Free 6-Day Gratitude Activities for Kids Challenge the whole family can enjoy this thanksgiving and every day of the year.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)
My eldest daughter had spent her afternoon creating meticulous diagrams of the minibeasts we spotted in nature study this week. Beautiful red dragonflies, bumble bees, grasshoppers and spiders. My youngest sat beside her and worked on her own masterpiece.
Then suddenly – an outburst of anger and despair. “It’s ruined!” and then “I’m never, ever going to draw with you again!”
Ouch. Now both my children were crying.
What happened? Her younger sister had decided to add a butterfly to the corner of her page while she wasn’t looking.
It’s hard to be thankful when we feel like our world is falling apart!
It’s normal to feel sad and frustrated. It’s what we do with these feelings that matter. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul doesn’t ask us to be thankful for every difficult and challenging situation. He reminds us to be thankful in every situation. God’s at work in every circumstance and there is always a ‘good’ to be found.
I sat them down with a family cuddle. When we were all calm, I asked my youngest why she had drawn on her sister’s work.
“Mama, it was so beautiful! And ‘member that butterfly we held together! That was so special!”
Aly lit up, “yes!” – and looked down at her art. “That was amazing! I love your butterfly Lynn. And now we will always remember it!”
The good? Celebrating magical moments and new favorite memories with her sister.
What at first looks like disrupted plans and disappointment is an opportunity for our children to discover how God’s at work in their lives. A new connection with a friend. A greater appreciation for a sibling. A certainty that no matter what they go through, something good can come out of it. Gratitude opens our heart to the unexpected in our day and the joy and love that can be found even in the ordinary.
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Join our 6-Day Gratitude Activities for Kids Challenge!
Learn what we can do to cultivate a grateful heart in our children and my favorite gratitude for kids activities that the whole family can enjoy. Create new thanksgiving traditions or celebrate every day of the year! Sign up for my Newsletter and Stay Connected at the end of this post to get your Free 6-Day Gratitude for Kids Challenge package of printable activities.
These gratitude activities can help your children learn to:
Day One – find joy in the little things and be happy where we are
Day Two – appreciate the lessons learned from our mistakes
Day Three – value the people who help us grow
Day Four – celebrate our friends’ success
Day Five – share kindness
Day Six – give thanks to God for all our blessings
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is more than a polite thank you. It’s a way of relating to the world around us and opens our heart to intentionally see what we often take for granted but really appreciate!
Leading expert, Robert Emmons, explains gratitude has two parts: “First,” he argues, “it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.” Second, he suggests “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves.” We start to notice how other people and God contribute to our lives.
The Benefits of Gratitude for Kids
Research from Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center shows children who practice gratitude are happier, healthier, more resilient, perform better at school, generous, and kind.
1. Gratitude is good for our bodies!
We experience less aches and pains; it improves our immune system; and helps us get a better night’s sleep.
2. Sharing gratitude builds positive relationships.
Psychologists call it the “social glue” that connect us together and strengthens our bonds with family and friends.
3. Practicing gratitude motivates us to be more generous.
Acknowledging the kindness of others encourages us to be more helpful in return.
4. Giving thanks boosts our mood.
Focusing on the positive helps our kids feel happy about themselves and the things they do have. It even releases all those healthy hormones (serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins) that lower stress and promote well-being and contentment.
5. Grateful kids thrive even in tough times.
A grateful perspective shows our children that although life isn’t perfect, we have the power to transform any situation. They remain optimistic rather than being overwhelmed by negativity and embrace challenges as opportunities for growth.
How to Teach Children to be Thankful
How can your family practice thankfulness? The Raising Grateful Kids project at UNC Chapel Hill suggests gratitude has four parts we can nurture to help our children deepen their understanding of thanksgiving and go beyond “good manners”.
Help your child become aware of the many ‘gifts’ they’ve already received. What made you smile today? Was there an activity you loved? Did someone say something funny or nice? What are your favorite things you couldn’t imagine living without? Where or who did they come from? What would it be like if you didn’t have these experiences?
Now take a moment and explore why they received these gifts. Was it something you earned? Did the giver have to give you this gift? Why do you think they were so kind?
Notice how these gifts make you feel. Are you happy, surprised, or excited? Were you inspired? Did it make you hopeful? More confident? Peaceful? Help your child connect these positive feelings to the gifts they received.
Is there something you want to do to express your thanks for this gift? What can you do to show kindness to others in return?
These types of reflections can help our children better appreciate and see the things they already value in their day.
6-Day Gratitude Activities for Kids Challenge
Day 1: Treasured Moments
This Treasured Moments Gratitude activity is one of my favorite traditions. It helps us notice the “little gifts” that present themselves in the most unexpected places and ways! Turn an old box into your “treasure chest” and use your free printable to write down the “good” that happened in your day. Share these joy filled moments again for some giggles and laughs at the end of the week!
Day 2: Gratitude Flowers
One of the best skills we can give our children is the ability to embrace challenges and reframe mistakes as learning opportunities. Use this Gratitude Sunflower activity to celebrate how your child has turned difficult situations into new discoveries, lessons, and growth.
Day 3: Thank You Postcards
Gratitude calls us to see the people who have supported, encouraged, stretched, and mentored us. Give someone a smile and see your child’s heart swell as they realize the many people who care about them. For younger children who can’t write, nothing beats receiving a Thank You Postcard with the colorful art of a preschooler!
Day 4: Spotlight Challenge
There will always be someone who has more than us or do something better. Curb jealousy and look for chances to shine the light on a friend’s success with this Spotlight Challenge activity.
Day 5: Kindness Coupons
Make a book of Kindness Coupons with small acts your child can do to brighten someone’s day. Find out how amazing it feels when we return the kindness we receive from others!
Day 6: Blessings Garland
Keep your children’s eyes focused on God as the source of all our gifts! A perfect activity for the whole family and beautiful addition to your Thanksgiving decorations, this Fall Leaf Blessings Garland shows us the many ways our Lord Jesus is present and blesses our lives.
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Grateful for being able to share these thanksgiving activities with my children and yours!