Eight Ways to Teach Kids About Gratitude

What’s Jewish about gratitude? So many things! In Judaism hoda'ah means gratitude or being thankful for what we have. But there’s also a phrase, hakarat hatov, which extends beyond simple gratitude to “recognizing the good” all around us. Hakarat hatov is something kids often practice pretty naturally when they’re little. For babies, everything is new and everything is amazing! As kids grow older, it’s hard to keep that sense of wonder. Modeling gratitude and practicing hakarat hatov helps children (and us grownups) remember to be thankful for things in our life beyond material possessions. Understanding that everything really is amazing helps all of us stay grounded, thankful, and healthy.

Here are eight activities that will help the entire family go beyond just saying “thank you,” to living hakarat hatov.

Talk about it

Make “Thank you” part of your routine. Let your kids see you say “thank you,” often. Be sure to thank each other: “hey, your room looks great, thank you for putting away your toys,” or “that was really yummy, thank you for making dinner.” You can also play the “Rose and Thorn” game. At dinner time or before bedtime each family member describes the “rose” of their day – a high point, followed by the “thorn,” a low. Part of this game is discussing how to turn the thorns into opportunities. Some families play this by keeping a rose in a vase on their dinner table, while others just discuss their days. You can see the Plonys playing the rose and thorn game in the video at the bottom of this post.

Create a Gratitude Wall

image via What Do We Do All Day?

This fantastic hands-on activity from What Do We Do All Day? provides a tangible way to look at all the things, big and small, that your family feels gratitude for. Kids will stretch their creative muscles while working on their handwriting skills as they make their cards. This activity is also a great way to spark dinner time conversations about gratitude--you can use this as an alternative to or in addition to the "rose and thorn" game.

Craft “Give Thanks” hands

Image via sightandsoundreading.com

Have children trace their hands and then write out “G-I-V-E-T-H-A-N-K-S” on each of the fingertips. Use the acronym as a reminder about practicing hakarat hatov and giving thanks. Say each line of the acronym with the corresponding finger as if you were counting to memorize your "Give Thanks" mantra.

Work on your “attitude of gratitude”

There’s a Jewish tradition that encourages finding 100 blessings each day. From waking up to trying something new, to turning a bump in the road into a new opportunity, there are occasions throughout our day to feel gratitude and awe. Our brains are trained to actually take greater notice of and hold on to negative experiences and interactions, but actively counting our blessings, appreciating even the smallest positive moment on an otherwise rainy day, and learning to turn around difficult situations helps us reframe our thinking. A story like Thank You, For Me! is also a wonderful reminder about all of the blessings a child encounters during their day. Not sure where to start with counting your blessings? We've got a blog post that can help.

For more, watch the short video, Grateful for the Partial, below:

Make a list

Image via thegratitudegraffitiproject.com

Use a whiteboard, sticky notes, or even washable paint on a window. Brainstorm together and write out a list of all of the things that you’re grateful for. Need help getting started? Use these prompts

Give to others

The Pirke Avot tells us “Who is rich? The person who is happy with what he has.” Donate your time, your clothes, your toys – give new things and unused items in good condition. The act of cleaning house to prepare donations for a clothing drive, a relief effort, or a fundraiser, helps us to really take stock of what we have and appreciate it.

Put together a family gratitude book

A gratitude book is like a scrapbook that’s themed around things you’re thankful for. Compile your favorite family photos, recipes, and mementos into an album that you decorate together. You can create a hard copy using supplies from your local craft store, or make a digital scrapbook together using a service like Shutterfly or Mixbook.

and of course…

Read a Story

You can find some of our favorite books, like Bagels From Benny or Good Night, Laila Tov in this list. The blog, Rhythms of Play, features a book list with reading suggestions for children and grownups. You can click here to see their full list. The Best Children’s Books website also has a list of books perfect for discussing gratitude and saying “thank you.” You can view it here.

For more ideas, check out this fantastic two-minute video for parents from Shaboom!:

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