Instilling gratitude in children is not an easy task and it doesn’t just happen by accident. While teaching kids to be polite and say “please” and “thank you” are important social norms, this will not necessarily help them understand gratitude or develop the internal motivation to be grateful.
The autumn season is the perfect time to instil the practice of gratitude among children. As Thanksgiving approaches, it is natural for families to reflect on what they are thankful for. Take time this year to make a gratitude wall and teach kids the value of thankfulness by bringing it to life.
Research continues to show that practicing gratitude is associated with increased happiness and better health in adults. Being thankful is a practiced discipline, one adults and children alike, must learn. For kids, they learn an attitude of gratefulness in their families by watching their parents.
What is a “Gratitude Wall”?
A gratitude wall is a daily family activity that helps everyone reflect on what they are grateful for. It is a dedicated space in the family home where everyone takes time together to reflect on the things they are thankful for and remember them visually. It can be as simple as a piece of poster paper or a large blank canvas decorated with words and hand drawn pictures. The visual representation of a gratitude wall is less important than the regular rhythm of practicing gratitude together.
Infuse autumn with thankfulness – make your own gratitude wall
- Poster paper
- Markers, pens or crayons
- Magazines or flyers
Set up your gratitude wall
Tape or tack poster paper or canvas up on a wall at home. Choose a location that is accessible and easy to interact with. The goal is to add a new reflection or idea every day.
A little thankfulness every day
Set aside time every day throughout the autumn months to discuss as a family what everyone is grateful for. Choose a time that works for the household. Supper time may work for some families while bedtime might be better for others. Then take time together to add a word, a short sentence of reflection, a sketched drawing, or a cut-out photo from a magazine, to the gratitude wall.
For younger children, their concept of gratitude will still be developing. They may be thankful for a pet or a special toy. The rhythm and practice of being thankful, and seeing other family members model gratitude, is more important than the specific content.
The gratitude walls of families of preschool-aged children may not look Pinterest-worthy. These may have a smattering of stick figures and jagged letters, and that is okay! The primary objective is to instil the practice of gratitude into normal family life.
After several weeks, each gratitude wall will have a collage of experiences, people, and objects that reflect what each person in the family is thankful for. And perhaps, there will be some newly established family rhythms that help everyone understand and practice gratitude regularly.