Growing gratitude with youth

Youth can begin practicing gratitude through a variety of age-appropriate activities.

A young person writing a thank you note.
Photo credit: Christine Heverly

Having an attitude of gratitude creates a life-long skill set that enhances physical, mental and personal well-being. It is a simple way to change one’s perspective on life and can help us appreciate the things in life we might take for granted.

It is important to note that gratitude does not mean denying that negative things can (and will) happen in life. It is about finding and focusing on the positive that can exist simultaneously with the negative.

A few strategies and ideas to help grow gratitude with youth:

  • Write thank-you notes or gratitude letters. This is an easy practice that can be utilized when youth receive a gift, are supported by a friend or community member, or appreciate a gesture or kindness. With younger youth, help youth make a list of who they want to send notes to and let them pick their paper or blank cards. Write out words that may be used and offer support with spelling. Common words might include: thank you, gift, present, dear, especially, grateful and appreciate.
  • Share gratitude daily. This can be done with one statement per family member at the dinner table, on the drive to or from work/school, at the breakfast table or right before bed. Discussing before bed can even create a positive space that can help improve sleep.
  • Create a family (or individual) gratitude jar. Use any simple jar or box and decorate, if you want. Using small note paper or index cards, write down something that you are grateful for. Fold up the statements and keep in the jar. At the end of the year or whenever a gratitude boost is needed, review what you have put in the jar.
  • Practice a “walk and talk.” This nature-based activity involves taking a walk and noting things you appreciate in nature and your surroundings. It is a great way to develop the “noticing the good” skill of gratitude.

Helping young people develop an attitude of gratitude can develop a path towards a more satisfying and fulfilling life.

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures.  As a result of career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives. For more information or resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education, or entrepreneurship, contact

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