Speech Buddies Parents’ Corner – Games That Build Gratitude During the Holidays
Thanksgiving is here – and so is the Christmas season, meaning that kids everywhere will be making lists and making sure they check those lists twice. While the holidays are a wonderful time to share gifts with people who are special in our lives, it can mean that families sometimes feel an imbalance between the getting and the giving. If you’re trying to build gratitude in your kids, try some of these games and activities that remind everyone of the real joys of giving.
6 Ways to Build Gratitude with Kids
1. Record Your Thanks
Encourage your kids to write down (or dictate to you) things for which they are thankful in this acrostic poem format. You can also create your own, using other words such as:
2. Have an Ornament Exchange Pizza Party
Kids love a good pizza party, so let them invite some friends over and ask each guest to bring one ornament for the tree to put into an exchange, and at least one item for a local food bank. Assign each ornament a number and then have kids draw numbers from a Santa hat to see who gets which ornament (retries for getting your own number!). Make it an afternoon pizza party and have everyone meet at the food shelf to deliver the goods, first.
3. Create a Tree of Giving
Get a small, undecorated, potted evergreen tree (the kind you can buy in the nursery for a centerpiece or porch decoration) and a box or bag of plain ornaments (plastic ones for young children). Make a family goal to decorate the tree as you build gratitude, designating certain evenings of the week as decorating night. On each of these evenings, family members write with a permanent marker something for which they are grateful on an ornament and add it to the tree.
4. Make Your Child a Deputy Elf
Tell your child you need her help being an elf – someone who works to bring joy to others. You can even go the extra mile and get some inexpensive elf stockings, a fun felt hat, or other elf attire for your child. Also create an Elf Assignment sheet, with ideas for helping others and encourage your child to add items to the list. Whenever your child does one of these things, add a holiday sticker to the chart.
5. Write Impromptu Thank You Letters
Handwritten thank you notes are becoming a lost art, but take a few minutes as a family to revive the custom and write a thank you card. The twist is that you don’t have to wait until a tangible gift is given – write someone a thank you note just because.
- To the neighbor for always smiling and waving
- To the librarian for always helping you find the books you want
- To the teacher who helps you after school
- To a family member who makes you smile with jokes
- To your piano teacher for having patience
6. Read Books Together that Emphasis Empathy and Gratitude
Reading is not only an academic skill, but it can open doors for conversations and ideas. You can use great stories to model character development for your kids, or use them as reminders of things for which you are all grateful.
Some great selections for kids include:
- My First Gratitude Journal: A Write-In, Draw-In, Gratitude Journal for Kids, by Vivian Tenorio
- The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks, by Jan and Mike Berenstain
- Bear Says Thanks, by Karma Wilson
- The Thankful Book, by Todd Parr
It takes time and effort to encourage kids to build gratitude, but perhaps most of all it takes setting a good example. I know as I go forward this holiday season I will be reminding myself of this when I hustle about doing my shopping or hurry the kids through so we can finish our cookie baking. So let’s give our kids some attitude this season – attitudes of gratitude!