November 12, 2023 // by Hunter Berndt, LMSW, and Julia Miller, LMSW

The beginning of the holiday season is a great time to teach children to appreciate the world around them. Fostering a family practice of gratitude can help children focus on the positive aspects of life, and even help them develop greater empathy for others. BCHP’s behavioral health consultants, Hunter Berndt, LMSW, and Julia Miller, LMSW share tips to help your child practice gratitude.

Tips for teaching kids to be grateful

  1. Practice what you teach: Modeling gratitude is the most powerful way to foster this practice in families. The adults in a child’s life simply saying aloud what they are grateful for is sometimes enough to inspire a shift in mindset. 
  2. Be specific: Research shows that being specific about what we are grateful for enhances its impact on our well-being. For example, “I am grateful we were all home for dinner tonight.”
  3. Create family rituals: Incorporate time into each day to reflect. A bedtime or mealtime ritual in which each family member consistently shares something they are grateful for.
  4. Keep it lighthearted: Nothing is too big or too small to be grateful for! Keeping the door open to any expression of gratitude without rules increases the likelihood your family will continue to engage. 

Activities to help practice and express gratitude

  • Say Thank You: Write thank you letters, pictures, or videos to express gratitude to loved ones and others. 
  • M&M Gratitude Game: Take M&M candies, and for each color you and your child pick up, choose something to be grateful for. For example:
    • Orange - a person you are grateful for
    • Green - place you are grateful for
    • Yellow - a food you are grateful for
    • Red - object you are grateful for
    • Blue - something in the room you are grateful for 
  • Gratitude Jar: Decorate a jar with your child. Every day, your family can write down one thing they are thankful for and put it in the jar. At the end of the month, open the jar and read what everyone wrote!
  • Gratitude Journal – Have your child decorate a journal and write daily prompts for them on each page. For example:
    • I am grateful for...
    • Write something that made you happy today
    • Name something you are proud of

Books that help teach gratitude

  • Llama Llama Gives Thanks by Anna Dewdney (ages 1-3)
  • The Thank You Book by Mo Willems (ages 3-6)
  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena (ages 3-7)
  • A Little Thankful SPOT (Inspire to Create a Better You!) by Diane Alber (ages 5-8)
  • My First Gratitude Journal by Creative Journals for Kids (5-9)
  • Gratitude is My Superpower: A children’s book about Giving Thanks and Practicing Positivity by Alicia Ortego (ages 6-10)
  • Thanku: Poems of Gratitude edited by Miranda Paul (ages 6-11)

Practicing gratitude is a skill that can help your children throughout their lives. The holidays are a great time to introduce your children to these practices. At BCHP, we are grateful for the trust families place in all of us. It is a true privilege to care for your children.