Teaching Thankfulness

>> Wednesday, November 19, 2008

During this season of celebrating the things we are thankful for, I have made it my task to teach Lucas how to express gratitude and appreciation for intangible blessings. It is easy for a toddler to see how we would be thankful for toy dinos and cars and mac-n-cheese. But learning to express thankfulness for other things is a bit more of a challenge. Doing our Thanksgiving Tree is just one of the exercises we are using to help Lucas talk about the things he is thankful for.
I found a fallen branch and put it in a small vase on our kitchen table. I then punched holes in a couple dozen leaves cut out of designer scrapbook paper. We sat together as a family and expressed the things we are thankful for, writing them on a leaf and then hanging it with some twine on the tree. At first, Lucas was mostly thankful for birds, and giraffes and other random animals. He was so proud of himself when he would come up with something else he was thankful for. By the end of the activity, he was expressing thankfulness for his soft bed and his brother and mommy and daddy. He said he is thankful for snow "because it is white and pretty." Lucas loved hanging the leaves on the branch and now when we are eating a meal at the table, we look at a couple of the leaves and talk about the things we are thankful for. We even have a couple of extra leaves on the table that we write on if we think of something we forgot.
It is very rewarding as a mother to see him "getting it." He understands, as well as a toddler can, what it means to be thankful. And I think his little mind is capable of understanding way deeper than most adults give kids credit for. I know he is truly comprehending by things he is now expressing thankfulness for. At breakfast today, he was thankful for hugs. Abstract concepts like gratitude can often be complex for adults, but for kids it is plain and simple. He likes being hugged so, therefore, he is thankful for hugs. So honest and true and refreshing when so many other things feel so complicated. Leave it to my toddler to flip this around and teach me about being truly thankful for the important things.
My very favorite thing about out Thanksgiving Tree so far... when Lucas asks me what I am thankful for. He asks in his half question/half suggestion way that brings a wide smile to my face. "Mommy, you're thankful for the beach? Mommy, you're thankful for your boys?" Yes, and YES!!! Oh, so thankful!
How do you teach your children about being thankful and other more abstract concepts? Even teaching kids about being kind and loving and other similar virtuous concepts is easier because it involves more action- things I can teach him to do and say. But I also want to teach Lucas about virtues of the heart-ways of being and thinking like thankfulness, compassion, mercy, grace.... We are off to a good start but I am always looking for more ideas. Got any??
Oh, and I am thankful for you... my real life and bloggy friends and family. :)

P.S.~ I have a whole list of fun toddler activities that I will be trying out with Lucas in the next few months. Having things to help me keep him busy is a must or we will both go insane this winter. I look forward to sharing some of the ideas I have found with you and would love to hear any ideas y'all have. And check out these fun websites with lots of ideas for pre-school crafts and activities.
IttyBitty Love
Let's Explore


Anonymous November 20, 2008 at 9:14 AM  

We are building a thanksgiving tree as well. I love to hear what the little ones are thankful. They do indeed often show us more than we show them.

Rachael D. November 20, 2008 at 9:48 PM  

I love the Thankfulness Tree idea - I will have to file that away to do with David next year! It is so cool to hear about what you and your boys are up to, you have such neat ideas and activities.

Melinda November 24, 2008 at 12:09 PM  

This was such a heartwarming post. I am so glad to see so many othe ryoung moms teaching their kids to appreciate what we have. I think we will be seeing a major turn away from the materialism that has taken over our society and a return to the basics.

Baby Love Slings


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