Ingraining Gratitude

Instilling a sense of gratitude in kids is a task that is often made difficult by peer pressure and popular culture. Once kids start their holiday wish lists, it may especially feel like they have forgotten the ‘reason’ behind the holiday season. Kids may have learned they should feel ‘thankful’ during the holidays, but ‘thankfulness’ and ‘gratitude’ are rather abstract concepts that don’t have much meaning until you connect them with real life. When preparing for Thanksgiving this month, plan some activities that allow kids to gain a deeper understanding of gratitude and to reflect upon what they are grateful for each day.

Teach by modeling gratitude in your own actions

The adults in your household help bring these concepts to life by modeling gratitude. Make it a point daily to do a quick check to see if you are providing good examples of gratitude, such as thanking someone for helping with a chore and finding something positive to say even when you encounter a disappointment. Show your kids that a sense of gratitude can help them find the positive outlook needed to move forward from a difficult situation.

Create a fun way to think about gratitude each day

Create a Thanksgiving craft that helps kids focus for a few minutes each day on what they are grateful for. One fun craft is a Thanksgiving leaf banner. You will need grapevine garland from the craft store or twine, a clothespin for each day until Thanksgiving (or the day you wish to share the project at a family gathering) and fall-colored scrapbooking paper. If you are using grapevine garland, you will also need some ribbons to tie the banner.


  • Cut the grapevine garland or twine to a length that is a little longer than your mantle. If you do not have a mantle, measure how wide
    the banner needs to be to decorate a wall or a doorway and cut the garland or twine to that length plus a
    little extra.
  • Use a leaf from outside or a real size leaf template to trace the outlines of leaves onto the paper and cut them out. You will need one leaf per clothespin.
  • Attach each leaf to the garland or twine with a clothespin.
  • Each day, unclip a blank leaf from the banner. Ask your kids to tell you a few things they are grateful for and write these notes of thankfulness on the blank leaf. When they are finished writing, clip the leaf back to the banner. At your family’s Thanksgiving celebration, enjoy reviewing the notes written on the banner.
Teach kids about gratitude by helping others

Help kids understand gratitude by giving them the opportunity to see it expressed to others. Look for kid-friendly opportunities to volunteer around the community (see our list of local options at or volunteer right at home by helping a disabled neighbor do a fall cleanup of her yard. Help your kids create baked treats or crafts to share with those who could use a cheer. Sign up with a local nursing home for your child to become a pen pal for a resident.

In each act of kindness executed, take a few minutes to explain why the individual you are assisting needs help. Ask your kids how they think the person felt when she received the assistance or gift. Share any thank you notes you receive with your kids. The real-world experiences help kids connect the feeling of gratitude with the act of appreciation (saying thank you) and teach them about how good it feels to share their gratitude with other people.