How can you teach your young child about being thankful?

Learning thankfulness helps children appreciate what they have and what they can do for others.

Practice and model mindfulness and appreciate the sights, smells and sounds around you.
Practice and model mindfulness and appreciate the sights, smells and sounds around you.

Teaching school-age children about thankfulness helps them appreciate what they have, focus on the feelings of others and how they can help others. Teaching children to be thankful or grateful also comes with some health benefits. Research shows that grateful people report higher levels of happiness and optimism as well as being less stressed and having a higher sense of self-worth.

How can you teach your school-age children about thankfulness? Michigan State University Extension recommends these easy tips to try with your child:

  • Model thankfulness and being thankful. Use the words in everyday conversations and talk about what you are thankful for each day.
  • Model manners and expect your children do the same.
  • Include children in age-appropriate chores so they understand they are part of the family and you do things like pick up your room because it’s part of their job in the family.
  • Practice and model mindfulness and appreciate the sights, smells and sounds around you. Take time each day to choose happiness in how you think about the world and situation.
  • Create thank-you notes when they receive gifts or are involved in special events such as birthday parties or other events.
  • Leave sticky notes for family members to thank them for something you appreciate about them.
  • Take care packages such as cookies or other snacks to local fire or police departments to say thank you.
  • Write down what you are grateful for and put them in a jar. Then read them aloud during dinner or family time. You can write things like, “I’m grateful for time with Grandma” or “I’m thankful we went out to dinner.”
  • Encourage children to donate things they no longer to use those less fortunate.
  • Have a no gifts birthday or party where instead of gifts for themselves, children ask friends to bring gifts for less fortunate children or a project like donating supplies to a local pet shelter.
  • Talk about the best parts of your day.
  • Think about gifts that don’t require money—can children help clean up the lawn, make gifts or do something else nice for someone?

Here are some resources to help you teach gratitude to your children:

Teaching school-age children about being thankful helps them appreciate what others do for them and helps them learn how to help others. For more ideas about activities and articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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