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Teaching gratitude to kids during the holidays

How to Teach Children the Art of Being Thankful During the Holidays

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The holidays are a wonderful time to teach children about being thankful. After all, with a focus on gift-giving and time with loved ones, there’s plenty to be grateful for. 

Of course, children will be children. The excitement of receiving presents can make it hard to slow down and take time to be appreciative. Kids aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong to feel this way, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up the opportunity to teach children the art of being thankful during the holiday season.

In addition to helping your kids focus more on giving than receiving, feelings of gratitude can lead to increased happiness. Maybe that’s why it’s called holiday cheer. 

If you’re looking for inspiration to teach your kids gratitude during the holidays, here are our best tips.

Explain what it means to be thankful

Teach young kids to identify happiness and connect this feeling with gratitude for toys, food, or experiences. Older kids have probably already been exposed to the idea of thankfulness but can use reminders of how to show their appreciation to others.

Model thankfulness, gratitude, and generosity

Consider your own actions during the holiday season. Try to slow down and explain to your kids the moments of thankfulness, gratitude, and generosity you experience each day. Tell a story about when you said thank you or did something nice for a stranger.

Encourage your children to write thank you cards

Thank you cards can feel like a lost art, but even in an age of smartphones, a handwritten thank you can go a long way to show gratitude to others. Toddler artwork is a fun way for them to say “thank you,” while older children can learn how to write heartfelt notes.

Gather games, toys, and clothes to donate to others

A child of almost any age can understand that not everyone has the same toys or clothes that they do. And children can also be profoundly giving and willing to make other kids happy. Help them find toys, games, and clothes they can donate to others. 

You can find gently used items around your home or pick a few new toys from a store to donate to an organization.

Try 12 days of thankfulness

Have you heard of a gratitude journal? There is not necessarily a right or wrong way to practice gratitude, but it helps to think of 3-5 things to be thankful for each day. With your children, you can start small. 

Commit to 12 days of thankfulness during the holidays, and spend a few minutes every night sharing (or writing if your kids are old enough) a few things they are grateful for. 

Don’t forget to let them be kids

Help your children make holiday wish lists using a year-round gift registry like They’ll even be able to see others’ lists so they can take part in the spirit of giving. When they open their presents at your holiday celebration, remind them to say thank you and then let them have fun and play.

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