It’s in the Giving We Receive: How Our Family Practices Gratitude

Image: MTSOfan (Creative Commons)

During this past year, our family has worked hard to nail down five values that would help us develop a family mission statement — values that would lead us in decision-making and character-building — and one of those values is gratitude. Since most of us will be sitting around a feast-filled table to celebrate gratitude tomorrow, I wanted to share some fun, family-friendly ways to explore gratitude.

Gratitude is one of my favorite lessons to teach because it forces me to to raise the bar for my own behavior (children are always watching) and also because it’s one the kids tend to soak up quickly. I love using great picture books to introduce (and revisit) new topics. Two of my favorites are The Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton and Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson. I also just saw The Thankful Book by Todd Parr in my son’s classroom and will be ordering it today. I love how the language in these books teaches kids that you can be thankful for anything and it’s easy for them to fill in the blank, “I’m thankful for _____.” Older kids (and adults) can take it a couple of steps further by saying why they’re thankful or what they think other people would be thankful for.

With gratitude, I’ve found that simply by increasing our out loud expression of thankfulness, kids catch on and end up thinking about the things for which they’re thankful for independently. While riding in the car, instead of just thinking about how grateful I am for the amazing changing leaf colors, I actually say it out loud, which plants a seed in my tiny passengers’ hearts. It’s always funny to me when the kids do chime in for what they’re grateful for because it often includes things like raisins and rocks, but before long, they’re acknowledging gratitude for people and services, which is awesome.

Here are just a few ways you can incorporate gratitude practice into your Thanksgiving celebration or — even better — your daily life.

Thank You Notes
Who doesn’t love getting real notes these days? Encourage children to express their gratitude for a grandparent, mailman, waitress, or sibling through writing. They can draw pictures, fill in the blanks, and add stickers. Thank you notes never go out of style.


Gratitude Jar or Basket
Throughout the week, write down things you’re thankful for on strips of paper and stick them in a jar. At Thanksgiving dinner (or any dinner), pull out the jar and read about everyone’s gratitude.

Gratitude Hand Turkey
Use cut outs of a child’s hand as place cards for Thanksgiving dinner. Kids can write one thing they’re thankful for on each feather.

Alphabet Thank Yous
For each letter of the alphabet, have children name one thing they are grateful for.

Gratitude Tree
Grab some branches from the backyard, cut up some construction paper leaves and decorate your tree with all the things you’re thankful for. Stick these in a vase and you have an instant centerpiece.

Act it Out
Ask children to act out what the things and people they’re thankful for. This is sure to get everyone laughing!

Practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be fancy or complex; it’s often just a conversation, and it’s one that is definitely worth having. How does your family practice gratitude?

Erin is gratefully living and learning from her adventures with five small children and husband in Decatur, Georgia. A former teacher, Erin now devotes nearly all of her time to trying to figure out how to raise a happy, healthy family. With her husband Josh, she helped start FitWit and The FitWit Foundation.