05:00 AM

Teaching Thanks: Developing an Attitude of Gratitude

Teaching toddlers gratitude can be a challenge because they are just beginning to learn that the world does not revolve around them. But don't give up! A thankful toddler is a more pleasant classmate, grandchild and young citizen of the world.

Children tend to grasp the idea of gratitude gradually. By ages 15 to 18 months, children have the building blocks of gratitude. They are starting to understand that they are independent and that mom and dad play games or offer foods they like. Toddlers ages 2 and 3 can talk about specific things they are thankful for, such as people, pets and toys. Understanding gratitude in the abstract-caring, kindness and love-is possible for children age 4 and older.

Set an Example

Gratitude and good manners are related skills, so teach your child to say "please" and "thank you." Following the rules yourself will help reinforce the concept of thankfulness every day. Here are other ways to foster appreciation in toddlers:

  • Ask toddlers to help with age-appropriate tasks, such as setting the table.
  • Donate toys and clothes that your child helps select to benefit those less fortunate.
  • Have your child help with thank-you notes, asking them to draw a picture or dictate a note explaining why they like the gift.
  • Share a goodwill project with your toddler-such as creating a card or preparing a meal-and then deliver it to an elderly neighbor or family member to show you are thinking of them.
  • Say "no" to the small stuff occasionally to make your toddler more appreciative of the times you say "yes."

Making Learning Fun

Crafting provides a great way to teach your toddler abstract concepts such as thankfulness and also makes great keepsakes for you. Try these activities to help your toddler and whole family share their thanks

  • Paper Chain of Thanks:This project can be used as decoration for Thanksgiving dinner. Write what you and your child are thankful for on strips of paper in fall colors before attaching the ends in the previous link to create the chain.
  • Thankful Placemats: These usable placements are created from captioned collages of family photos and images from magazines that have been pasted onto two pieces of standard paper. Tape the pages together on the long side and laminate them to create a placemat. Make a matching set to use at Thanksgiving or any special occasion.
  • Tree of Thanks:Ask your toddler and other family members to trace their hands on autumn leaf-colored paper, then cut out the handprints to make "leaves." Draw and color a tree on a large poster board. Ask your children what they are thankful for and add a response to each leaf. Glue the leaves onto the branches of the tree and hang the artwork for all your guests to enjoy. Keep the art supplies out so your guests can add their own leaves to the project.