November is the month of gratitude. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means it’s time to pause and reflect on everything we are thankful for. And it’s also time to gather together and share that gratitude (and good food) with our loved ones.
But the concept of gratitude is tough for toddlers to grasp sometimes. And they cannot typically verbally express thankfulness. That’s why we have to help them express gratitude in a way that makes sense for them!
Here are a few tips for teaching your preschooler gratitude:
Encourage it daily.
The more they see gratitude in action, the quicker they will catch on to it. You can encourage them to start their day by thinking of three things they are grateful for that day. Or even three things they are looking forward to. Then follow up with it and ask them about it later in the day.
You could also encourage them to share something about another family member that they are grateful for. This helps them learn to verbalize gratitude and use kind words.
Make it tangible.
Try pairing a craft of some kind with a lesson on gratitude. You could make a turkey out of construction paper and write something your child is thankful for on each of its feathers. This allows your child to be an active participant in thinking about gratitude, verbalizing it, and writing it down. This also helps them remember it as well every time they see their turkey hanging up!
A craft is simply one way to make it tangible. There are many more! You could also make up a song or rhyme. Read a book on gratitude, or make a gratitude list. Whatever it may be, think about how you can make it real for them.
Show them what it looks like.
The best way to teach your child about gratitude is to model it yourself. How are your words and actions reflecting thankfulness? Maybe you can challenge yourself to express it outwardly even more.
Try praising your child for picking up their toys and say that you’re thankful for a clean room. Thank your spouse in front of the kids for doing the dishes or taking out the trash. Lead by example and express three things you are grateful for while you’re eating dinner around the table. Keep a running gratitude list on your refrigerator that the whole family can add to. Show them what gratitude looks like daily.
Put it in terms they’ll understand.
Preschoolers struggle to understand gratitude at times because it is an abstract concept. So look for ways to make it more concrete. It also helps to connect it to what they’re feeling at the moment.
An example would be like saying, “I love it when we eat tacos. Tacos are my favorite food. I am thankful for tacos!” Or when your child tells you something they are excited about, narrate their feelings by saying something like “wow, sounds like you feel very thankful about that.” And best of all, share what you’re thankful for about them! Tell them you’re thankful for something they’re doing, or something about them, and connect it at the moment.
Write a letter.
A great way to teach gratitude is by writing a thank you letter. Practice with other family members or a teacher first! Your child probably isn’t even writing their name yet, let alone a whole letter, so write down the words they tell you. Encourage them to share what they are thankful for about someone special, and write it down as they tell you. Then you can help them deliver it in person.
We guarantee their eyes will light up and yours will get a little misty!
Choose an act of kindness.
Finally, what better way to foster gratitude than a generous act of kindness? Generosity breeds gratitude! And the month of November is usually ripe with opportunities to give. Whether it’s a food drive, collecting cans at school, a toy drive, or doing something kind for a neighbor. Include your preschooler in the planning process from start to finish. Show them how fun it can be to help someone else! And show them how grateful it makes you for the things you have.
At the Connection Point Early Learning Center, we hope this season is full of gratitude for you and your family. And we wish you a happy Thanksgiving!