With Thanksgiving coming up this week, I thought I'd do a quick post with some ideas for helping kids learn thankfulness. This concept is sort of a hard idea for little ones to grasp, but it's one that I'm sure all of us want to foster in our children. Here are a few ideas and thoughts I found to be useful:
- Look for ways to be involved in community giving with your toddler. Between ages 2 and 3, you can begin to talk with your toddler about how he can help others who don’t have as much as he does. Look for opportunities with a clear connection between your child’s efforts and the recipients.
- Show thankfulness to your children. It’s easy to forget, but important to do. Thank you for cooperating at the doctor’s office. Thank you for getting your jacket when I asked. Thank you for coming right away when I said it was time to leave the park; I know it was hard for you to get off the swing. Thank you for your hug—it made me feel so happy!
- Read books about what it means to be thankful. Books help children make sense of new ideas. Keep in mind that your child’s understanding of a book at 14 months will be different than what she gets out of it at 35 months—another good reason to share these stories over time. As she grows, talk with her about the stories and pictures and explore what it means to be “thankful.” Some age-appropriate choices for children aged 12 to 36-month-old include:
Biscuit Is Thankful by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and Pat Schories
Little Critter: Just So Thankful by Mercer Mayer
Feeling Thankful by Shelly Rotner
Thanksgiving Is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland
- Wanting vs. Needing: Oh, this is a good one. How many times have you said "I need" when talking about some totally extraneous item you wanted? Explain to kids that they don't really "need" a new gaming system. A need is something much more basic, like food, shelter and warm clothing. It's OK to want stuff, but make them aware that their needs are actually taken care of, and that is something to be thankful for.
- Express your thanks out loud. Don’t be quietly thankful. Your children need to know you are thankful for them, for your home, for friends, mentors, and for the other good things in your life. Celebrate your thankfulness often and initiate conversations.
Here are a couple of arts and crafts activities that actually encourage kids to think about the first Thanksgiving and gratefulness: