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Teaching Kids to be Grateful

Updated on June 30, 2012

Having the attitude of gratitude can start early. Parents, teachers and caregivers are the models through which the child sees the beauty of life and things around him and learn to be grateful for them. Here are the myriad of ways we can teach kids to be grateful.

1. Teach Kids the Words Used to Express Gratitude

Kids need to know that there are words they can use to express gratitude. The most common and beautiful one is “Thank you.” Other words include, “I am grateful. I appreciate what you did for me. I am thankful for your kindness.”

Related words to convey gratitude and happiness include:

  • I am pleased to meet you.
  • I am thrilled you could join us.
  • I am delighted to have you on our team.

2. Allow Children to be Creative in Expressing their Thankfulness

In our preschool, there is a time when kids get to make their personalized thank you cards. They get to draw or decorate it according to their preference. But when you start sharing to them the concept of gratitude, you can also ask them how they would want to say thank you? Their answers may just catch you with delightful surprise.

  • Little Sabrina gives a small flower and places it in the desk of her teacher.
  • Little Richard scribbles a crooked ‘thank you’ on a writing pad paper folded six times.
  • Little Cassie draws stick figures of a happy family.
  • Little Johnny gives you a tight hug.
  • Little Sheila says, "Mommy tomorrow I will cook you breakfast!"

Pay attention to their love language. Some may express it differently and it is up to us to notice it and celebrate that which is given with a thankful heart.

3. Say a Little Prayer of Thanksgiving

It’s meal time and one eight year old boy began complaining of the food that is placed before him. He grumbles that the fried chicken is not to his liking. There is fish soup and vegetables, the mom offers. He stands up pouting and goes to the refrigerator to see if there is something else he likes to eat. The mom doesn’t say anything. The child has forgotten the gift of having good food provided to him.

Yet on the other side of the world, another eight year old boy places his hand together and says a prayer of thanks, grateful for a small bowl of rice and hot soup with a sprinkle of onions and nothing else. After saying grace, he smiles at his mom who smiles back at him.

What a world of difference if we are able to teach kids to be grateful for what they have. Saying a prayer of thanksgiving before meals or when you arise or fall asleep is one way to bring them into that space of gratitude.


4. Put Up a Thankful Board

Parents and teachers who want kids to be aware of the things to be thankful for can put up a thankful board. Colorful ‘posts it’ can be placed near the board. And if a child remembers something that she is thankful for the day, all she needs to do is get the paper, write and post it on the board!

As a variation, kids can also post photos of the people or things they are thankful for in life. Photos of their family, grandparents, teachers, friends, pets, toys etc. can be placed on the thankful board. This is a good way for kids and adults alike to remember the things they are thankful for.

Most of all, if you are feeling blue, just go and look at your thankful board. The photos and the notes will lift you up, that’s for sure.

5. Make a Family Scrapbook of Gratitude

Family bonding time can be spent on making a scrapbook. Each family member gets the chance to add something they are thankful for. It can be a note to dad or a photo of your favourite time together as a family. For instance, “To dad, thank you for our walks in the garden.”

What a beautiful legacy we can give our children when we are able to compile a family scrapbook filled with lots of gratitude and happy memories to treasure.

6. Compose a Gratitude Journal

This is for older kids who can already compose sentences. Writing on your gratitude journal is a wonderful way to be aware of the things that you can be thankful for. To get into the habit, you can schedule days in the week where you and your child write on your own gratitude journal.

As an added activity, you can also schedule once a month where you have silent journal reading time for ten minutes. After which you all share how you feel reading your journal.

Find the beauty in life and be thankful for it!
Find the beauty in life and be thankful for it! | Source

7. Play the What If Game

In a workshop I once attended, the trainer gave us an assignment. For one whole day we couldn’t use our thumbs. The next day, we all gave our feedback. We had a hard time doing simple activities like texting, opening the zipper of our pants in order to pee or write. Gosh, we suddenly were very much aware and thankful for this teeny weeny part of my hand called the thumb.

What if you couldn’t use your thumb? What if you have no eyesight? What if you couldn’t hear? What if you had no bed to sleep on tonight? These are just some of the questions you can play. Remember just one What-If game for a day.

8. The Magnetism of Thanks Activity

You will need a plate of filled with sand, a couple of magnets, small iron filings, salt.

Ask the kids if they can pick the tiny iron filings that are mixed in the sand using their eyes or fingers. Then bring out the magnet and tell them that this magnet can help them do that. Allow them to observe the magnet as the iron stick to it.

Explain that the sand represents your day while the magnet is your heart – a thankful heart. A heart filled with gratitude can easily scan your day and pick out the wonderful blessings just like the magnet picking out the iron. But if one’s heart is not grateful, it is like your fingers. No matter how much you search through the sand, your day, you can’t find any particular thing to be thankful for.

Have the kids take turns sweeping the magnet and allowing them to recall their day and say that which they are thankful for.

After, explain that just like the magnet attracts the iron, a thankful heart attracts more things to be thankful for in life.

9. Say Thankful Affirmations

Affirmations are words we utter to declare the truth within ourselves and it is a helpful tool to change one’s thinking and attitude.

Sample affirmations:

  • I am grateful for who I am and what I have in my life.
  • I am a grateful person. I praise the good in my life.
  • I have a thankful heart.

A thankful heart paves the way for relationships to flourish.
A thankful heart paves the way for relationships to flourish. | Source

10. Be a Parent or Teacher with a Thankful Heart

It’s time to check yourself. Do you have a complaining or thankful heart?

A child’s values, beliefs and perception are acquired with the things he observes around him especially from the most important people in his life. If you are having a bad day, how do you respond to it? Are you thankful for the things in your life? Do you express it in words or in actions?

If you still struggle in this area, you can do the above activities with your child with a more determined mindset. For sure, a thankful heart helps us have better attitude and allows us to believe in the abundance there is.

I thank you for reading this article and I hope you found some gems of wisdom along the way.

BY: Michelle Simtoco


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    • SAQIB6608 profile image


      4 years ago from HYDERABAD PAKISTAN

      Interesting topic and nearly all important points covered. Grooming children is indeed very important right from their toddler years. It is the time during which they learn too.

      Good Quality Hub



    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Good day I am so happy I found your website, I relaly found you by error, while I was researching on Askjeeve for something else, Anyways I am here now and would just like to say cheers for a marvelous post and a all round exciting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the minute but I have book-marked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the excellent work.

    • MomsTreasureChest profile image


      7 years ago

      Beautiful and heart-warming!

    • Lovelovemeloveme profile image


      7 years ago from Cindee's Land

      thanks! great hub! I think it's very important to set the foundation early on. It just changes their mindset for life.

    • ripplemaker profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Simtoco 

      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thanks lightshare and kindness, cheers and blessings :)

    • raciniwa profile image


      7 years ago from Naga City, Cebu

      a great article from a great are in every way an epitome of wisdom Michelle...

    • Lightshare profile image


      7 years ago

      Wouh! Really great advices.

    • ripplemaker profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Simtoco 

      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Redelf, thanks! Love and light...

    • RedElf profile image


      7 years ago from Canada

      More wonderful ripples - up awesome and shared!

    • ripplemaker profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Simtoco 

      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      aviannovice: you are most welcome :)

      josh: thank you for dropping by to browse through my hubs. It's nice to connect with you here and fb. I am definitely grateful for people coming into my life and having such awesome and positive attitude! I am feeling so blessed. Thanks so much and have a great day!

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania


      Just met on the Facebook Post were chatting on, so I decided to browse your profile and this hub caught my attention! These are some great activities to teach kids, and you can do them at an early age as well! This is quite humbling at the same time, because adults can also learn to be more grateful for the things that we have!

      Thanks for sharing Michelle and have a great day!

      Voted across the board and shared!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      7 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, we are getting away from simple manners. It is good to see that you did this hub, to remind us all that there is so much more to life. Great job on a nearly forgotten life on manners.

    • ripplemaker profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Simtoco 

      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Terry, oooh the word drama is so true. We do get caught in it often times. And we have to stay vigilant in staying out of it. Thank you so much for your support and I appreciate you taking the time to read this and share your thoughts. I will find the time to write the book. (promise) Namaste and thank you so much! Blessings... :)

    • ripplemaker profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Simtoco 

      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Marie, you made my heart swell with love and gratitude. Thank you very much. The magnet activity was something I read in a book a long time ago and I remembered it when I was writing this article. Putting this together made me realized there is so much we can do to increase our thankfulness and currently I am doing a lot of these activities to help me as well. Thank you for the book idea hehehehehe now to find the time to do it. Blessings to you my dear friend.

    • Terry27 profile image

      Terry Fatland 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      Michelle, thank you very much for writing this very beautiful and insightful hub that is not only good for children, but for all walks of life. I felt a deep sense of gratitude reading this. Sometimes we get caught up in life's dramas, but there is too much to be grateful for to stay in this sour mood very long. We all need good reminders from time to time that we are completely loved an accepted. I love Marie's idea of a book. You have so much love to share with the world. I voted your hub up, beautiful, and awesome. :) Namaste

    • VioletSun profile image


      7 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      Michelle, What beautiful lessons on gratitude that many adults can also learn. The magnet lesson is wonderful for kids and adults! I actually felt my heart expand when reading this paragraph. It would be a blessing if considered writing a book for children or parents with a positive slant which you do so well. :)

      Voted up and awesome!

    • ripplemaker profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Simtoco 

      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Wow, I had a great thankful feeling reading all your comments. The more people share this value, then we can create ripples of thankfulness in the world. I am deeply grateful. Love and light...

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Good topic and one that deserves a great deal of handclapping! Teaching kids to be grateful will help not only the child, but society in general. Well done! voted up.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is such an important topic. Being thankful can help us all be more humble and content with what we already have instead of feeling like we need more. Thanks for the reminder ha ha! Kelley

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Wouldn't it be wonderful if this was the way all children were raised. I think your list was fantastic. Up and awesome.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      7 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      What a wonderful topic and very well done. I think gratitude is sorely lacking in many adults therefore many kids don't learn it. Being thankful is not a child's default position so your ideas were wonderful. I wish I had done more of these with my kids.

    • KathyH profile image


      7 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Excellent advice! :) It seems as if the ability to feel and express gratitude got lost someplace along the way, thanks for giving great advice to bring it back! It all begins with teaching our kids. Voted up and awesome!

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Great hub! Truly in the spirit of the Question, filled with many useful and practical tips! Thanks for sharing :-)

    • Sturgeonl profile image


      7 years ago

      We great advice for teaching children to be grateful. I love the magnetism activity. I plan to use it with my children. I also like the suggestions given for phrases and responses to teach children. Very useful and voted up!

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 

      7 years ago

      A lovely hub on teaching children - I think children learn much from their parents behavior and I was always especially mindful of saying thank you, showing gratitude and saying sorry if I had made a mistake. Well done and an very interesting hub!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      A great message, one that every parent should read. I am astounded by the number of ungrateful kids I see nowadays. I hope this is read by many.


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