Here’s something every preschool parent knows: Teaching kids the concept of thankfulness and gratitude can be one of the most important lessons we provide and a challenge too! Every time we encourage our little ones to say “thank you” or ask, “What are you supposed to say?” we start the foundation for a lifelong sense of gratitude.
And, while teaching our kids to say thank you is important, instilling a sense of thankfulness and gratitude is another matter entirely. Gratitude goes beyond good manners—it's a mindset and lifestyle.
At The Gardner School, we’ve seen that helping preschoolers understand thankfulness and gratitude isn’t as hard as it might seem. By ages two or three, children can talk about being thankful for specific objects, pets, and people. By age four, children can understand being thankful not only for material things like toys but also for acts of kindness, love, and caring.
How to Help Preschoolers Understand Thankfulness & Gratitude
So, how do you help instill a sense of thankfulness and gratitude in your toddler or preschooler? Here are a few concepts we’ve seen work well:
1. Set a good example.The example you set as a parent is, by far, the biggest difference-maker when instilling a sense of thankfulness in your little one. You are your child’s first and best role model. The more you can cultivate thankfulness and gratitude in your own life, the easier it will be to teach your child. Gratitude is caught more than it’s taught.
2. Help children see the larger perspective. Preschoolers are obsessed with social comparison (See this interesting 60 Minutes interview). As a result, they can often become frustrated or aggravated when they’re not getting their way. It's hard for preschoolers to grasp that there is a big world out there, and it isn't orbiting around them. While it’s important to recognize a child’s feelings or frustrations, these are also moments to instill gratitude and thankfulness by helping children understand that people everywhere have different things that they need.
3. Take advantage of everyday, teachable moments. As a parent, you have countless opportunities to incorporate learning into everyday tasks. The key is slowing down enough to recognize them. As you head into the holiday season, look for those little moments to teach thankfulness, and be prepared to use them as the powerful teaching aids that they are. When kids can connect the concept of gratitude to a real-life situation, the lesson will be much more likely to stick.
4. Invite children to help with everyday chores. Many studies have shown that including your child in household chores can help them learn several important life skills. But, it also helps them understand thankfulness and gratitude. By participating in simple household chores like cleaning the table or picking up their toys, kids realize that these things take effort. In turn, this creates an opportunity for them to recognize and be thankful for the ways people care for them daily.
5. Incorporate creative and fun activities during the holidays. While gratitude is caught more than taught, that doesn’t mean we should completely ignore the opportunities to help kids understand through creative and fun activities. Here’s a list of some fun and simple ways to teach kids about gratitude—during the Thanksgiving season and beyond.
Partnering with Parents to Teach Gratitude & Thankfulness
At The Gardner School, we recognize that our role of supporting parents of infants and toddlers is about more than teaching ABC’s and 123’s. Whether it’s potty training or practicing gratitude, we’re passionate about helping our students develop in every area of life.
To learn why parents choose The Gardner School or see the experience for yourself, schedule a visit at The Gardner School nearest you.