This Thanksgiving is an ideal time to help your preschooler learn about gratitude. Though young children may not be able to express gratitude in the same way adults can, teaching them how to be thankful will offer them many long-term benefits. Research has shown that thankful children and teenagers are more optimistic, more satisfied with their surroundings, give more emotional support to others – even have higher grades.
Try these six ways to help teach your preschooler about gratitude this Thanksgiving.
1) Model gratitude in your daily life. Whether it’s hearing you say a simple thank you, or having a discussion about the good things that happened during your day, small examples of everyday thankfulness will make an impression on your toddler.
2) Encourage generous acts. Preschoolers love to feel helpful, and Thanksgiving offers many chances to encourage this behavior. For example, you can suggest they help other boys and girls by donating a toy, or some of their old clothing. When having this discussion, avoid the tendency to motivate by guilt. Instead, explain to them that some children don’t have toys, food, or clothes. Your preschooler may surprise you with how much they are willing to give.
3) Say no from time to time. If a preschooler is always able to do what they want, or gets any toy or snack they ask for, they begin to learn that life is about endless rewards. Thankfulness is all about understanding that life’s rewards are not something to take for granted.
4) Teach them that things aren’t most important in life. With all the product advertising aimed directly at children, it can be hard for your preschooler to understand that objects are not the most important parts of life. You can help to counteract this by talking about less tangible things you’re thankful for, such as family mealtimes, having enough food to eat, or spending time with a friend.
5) Connect the act of giving with the meaning behind it. Whether your child receives a physical gift or an experiential gift, it’s important to help her understand the kind thought behind it. For example, you can say, “Wasn’t it nice for Grandma to knit you those mittens? She wants you to be warm in the winter.” This will help your preschooler see that gifts are given for altruistic reasons.
6) Ask for help around the house. Whether it’s putting away their toys or helping you to mix ingredients in the kitchen, age-appropriate chores can help preschoolers develop a sense of thankfulness. When they get first-hand knowledge about all the work that goes into the food they eat or the home they live in, they can begin to understand that these things don’t come easily.
The days leading up to Thanksgiving can feel like a whirlwind of planning, travel, and coordinating schedules. However, our six ways to teach your preschooler about thankfulness will give him a strong foundation in empathy, and will set him up for a grateful future.