Creative Ways to Teach Kids About Gratitude

Readers share how to teach gratitude.

Bounce some ideas around

Illo of hugging Illustration by: Charlotte trounce

Illustration by: Charlotte trounce

When my 8-year-old starts to spiral down into a negative attitude, we play Gratitude Ping-Pong. One of us says something she's grateful for, then the other takes a turn. We go back and forth until we're both smiling again. The only rule is that you can't repeat the other person's answer. It really works to pull us back into an attitude of gratitude.

JoAnne Burch Burris Lexington, KY

"We have 'thankful time' at dinner. After we sit down, we each name one thing we were thankful for that day."

Holley Tygrett Tinley Park, IL

Make sure to practice

To get in the habit of showing gratitude for gifts the kids receive, we play a game. First, I wrap up some regular household items and give one to each kid as a pretend gift. When they open the gifts, the kids have to say something positive about them. For example, if I give one child a sock, she might say with enthusiasm, "This will go perfectly with my other sock. Thank you so much!" They enjoy the challenge of thinking on the spot and are reminded to be grateful for whatever they're given.

Anna Steltzer Boswell, PA

Put it on display

Each month, we hang a blank piece of poster board in our kitchen for a Grateful Poster. During the month, we write or draw things on it that we're thankful for -- anything from ice cream with extra sprinkles to a beach trip. When the poster is full, we talk about our favorite things, and then we start a new one. It's been a great way to stay focused on the good things in life.

Kelli Perkins Quakertown, PA

Show it with a festive craft

Instead of the usual Advent calendar, one year I decided to make a Gratitude and Good Deeds Garland. I cut inch-wide strips of green and red construction paper and put them in a basket along with a pen and a stapler. Each day my daughter would write down something she was grateful for on a green strip and a good deed she performed on a red. When the garland was long enough, we strung it along the wall. It helped us all be more reflective during the holidays, and it served as a nice decoration.

Diane DiGiorgio Castleton, NY

Reward positive thinking

For Thanksgiving, we each come up with four things we're grateful for and write them down. Then, after sharing our answers, we hand out awards for creativity, originality, positive attitude, participation, and more. By the end, everyone (even reluctant teens!) feels the joy of the season.

Darla Hutson Bloomington, IL

Remember to give back

Every other year for my kids' birthday parties, we ask the guests to bring cash instead of presents. The money goes to the birthday child's charity of choice, such as Operation Christmas Child or an adopt-an-animal program at a local zoo or wildlife sanctuary. We have been doing this for about five years now, and the kids still get so excited to pick the cause for their party.

Melissa Fraaza Ringle, WI

Get your thoughts on paper

We make alphabet books out of card stock -- two pages for each letter -- and fill them with words and images of things (family photos, magazine pictures, and drawings) we're grateful for. We've been making these books for more than four years, and it's great to look back and see what we've included. It's definitely made my children more aware of all they have to be thankful for.

Mary Krawczyk Milwaukee, WI

Originally published in the November 2013 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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