Going Back to School with Gratitude and Kindness

Back to school is a great time for families to build new routines and habits. Today’s digital lifestyle makes taking the time to express gratitude difficult. Feeling thankful on a regular basis can lead to a better state of mind, and for kids, it might produce better grades in school.  

Here are 11 activities and exercises you can work on with your kids to build their “gratitude muscles”.  It’s best to start the practice when your kids can express appreciation and understanding, usually around the time they head to kindergarten. Be present when experiencing gratitude, so it doesn’t become another chore. 

Send Thank You Notes
Start early! Kids don’t have to be able to write to express thanks. Parents can help with the writing or the kids can draw a picture (or just a scribble). Even if your kids haven’t received a gift, they can express gratitude for a fun day with grandma, or a trip to the beach.  

Practice What You Preach
Model the behavior you want from your children. Make sure to express gratitude and appreciation for people, things, and concepts when you talk to your kids. 

Journal About Gratitude

Set aside time daily or weekly for some themed journaling. Kids can express things they are thankful for through words or drawings. If they don’t know what to say or have a hard time with the exercise, suggest simple prompts to get them started. Make it a family affair and take turns writing in the journal and reading it together. 

Create a Gratitude Jar  

Write on colorful strips of paper things that they appreciate and place them in a container. If the kids have a bad day or are in need of a little lift pull out a strip and read together for an instant reset.  

Appreciate Their Actions
Compliment your children when they practice kindness or generosity toward others. Talk together about how important their actions are, and how their actions make life a little better for everyone. Kindness leads to gratitude.

Help Others

Your child can welcome the new student, help a classmate who is struggling, or invite someone new to eat lunch with them in the cafeteria. Helping out their parents at home with simple chores, like setting or clearing the table are great ways to help.   

Use Your Manners

Insist that your children say “thank you” and “you’re welcome”, this shows appreciation and respect for others.

Role Play Gratitude  

Being grateful doesn’t always come naturally to us. If you or your children struggle with this feeling, try acting out different thankful scenarios together and see if it improves the situation.  

Appreciate What You Have 

Being grateful for what you already have will leave you feeling content, happy, and thankful. 

Write a Gratitude List  

There are so many things that kids can be thankful for, they just don’t always realize it. Give them the opportunity to recognize these things by working together on a list of ten things that they are grateful for. Discuss each item as you write it down and why they are thankful for it. 

Make a Good Deed Calendar

These are popular around the holiday season, but there is no reason it can’t be done at other times during the year. Create a calendar with one good deed to be done every day for a month.  Find a mix of solo activities and events you can do together. Talk afterward about how it made you feel to help others.