Gratitude Jars…Using mindfulness a as a way of teaching children of all ages to recognize what they are thankful for.
I don’t think I have ever met a parent that did not want their children to be grateful, and more importantly, exhibit their thankfulness to others. This is a learned skill, generally taught by role-modeling, discussions, and specific behaviors taught to children of all ages. Children learn by doing and even more so when they are provided an environment to think about what they are doing instead of responding with what they think we want to hear.
Gratitude Jars are a fun, interactive, artistic, and hands-on way for children to practice gratitude. In this activity, each child will create a special jar where they save gratitude statements at the end of the day, or this activity can be done at a family event (Thanksgiving) where individuals all participate.
The preparation and materials you will need are simple, inexpensive, or even free.
- Clear Jar (glass or plastic) Mason jars work great.
- Art Supplies (ribbons, stickers, magazine cutouts, etc.)
- Gratitude Slips (blank strips of paper, or slips with gratitude prompts)
Instructions Begin by helping each child personalize their jar (or a “Family Jar”) with decorations. Use ribbons, stickers, magazine cut-outs, items found in nature, or anything else you can imagine. After decorating the jars, it’s time to add the first three gratitude statements.
A gratitude statement acknowledges something that a person appreciates or is thankful for. Participants can use the prompts on the slips (examples listed below) or they can write their own on blank slips. Tach the kids to specifically state (parent writes) or write something they are thankful for that is recent or current. “I am thankful you are my mommy” is not what you are going for. “I am thankful you are my mommy and you sent me a great lunch today”. This teaches the child mindfulness. Meaning, to think and be present in the moment and not a general comment that sounds “canned”.
Here are some examples: “I am grateful for my cat because she makes me laugh.” “I am thankful for the dinner I had tonight. It was my favorite: pizza!” “I appreciate nanny coming to get me from school today when I was sick.”
Once the participants have written down three gratitude statements—one per slip of paper—spend a moment discussing each one. Finally, fold the gratitude statements, and add them to the jar. Plan for children to write three gratitude statements, and add them to their jars, each day. Parents to make the gratitude jar part of their daily routine, including a brief discussion about thankfulness and why this is important. This activity works great as part of a bedtime routine or used at Thanksgiving or Christmas as a tradition. Reading the slips from the precious year is always fun and kids love to see or hear about “what I used to do”.
Examples of Prompts for Slips
Today was special because… I appreciate (person), because… Something I accomplished today… Something I’m looking forward to… Something I am thankful for… Something I like about my family… Three people who make me happy are… I felt happy today when… Something little that makes me smile… Today I had fun when… Something about today that I’ll always want to remember… I am proud of (person), because… Something I appreciate about my past… My friend (name) is important to me because… Something good that happened today… I was proud of myself today because… Something interesting that I recently saw… Something special about my family… Something funny that happened today… Something I like about myself…My favorite family tradition… My favorite part of today… Something I am grateful for… Three friends who I appreciate… A special memory I have of my family… Something I look forward to every day… Today, I felt happy when… This week has been good because… Something I like about myself… Something that made me smile today… Something that made me laugh today… Something God did for me today… Something God taught me today… Something that made me laugh today… Something God did for me today… Something God taught me today… Something I am proud of that I did today… Someone I helped today and how… What I did today that made God happy… What I would like to thank God for… When I was really angry but I calmed myself down… How I followed the rules when I did not want to…