How to instill Gratitude from a young age

Gratitude is, according to Webster’s Dictionary, “a quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Now, that’s a big definition for children, but it’s an important quality to have, and not just during the month of November. Even though they are young, children can easily learn a sense of gratitude if taught from a young age.

As A. A. Milne said, “Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” You want your children to be like Piglet.Teach your children to have and show their gratitude. These easy steps will help you teach them so it comes naturally for them. Click here to find out why your children should have gratitude like Piglet.

Read Books – There are so many books out there that can help you in teaching gratitude to your children. This does not have to involve a big huge lesson that you have to teach; simply reading the books and maybe talking about the lesson a bit will go a long way. You can probably find several of these books at your library or purchase them on Amazon. By purchasing them, your children can re-read them all thoughout the year. Several good books to choose from are

  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein – ‘Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.’ This classic book may make you tear up, so be prepared. But it’s super cute.
  • The Blessings Jar: A Story About Being Thankful by Colleen Coble talks about the good and bad in our lives, but how the good outweighs the bad.
  • Just So Thankful by Mercer Mayer is great. I loved the Little Critter books as a kid, and my children are no different. This book is perfect for Thanksgiving, but can honestly be read at any time of year.
  • Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson shows kids that even when you might think you have nothing worth giving to other people, you really do.
  • Thanksgiving Is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland celebrates Thanksgiving and the art of giving thanks.
  • Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems will make your children laugh as they read about Elephant trying to decide if he wants to share his ice cream. He debates so long his ice cream melts, but then his friend Piggie shows up with an ice cream to share!
  • Thankful by Eileen Spinelli is a fun rhyming book to read where everyone tells what they are thankful for. The things the townspeople pick will make your children laugh.
  • Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter is perfect for older elementary aged children. Pollyanna could always find something to be glad about, and often went around town trying to get people to play “The Glad Game” with her. Your older children may start playing it themselves!

Start with Please and Thank You – If your children are young, some of these steps may be beyond them. But you can still teach them to say Please and Thank You. Even a child barely talking can learn those words. Don’t be afraid to teach them basic manners and expressions of gratitude. They don’t necessarily know that they are learning gratitude, but they totally are.Starting when your children are young, teach them to say "Please" and "Thank You". Besides basic manners, it teaches gratitude.

Gratitude Journal – A gratitude journal is simply a book or notebook that you write in each day the different things you are thankful for. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and each of your kids doesn’t have to have one. It actually works best if you have one for the entire family to use together. You can share the things you are thankful or grateful for, or draw pictures if your kids aren’t old enough. If you want to have an “official” journal, this The One-Minute Gratitude Journal is a great one to have.

Write Thank you notes – Nothing shows you are more thankful than writing someone a thank you note. You could even set a goal for the family of one note per week for an entire you. Make it simple by making that the family goal, not an individual goal. Gather some nice note cards and have them handy. People at school, church, after-school activities, librarians…almost everyone would be very appreciative of a hand-written note of thanks.

Give your child chores – Children who do chores are more appreciative of things around the house, and more apt to care for it more. (This is not an official study, just observation around my house!) They are more careful when brushing their teeth when they know they’ll have to clean up toothpaste if they make a mess. They are more apt to make sure all the garbage gets in the can if they have to pick up whatever doesn’t make it in. Your children will appreciate you when they are grown if they know how to keep their own houses. (At least, that’s what I’m banking on!)

Community Service – A big way to help your children with gratitude is to help others in need. My husband once took our oldest to a single moms oil change at our church, and he talked about it for months. He was only seven, and couldn’t do much, but he could pass out water bottles to the women waiting for their cars or entertain a baby while they waiting. It was a great learning experience for him. Community service projects are a great way that the entire family can participate in showing gratitude, and understanding that we have a lot to be grateful for.

Teaching gratitude to your children is not a one-time thing. It’s an on-going conversation and lifestyle that is much easier to teach if you model it yourself.


  • Elna | TwinsMommy November 7, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Loved this post so much. I’ve been thinking about how to teach gratitude in my almost four year old twins.

    My twins definitely say please and thank you all the time, so that’s great! I really like the journal idea. I was just reading about having a gratitude journal for moms, but having a family one seems so much better!

    • Rebekah @ My Circus My Monkeys November 7, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      Thanks, Elna!
      My twins just turned 3 lat week, and I’m needing to work with them on the Please and Thank You. But we love to read, so that’s an easy one for us! And honestly, the community service works great once the kids are a little older.
      Instead of a journal where we write it all down (although we should) we go around the table at dinnertime and all say something we were grateful for during the day. With my older kids, I have to poke and prod a little bit. “Food” from three older children, four days in a row, just doesn’t cut it!


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