulary associated with gratitude or thankfulness. These concepts may be too abstract for the children to understand, but associating gratefulness with the idea of hearts smiling, may make more sense.
From there, you can help children identify moments in the day when gratefulness is appropriate. Start by modeling for children how to express gratitude:
- It makes me happy to see you all working together to clean up the blocks.
- When we sing songs together it makes my heart smile.
- I am so glad we can be inside our classroom together on this rainy day.
- Yum! I love orange slices, I am thankful that I can taste their sweetness.
- Our gerbils, Sam and Sal, always make me smile. I want to give them high-fives for being so awesome.
- I want to take a moment to recognize Josiah, who set the tables for lunch today.
You can also use children’s literature to highlight opportunities for gratitude. Incorporate conversations about gratitude into your large group meetings and individual conversations with children.
You may also find times during the day when you can encourage children to show gratitude. You might encourage children to use their own words to express their thankfulness, but recognize that this may be difficult for younger children. It begins with a simple thank you and will progress into more complex recognition of others and events.
Work some of the following activities into your weekly lesson planning and classroom rituals:
- Thank You Jar – Children can place the name of a person they want to thank into the jar. A few times a week, reach into the jar and read a few of these entries.
- Compose thank you letters to… anyone – Pick a person each week that you want to thank, the director, a parent, the cook, the mail carrier, the director of the latest blockbuster movie. It doesn’t matter who you write to, just create a habit of showing appreciation for others.
- What’s Awesome about Me – Regularly ask children to identify positive aspects of themselves and their abilities. Transcribe the children’s words and encourage them to draw pictures of the things they are grateful for about themselves.
- Charity activities – Collect mittens and hats for children in need. Hold a pet food drive for a local shelter. Raise donations for a family in need. During these events, hold discussions with children about the good things they have in their lives and tap into the good feelings that helping others generate.
For the main article Cultivating Gratitude, CLICK HERE
For the article Research on Gratitude – The Benefits, CLICK HERE
For the article Things to be Grateful For, CLICK HERE
For the article Strategies for Adults, CLICK HERE