Thanksgiving is around the corner, and many families have a tradition of going around the table at dinner sharing what they are thankful for. Sure a small child can share what they are thankful for. It may be something as simple as being thankful for a toy, or their pet… But how can we show and teach them what true thankfulness and gratitude is?
Many young children know or are learning when to say "please and thank you". But that doesn't mean they know what thankfulness is. Good manners and gratefulness go hand in hand with one another. Saying "thank you" right now may just be manners, but when they are older they will be able to connect those manners with meaning. Thankfulness is a hard thing to explain to a toddler, or even some grade schoolers! What is thankfulness? The expression of gratitude. Well, what is gratitude?The readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Those are some pretty big and confusing words to read out to your kiddo. What we need are some great ways to connect them to not just a bunch of words, but the act of gratitude.
We can help our kids understand that gifts are thoughtful gestures, not about getting presents. This one is a hard one, especially for young children at a birthday party seeing someone else open the gift, and they are not able to. These moments are perfect for talking about how gifts can help celebrate someone, or make them feel special. Let them help pick out the gift for someone, draw in the card, etc. A child's first instinct when picking out a gift, is always to pick one out that they would like… The challenge is to explain to them to pick out something someone else would like, and why. When your child is on the receiving end, help them be thankful for even small tokens such as a picture from a friend. It's the thought that counts, and adding meaning to the act of giving/receiving will give them a deeper appreciation. Thank you notes are also a wonderful way to help your child take time to thank each person individually for what they gave/did, it lets them think on the reason of why and what they are being thankful for.
And by all means, go ahead and do those Thanksgiving crafts with your child! Be creative, and talk to them while you are making the handprint turkeys or cornucopia. Never miss out on an opportunity to connect with your kids, have fun, and help them express themselves creatively. But maybe when we're done those, we do something together that is actively showing them what acts of service can do for another. It's not just about teaching… We're showing and leading by example, too. Our kids look up to us, so let's lead the way!
Get them excited about giving! We all know that awesome feeling of giving to another person, so let's share that with our little ones and talk with them about why their hearts feel so happy. Sometimes kids can't vocalize what they are feeling, and we can help them to understand what they are feeling and why that is. What are some things you can do with your child/family to share acts of kindness and service? Don't forget to ask them what they would like to do to give to others!
Make giving and volunteering a family habit that you do together, making sure your children know what you are giving, where, and why. Even the littlest ones can help gather items that can be donated.
Here are some great ideas to involve your kids in:
Need toddler or young child friendly volunteer ideas? Try these: