INSIDE: Children absorb so much from us when they are young, so it’s the perfect time to jumpstart a habit of thankfulness. Through these gratitude activities for kids, they’ll have fun saying thanks and learn how to discover gifts in the simplest of everyday things.
As the holidays usher in gifts and time spent together, we’ve hit that time of year where we think about gratitude and thankfulness. Yet recognizing moments of gratitude and expressing it needs to happen year-round.
Research has begun to show incredible links to our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing arising from actively engaging in a gratitude praactice.
While there is much left to study to truly understand how the experience of gratitude changes our health, the science is promising. When taught from a young age, it can truly transform a child’s life, from improving focus and concentration to increasing energy and optimism.
Babies aren’t born with the inherent habit to say thank you or show gratitude. In the first year of life, humans demand their needs rather than asking kindly, so as children grow, they must learn from those around them how to say thank you.
Through gratitude activities for kids, they learn to appreciate what the world offers and notice even the tiniest gifts that come to them everyday.
11 Gratitude Activities for Kids
We’ve brainstormed quite a few activities to try with kids, and we bet these will ignite even more creative ways to express gratitude as a daily habit.
Create a Gratitude Tree Together
A great way to introduce the practice of gratitude to children is through fun activities and crafts. We like the idea of building a gratitude tree, setting roots of thanks and appreciation for the small and big things that come our way.
Whether as a Christmas tree-like sculpture or a simpler paper poster tree, kids can create a trunk with branches as the foundation of their gratitude tree. Then, dedicate a prominent location for the tree at home so that children see it regularly and continue to grow it.
Let kids make leaves in different designs and colors to experience even deeper levels of creativity and connection to the tree. Then, have children write a message of gratitude – from one word to a full sentence or even a picture – and secure the leaf to the tree.
Remind kids to visit the tree each day to help it grow big and lush with more leaves of gratitude. They will discover its limitless reach as they find more and more to be thankful for.
Teach Them the Importance of Thank You Cards
Nowadays, we send off quick emails, texts, or posts to express gratitude. But by taking the time to sit and reflect on a handwritten thank you, we discover greater depths to the gifts we receive from others. That’s a beautiful practice to share as a gratitude activity for kids.
When we teach children early on to prioritize a reciprocal thank you card when they receive something from others, it develops a habit they can carry forward into the rest of their lives.
Kids can begin by making the cards themselves, cutting out shapes from recycled goods like paper grocery bags, which gives back to the earth as well. Let them draw or write in the card the full expression of how they feel about a gift from another person.
It doesn't have to happen only after a birthday or holiday – we can teach kids to find gratitude in the everyday. Send a thank you card to a grandparent who took them to a ball game over a weekend. Imagine the powerful message and gift it sends to others.
Do Gratitude Journaling Together
Gratitude journals have proven to be a major outlet for lifestyle changes in adults, urging a new mindset that inspires healthy new habits and outlooks on challenges. When kids learn to write in a journal regularly, they gain literacy skills as well as an easy antidote to mental struggles.
To get kids excited about gratitude journaling, a great first step involves helping them find a journal that lights up their creativity. They can decorate a plain spiral notebook or pick out a unique journal at a local bookstore. Just make sure they resonate with their journal.
We’ve talked before about the importance of self care journaling for adults, and one way to motivate us to keep a journal is to build a ritual around the process.
It’s wonderful to share this with children too. Show them how to set out crystals for abundance and teach them how to use them. Light incense or a candle that will invigorate their senses. Then, together, start to write, either from a prompt or just free flowing messages of gratitude.
Make a Gratitude Collage
Another artful gratitude activity for kids stems from the earlier gratitude tree. Creating a gratitude collage is similar to a vision board except that instead of incorporating things we hope to attract into our lives, we take stock of the bounty we have to make a kind of altar of thanks for what we have.
Kids can find pictures in magazines or draw them to express things they are grateful for. As they create the collage, have a conversation about why they have included certain elements. This teaches kids to really reflect on what matters to them.
Go for a Family Gratitude Walk
The practice of gratitude is a gift that will fuel the whole family through meditative activities. A regular family gratitude walk offers a healthy physical habit while weaving in a connection of thankfulness that imbues every step with meaning.
As a family, take a walk – down the street, in a park, or on a hiking trail. Along the way, have each person say something they are grateful for, either in their life or in that moment.
It can even be a game – once one person says what they are grateful for, they then ask another person directly, “And what are you grateful for today?” As almost a sing-song activity, it will grow into a fun, natural pattern of expression.
Have a Gratitude Scavenger Hunt
Make gratitude activities for kids fun! A scavenger hunt can be an adventure to explore gratitude.
Write a list of categories that kids relate to and that will spark thoughts of gratitude. Give the children the list and tell them to collect items, take a picture of them, or find something that represents each category on the list that they are grateful for. Set a timer and have them return to tell the story of gratitude they have hunted.
Make Dinner a Gratitude Ritual
We know that one of the best ways to reinforce connection as a family happens in spending time together, and in our busy lives, setting aside time to eat dinner together can have a powerful effect. Amplify this time by transforming it into a gratitude ritual as well.
Start by collectively saying thanks for the food – some families opt for prayer or a blessing, but even a simple statement together as a family sends a potent message into the universe. Then, allow each person at the table to speak about something they feel thankful for from the day.
This not only teaches kids to express gratitude but also to listen to and give space for others to say thanks.
Volunteer as a Family
Get the whole family, young and old, involved with gratitude activities for kids. Volunteering together shows kids that giving back to the world is an expression of gratitude as well. They will not only give but will find joy in the time spent together, an endless cycle of gracious action.
Create a Gratitude Rock Garden
Doing gratitude activities for kids that allow them to make a permanent stamp of thanks in their home and environment gives them a space to always come back to. We love the idea of a gratitude rock garden.
In this multi-layered activity, let children take time in nature to find rocks that they can paint with symbols or words of gratitude. We can also let them choose crystals that can safely stay outside in the elements and teach them what these stones can do for us.
Gathering their painted rocks and crystals, give children a space outside – in a garden or on a porch or stoop – to configure their stones. Let them know that they can always return to this spot as a reminder of the wonderful gifts they have received in their lives.
Demonstrate Acts of Kindness
Start making acts of kindness and thanksgiving a weekly habit. Invite children to do something with you that helps someone else or to celebrate another person in the family. Maybe that’s giving Mom breakfast in bed or helping prepare a sister’s favorite food for dinner one night.
As the adult, help them see that the action is meant to make the person feel special because of the wonderful things about that person and the things they do for us. Then children will understand how gratitude cycles through everyone.
Play a Gratitude Game
We mentioned creating a game or song on a gratitude family walk, and this can extend to other gratitude activities for kids. As children see the fun in giving thanks, they’ll want to do it all the time. That sounds a lot better than repetitive question like, “Are we there yet?”
The Alphabet Gratitude Game is an easy way to get kids to express their thanks and gratitude, and it requires absolutely nothing but imagination! The whole family can play along, and there are many ways to play.
One method involves each person saying something that they are grateful for that corresponds to each letter of the alphabet, with no repeat answers. Another way that can also help young children with their letters is to go in a circle, starting with A and moving to the next person and the next letter.
When we teach gratitude activities for kids, we give them opportunities to develop healthy, mindful habits that will fuel their mental and spiritual wellbeing for life. An attitude of gratitude is something they may thank us for much later!
* Crystals and stones should not be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Please read our full disclosure notice here.