Thankful Books: Teaching Gratitude to Kids and Their Grown Ups in 5 minutes a Day

A lot of folks pray, and that’s great.  We don’t pray in the religious sense in our home, but we do stop each night for five minutes to talk about and make note of what we are thankful for.  We have two 3 year olds and we talk about gratitude and thankfulness often in our home.

I started learning about gratitude, I mean, really what it means to be thankful for everything, when I got sober.  I learned that even the really terrible stuff that happens in this life can often lead to change or to growth and for that, I am thankful.  When you lose everything you have, you learn how to get thankful pretty quickly if you are open to it.

I had to be taught how to express and act on gratitude.  It didn’t come naturally to me.  In turn, our kids need to be taught about gratitude and thankfulness.  Just like they need to be taught to tie their shoes and zip their jackets and put their toys away and to be kind and respectful to others, they need to be taught about gratitude.  We can’t expect that they just get it.

We’ve borrowed just about every book Todd Parr has written from the library lately, and they are HUGELY helpful in opening discussion up about how it’s ok to be different, and thankfulness and all kinds of good things within a kid’s brightly colored book.  Our kids are eating them up with a spoon.

Just their speed. And they are learning fundamentally good life skills. I AM THANKFUL FOR TODD PARR.

We’ve been filling in our thankful books for several months now. They’re just simple little notebooks – one pink and one blue – with their names on them and they’ve been scribbled in with my terrible handwriting until the kids can do it themselves (ONE DAY WE WILL WRITE IN OUR THANKFUL BOOKS OURSELVES?).

We do it each night at the dinner table, and as a bonus it causes my husband and I to reflect on what we are thankful for that day as well.  The list goes on and on, but for the kids, in this book each night, I ask for just one thing.  They sometimes give me two or three or ten if they’re feeling spunky.  They know it’s coming when they see the books on the table.  They know this is a routine and that they need to be thinking about what they are thankful for that day.

We talk about the fact that not all kids have all the things they do.  A nice warm home, with a cozy bed and good healthy food to eat.  We try to teach thankfulness for all they have instead of want for what they don’t.  Commercials make that hard when all the toys are taunting them, but we keep talking about it.

I’ll hear my kids say, when I least expect it, THAT IS WHAT I WILL WRITE IN MY THANKFUL BOOK TONIGHT, or YOU KNOW WHAT I AM THANKFUL FOR, RIGHT? After something really fun happens or they’ve accomplished something they’ve been working hard on or something clicks with them about what they are thankful for that day.


I’ll hear them having a conversation among themselves sometimes when they don’t know I’m listening and it’s about how lucky they are to have what they have.  Their bikes, their clothes, us, themselves, their broccoli even.  Not all the time, but sometimes.  And that’s pretty good in my (thankful) book.  Progress, not perfection.

Kids do well with routine and clear expectations.  This is something that they have come to expect as part of their daily routine and I have too.  I value these little talks we have and while sometimes they goof around and give us silly answers – 3 year olds, amiright –  it’s still good.  Life can be incredibly silly and we are thankful for that too.   Sometimes it’s repetitive and that’s ok too.  Life is repetitive, but the stuff that matters, the people that mean the most to us, are listed over and over again.  Steadfast gratitude.

Gratitude is my religion.  It makes my life indescribably better when I can stop right in any moment and find the gratitude.  You may not believe me, but I ask you to give it a try.  What have you got to lose, right?  That doesn’t mean that things don’t just SUCK sometimes and that you don’t ever get to feel blue.  Feeling blue is necessary.  And expected.  We need to feel all the feelings.

These kids are little, but it’s never too soon to begin instilling gratitude and a life of giving back.  If we have much, we give some away to those in need.  If we see someone hurting, we try to help because we are able.  If you are really and truly thankful and practice gratitude, it infiltrates your life.  Your outlook upon life shifts and you want to spread kindness however you can.  I’ve become kinder, softer, gentler and absolutely astoundingly more empathetic and compassionate as a result of practicing gratitude for several years now.

November is a month of thankfulness for many, and while I appreciate that effort, I encourage you to try to keep it up year round.  It doesn’t solve your problems and it doesn’t make you lose weight or give you a shiny new car, but it certainly makes you appreciate all the riches – many that we cannot even physically see – we each have.  And it helps show our kids that they are capable of gratitude on many levels.  It’s getting in on the ground floor of nurturning a gratitude filled life for these little humans.  For this I am thankful.


Teaching kids to be thankful is not just for Thanksgiving

Unapologetic Gratitude

On Finding hope and joy in the midst of this terrible world

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