The concept of gratitude is a powerful one. In fact, thankfulness is a very important character trait to foster in children. Living gratefully encourages kids to cultivate a genuine appreciation for blessings they already enjoy, no matter how big or small. Children sometimes get caught up in wanting more things – more toys, more games, more electronic gadgets. This creates a vacuum of lacking that is difficult to satisfy. A mindful pause every now and then helps us reflect and re-examine this mindset. It inspires a healthy outlook that honours the present moment and reminds us not to take things for granted.
I like the definition of gratitude as stated by Psychology Today:
“Gratitude is an emotion, expressing appreciation for what one has – as opposed to, say, a consumer-oriented emphasis on what one wants or needs. Gratitude is what gets poured into the glass to make it half full. We can deliberately cultivate gratitude and increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, grateful thinking – and especially expression of it to others – is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy.”
There is no doubt that children’s attitudes can have a huge impact on the overall culture of the classrooms. As teachers, and caregivers, we want to inspire positive attitudes and increase empathy and a sense of community in our classroom. Teaching gratitude is a sure way to do that.
Below is a list of Gratitude-Building Activities, based on my latest picture-book, Lucky Me. Please feel free to download a FREE copy for your personal use at home or in the classroom by clicking on the image on the bottom of the post.
Gratitude Building Activities for Home and School
Gratitude Web – A good way to delve into your initial discussion about gratitude is to activate students’ prior knowledge. Write the word Gratitude on chart paper and invite students to share what they know about it: What does it mean? How is it shown? What is its significance? Etc. Note their responses and add onto the web as the learning continues.
The Five W’s of Gratitude – A helpful way to navigate discussions about gratitude is to include the 5 W’s (the basic questions in information gathering): who, where, when, what, why. For example: Who is involved in the giving and receiving of gratitude? Where does gratitude play a role in our lives? When is gratitude significant? What are the ways to show gratitude? Why is showing gratitude important? Etc. [Template enclosed]
Attitude of Gratitude – Begin the lesson by asking students to brainstorm helpers in the community (i.e., police officers, firefighters), highlighting their significance in our lives. Then invite students to focus on people that serve them in a more immediate way (i.e., parents, caregivers, teachers), while continuing to emphasize their importance. Narrow in on this idea further by having students think of others whose impact they feel on a daily basis (i.e., friends, peers, siblings). Discuss how these relationships contribute to their lives and well-being. Understanding the interconnectedness among people helps children see the important role they each play in its maintenance. Encourage students to make gratitude statements toward each other and extend this to other people in their lives. The simple act of giving thanks is a reminder not to take people for granted and recognize how lucky we are.
Thank-You Letters – Encourage students to take the time to write thank-you notes to caregivers, parents and friends. Set up an area in your room where they can do this throughout the day (adding a classroom mailbox is always a fun bonus). Provide students with various letter templates and writing tools to make this an activity they will always want to come back to. Having sample statements is also a good idea for students who may be more hesitant or need more help to get started. [Template enclosed]
ABC’s of Gratitude – Create a classroom web or gratitude book with various items corresponding to each letter of the alphabet. For example, for the letter A students may cut out or draw pictures of things that start with the letter, such as airplanes, apples. Encourage students to think of non-tangible things as well, including things such as appreciations, belief, creativity, etc. These can be written out as words. [Template enclosed]
Gratitude Chain – For this activity children write things they are thankful for on small strips of paper. The ends are then connected and linked into a chain. These can be hung in different places around the classroom as visual reminders that there is always lots to be thankful for.
Gratitude Scavenger Hunt – In this activity, children complete a treasure hunt, looking for various items on a list. The simple act of looking around for things such as ‘something that makes you smile’ instills an appreciation for something around them, something they may not have not looked at in the same way before. [Template enclosed]
Classroom Gratitude Book – For this activity, have each student write and draw a picture of something that they are grateful for. Invite students to share their work with the class. As a way to celebrate these reflective pieces, bind the sheets together into a class book and send it home with a different child each day. [Template enclosed]
Appreciation Circle – End each week by gathering in a communal circle and making appreciation statements toward each other. Start by sharing something you are grateful for, while holding onto a ‘talking stick’ (this helps kids focus on the person speaking). Look at the the person you are directing the statement to and tell them what you are grateful for. (i.e., “Sam, this week I really appreciated your help. You noticed that I was tidying the library and you offered to help me. Because of that I was able to finish a lot faster and had more fun along the way. Thank you Sam!”). I encourage the person being appreciated to respond with a ‘thank-you’, acknowledging the speaker’s gesture of gratitude. Go around the circle until everyone has a chance to participate. Allow students to ‘pass’ and hand over the talking stick to the next person if they choose not to share anything that week.
Gratitude Journals – Have students start a gratitude journal where they write 2-3 things they are grateful for on a weekly basis. The act of writing something as simple as ‘I am thankful for my warm lunch…’ encourages appreciation for things that are often taken for granted. As students become more familiar with this activity, invite them to be more detailed in their statements (i.e., I am thankful for the yummy meatballs in my lunch. Meatballs are one of my favourite things to eat…). [Template enclosed]
Gratitude Quilt – Give each child a 5″ x 5″ blank piece of paper on which to draw something he or she is thankful for. Mount each square on a 6″ x 6″ colored piece of paper and then piece the squares together to create a classroom gratitude quilt.
Gratitude Tree – Sometimes having a visual representation of a concept can help students understand it more clearly. A gratitude tree is meant to do just that. Invite students to write different things they are grateful for on leaf cut-outs and then paste them onto a tree template. [Template enclosed]
Gratitude Acrostic Poem – Invite students to brainstorm things they are grateful for that begin with each of the letters in the word GRATITUDE. [Template enclosed]
Gratitude Collage – Have children draw, cut out and paste pictures of things they are grateful for onto a Lucky Me collage template. Conversely, this can be done on a classroom bulletin board, where children work individually or in groups to fill out a small section of a Lucky Us collage. [Various templates enclosed]
Read Books About Gratitude – One of the best way to introduce new concepts and open up discussions with our students begins with great read-alouds. There are many fiction and nonfiction books that can be used to encourage gratefulness in your students. Lucky Me is one of them.
Other great titles include:
• The Thankful Book – Todd Parr
• All the World – Liz Garton Scanlon
• Bear Says Thanks – Karma Wilson
• An Awesome Book of Thanks – Dallas Clayton
• Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? – Dr. Seuss
• Grateful: A Song of Giving Thanks – John Buccino
• Gratitude Soup – Olivia Rosewood
• It Could Always Be Worse – Margot Zemach
• Thanks a Million – Nikki Grimes
Other activities based on the book, Lucky Me, included in the package below are: Maze, Word Search, Thank-You Language Match-up, Lucky Me Collage, Find the Differences, Lucky Me Drawing Template, ‘I Feel Lucky’ Writing Template, Colouring Sheet, Thank-You in Different Languages Poster.
Click the image below to download your own Teacher’s Resource Guide for Lucky Me.
Not only does grateful living increase our overall happiness and improve our outlook on life in general, but living with gratitude also helps us build stronger relationships with those around us. It creates a thoughtful connection to the outside world that includes embracing people with stories different than ours and thank-yous that sound unlike ours. I invite you to explore my latest picture-book, Lucky Me as it journeys across the world and celebrates the beauty in our diversity, while also bringing to light the common overlooked gems we share across all cultures.
I hope you find my gratitude-building activities useful in working with your children and students. Please feel free to share ideas and resources you find helpful as well. Wishing you a fabulous week ahead.