Gratitude is something that most people understand, but few people can explain how we go about learning to express and feel gratitude. Is thankfulness something that we’re naturally capable of feeling? Or is it a learned trait? While it might seem natural to you, the ability to recognize and express gratitude is very much learned in a child’s early years — specifically, the toddler and preschool years.
By the time a child is two or three, they can learn to express thankfulness for tangible things, such as their pets, friends, family, and toys; by age four, they can learn to gratitude for non-material things, such as acts of kindness and love. Here are some tips to help your preschooler learn gratitude.
Lead by Example
Gratitude is one of those things that cannot be taught by word alone — you have to teach by your actions. The more you express gratitude in your own life, especially in front of your child, the more they will begin to develop an attitude of thankfulness themselves. And don’t just express gratitude to others; express gratitude to your child as well for the little things they do. Thank them for doing their chores, for being kind to their siblings, and simply for having a happy demeanor that day. As your child sees and hears you being thankful, they will learn to do the same.
Look for Teachable Moments
As a parent, life is full of moments in which you can teach your child important lessons. So be on the lookout for situations in which you can teach them about gratitude. Perhaps you see a person helping another unload their groceries. Ask your child, “Do you think they are grateful for the help? How can you see that they are thankful?”
This lesson gets even easier to teach as you approach the holiday season. Talk about the upcoming holidays, especially Thanksgiving, and why it is important to be thankful for what you have at this time of the year.
Let Them Work
Countless articles have been written on the benefits of household chores for children. But one benefit that is not frequently mentioned is the opportunity for children to learn gratitude. As your preschooler helps with tasks around the house, they will begin to recognize that caring for their home and for them takes effort. This helps them to develop a sense of gratitude for the everyday tasks that others must do in order to care for them.
Do Fun Activities to Express It
Young children are concrete learners, so it often helps to do a fun activity with them to help make the concept of gratitude more solid in their minds. You might consider having them do something like making a thankfulness collage. Let them cut out pictures or draw pictures of the things they are thankful for. Ask them why they are grateful for those things. You might also have them do a gratitude jar, where they write something, they are thankful for on a piece of paper every day and put it in the jar. This is a great activity around the Thanksgiving season, and the entire family can join in.
By finding ways to teach your children about gratitude, you’ll be helping them to grow into a happier, more grateful adult. If you have any questions about how we incorporate lessons about gratitude into our Franklin, TN, preschool programs, please feel free to reach out to us, or speak to a staff member on your next visit. THE Children’s Academy located in Franklin, TN. and Springhill, TN.