A mother hugs her young son

5 tips for teaching young children about gratitude

The upcoming holidays are the perfect time to teach young children a very important life lesson about gratitude that will last well past the season.

Gratitude is a high-level concept that can be tricky for toddlers and preschoolers. They are naturally self-focused in their early ages and stages of development. But as children grow with gratitude, they become more understanding of the needs and feelings of others.

So, how do we teach our children to be grateful? One way is to talk with them about being thankful. Not only for material things, but for acts of kindness from others, too. Here are five tips from First Things First, gathered from child development experts and websites.

1. Teach them to say thank you.

Teach young children to express gratitude for the people who do things for them. That can be their server at a restaurant, a brother or sister who helps them pick up toys, or a friend who gives them a birthday gift.

2. Tell your kids why you are grateful for them.

Be specific in letting your children know they are special and loved. For example: “I appreciate the way you help your brother tie his shoes.”

3. Talk about the things you are grateful for.

This can be done in many ways, from a blessing before dinner to keeping a family gratitude journal.

4. Support a charitable event or organization.

Whether you are donating clothes or toys, participating in a food drive, or baking cookies for a new neighbor, talk to children about what those actions mean to those who receive the kindness.

5. Be consistent.

Like all skills, gratitude is not learned in one lesson.

Your child’s first five years are a great opportunity to help them develop the skills they need to be successful later in life. Research shows thankful people are usually more optimistic. They’re also less depressed and stressed. So, when we teach our children to appreciate what they have and what others do for them we are helping them become happier, healthier adults.

What are some of your tips for teaching gratitude to children? Let us know by visiting us on social media at @ArizonaEducator on X (formerly known as Twitter) or Arizona PBS KIDS on Facebook.

About First Things First


First Things First is Arizona’s early childhood agency, committed to the healthy development and learning of young children from birth to age 5. Learn more about early childhood programs at FirstThingsFirst.org.

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