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.
In her first illustrated book for children, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison introduces three feisty children who show grown-ups what it really means to be a kid.
Patty, Mickey, and Liza Sue live in a big brown box (locked from the inside) with all the amenities a modern child dreams of: TV, Barbie, pizza, Spice Girls T-shirts, beanbag chairs, and Pepsi. All this, but no liberty. They’ve been placed in this box because the adults in their lives believe “those kids can’t handle their freedom.” They have too much fun in school, sing when they should be studying, feed honey to the bees, and play handball where they shouldn’t. Parents, neighbors, and teachers are uncomfortable with these irrepressible children, and hope to control them with strict boundaries. Meanwhile, the younger-yet-wiser children just want the freedom to become themselves: “Even sparrows scream/ And rabbits hop/ And beavers chew trees when they need ’em./ I don’t mean to be rude: I want to be nice,/ But I’d like to hang on to my freedom.”
This is a heartwarming book about feelings and making the right choices. This book is a simple guide for children to share and learn good thoughts and good feelings. The book uses an invisible bucket, that everyone has, to help illustrate how to fill your bucket and how you would feel with your bucket full. In contrast, it speaks of a bucket dipper and how that feels when you become a bucket dipper. For example, the author writes, “A bucket dipper says or does mean things that make others feel bad”
Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman Published by Scholastic Press
When Joseph was a baby, his grandfather made him a shimmering blue blanket adorned with the moon and stars. As the boy grows and the blanket wears out, the old tailor recycles it, in succession fashioning a jacket, a vest, a tie and, finally, a cloth-covered button. But when Joseph loses the button, even his grandfather cannot make something from nothing. With its judicious repetition and internal rhymes, this thoughtfully presented Jewish folktale will captivate readers right through the ending, in which the boy discovers one last incarnation for his beloved keepsake.
Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems Published by Walker & Company
Despite their good intentions, sometimes Dad’s don’t always do things right. Little Trixie finds this out the hard way when she accompanies her Dad to the Laundromat. Without knowing it, he throws her favorite stuffed bunny in the washing machine. Her baby talk doesn’t mean a whole lot to her Dad, but when they get home a perceptive mother is able to tell what is wrong instantly. With wonderfully odd illustrations this humorous book is bound to get laughs from both children and adults.
Are you mother? by P.D. Eastman Published by HarperCollins
While a mother bird is away from her nest, the egg in it hatches. The baby bird’s first words are, “Where is my mother?” He jumps out of the nest, tumbles to the ground and begins looking for his mother. Since he doesn’t know what his mother looks like, he begins by approaching different animals, and asking each of them, “Are you my mother?” He talks to a kitten, a hen, a cow, and a dog, but he can’t find his mother.
The baby bird thinks the red boat in the river or the big plane in the sky might be his mother, but they don’t stop when he calls to them. Finally, he sees a big red steam shovel. The baby bird is so sure that the steam shovel is his mother that he eagerly hops into its shovel, only to be terrified when it gives a big snort and starts moving. To the little bird’s surprise, the shovel rises higher and higher and he is deposited back into his very own nest. Not only that, but he has found his mother, who has just returned from searching for worms for him.
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn Illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak
Published by Tanglewood Press
Audrey Penn is the author of this truly one of a kind story. When little Chester, a young raccoon, is scared to leave his mother and go to school, she gives him something that makes everything alright. She kisses his palm and tells him that the kiss will help make school as warm and nice of a place to be as home is. When Chester begins to feel lonely or scared, he presses his hand to his chest and feels the warmth of his mother’s kiss in his heart. This is one sentimental and heartwarming story that will help even the youngest child deal with changes they have to go through.
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch Illustrated by Sheila McGraw
Published by Firefly Books
With a down-to-earth message of love, a mother sings the same song to her child even as he grows older and older. Finally he is a grown man and she has become an old woman. When she can no longer rock him and sing to him, he does the same to her. A beautiful reminder for every child that their parents will love them no matter how old they are, no matter what they do, and no matter where they go. Love You Forever is the sort of book to bring parents and their kids together after each reading.
The poor little circle is missing a piece. What is to be done? Off on a journey the circle goes, in search of the piece it’s missing. With many mishaps along the way, pieces are found that don’t quite fit – but come close! – and plenty of special consideration is given to what it means to be missing a piece, the story of this circle will touch everyone who reads the tale. Similar to many famous fables, the story deals with the nature of a quest, the fulfillment of the quest, and the unexpected lessons that are learned along the way.