Ten to fifteen minutes a day is all the time you and your child need to start a habit that:
- Makes you feel happier
- Nurtures and encourages positive emotions
- Improves mental and physical health, as well as sleep quality
- Boosts self-esteem
- Fosters a sense of appreciation
What is this miraculous habit? Gratitude journaling! The Youth Services department has written about the importance of creative writing for kids and the power of journaling for youths, but the act of practicing gratitude is an important one for people of all ages and a great activity to do as a family.
The thing to keep in mind is that journaling is meant to reduce stress, so if the idea of writing every day is overwhelming, try once a week and build from there. Do you or your kids find routine stifling? Then get into the habit of jotting things down as they occur to you. It could even be something as simple as sitting down to lunch and thinking, “Wow, this is an amazing sandwich. I’m grateful for this delicious meal.”
Or trying to reframe something negative with a positive. For instance, I personally dislike cold weather, but love cardigans, scarves, and hot drinks. So a good reframe is “I’m grateful that I get to enjoy my favorite cozy drinks and fashion accessories!”
Not everything you and your kids write down needs to be profound to have an impact–just the act of slowing down and acknowledging that you’re happy/grateful about something is enough.
Another great way to teach your kids about gratitude is to read books and share stories that are about giving thanks. Here’s a short list of books in our collection:
All of Me! A Book of Thanks by Molly Bang
Caldecott Honor illustrator Molly Bang presents a young child’s delight in her whole world.
In pictures as bright as sunshine, Caldecott Honor illustrator and bestseller Molly Bang speaks directly to young children in this bold, colourful book of “thanks” that will fascinate and engage young readers and their parents.
Look at my fine feet! Thank you, feet, for holding me up when I stand, and when I walk, and when I jump!
Children share the simple wonders of their feet, hands, arms, eyes, noses, mouths, and the fun things their bodies do. Using paintings that photographically include some real art tools-such as crayons, felt, and paintbrushes-that Bang used to illustrate the book, All of Me! seamlessly combines thanks, young anatomy, and a simple lesson about making art.
Gracias*Thanks by Pat Mora, John Parra (illustrator), and Adriana Domínguez (translator)
There are so many things to be thankful for. For one young boy, it’s flying ladybugs, splashing ocean waves, a best friend, Dad’s thick chocolate syrup, and much more. Straight from the heart of a child flows this lighthearted bilingual celebration of family, friendship, and fun. Come share the joy, and think about all the things for which you can say, “Gracias! Thanks!”
The Thank You Letter by Jane Cabrera
Grace sets off to spread gratitude to everyone in her community and receives a delightful response! Grace writes charming and humorous letters to thank relatives and friends for her birthday presents. But why stop there? To who else can she give thanks? Grace thanks Mr. Jones for teaching her to read, her dog for his waggy tail, and the sky for being so blue. Soon showers of thoughtful letters and notes are circulating through the town. When Grace returns home, a gatefold reveals that the inside is decorated from floor to ceiling with notes, cards, and letters responding to her thoughtful missives. Favorite storytime author and illustrator, Jane Cabrera’s vivid and textured acrylic paintings are filled with joyful cuteness and warmth. Patterns from the inside of envelopes smartly add to the epistolary theme. This delightful celebration of mindful thankfulness and community togetherness is perfect for curling up in a cozy spot and sharing one-on-one.
Thank you, Mr. Panda = Gracias, Sr. Panda by Steve Antony
Bestselling Mr. Panda is back with a funny message about saying “thank you!” Generous Mr. Panda is giving away presents to all his animal friends, including a mouse, an octopus, an elephant, and a lemur, but they aren’t being very grateful about the gifts they receive. It may be because the presents aren’t quite right. Mouse receives a sweater that’s too big, and Octopus gets six colorful socks even though he has eight legs. Fortunately, thoughtful little Lemur knows that even if the present isn’t perfect, it’s the thought that counts most of all.Just as Mr. Panda introduced good manners in Please, Mr. Panda and the importance of being patient in I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda , Thank You, Mr. Panda is a graphic, kid-friendly way of teaching little ones the importance of saying “thank you” and recognizing that it’s the thought that counts most of all behind every gift.
Thank You, Omu! By Oge Mora
In this remarkable author-illustrator debut that’s perfect for fans of Last Stop on Market Street and Extra Yarn , a generous woman is rewarded by her community. Everyone in the neighborhood dreams of a taste of Omu’s delicious stew! One by one, they follow their noses toward the scrumptious scent. And one by one, Omu offers a portion of her meal. Soon the pot is empty. Has she been so generous that she has nothing left for herself? Debut author-illustrator Oge Mora brings to life a heartwarming story of sharing and community in colorful cut-paper designs as luscious as Omu’s stew, with an extra serving of love. An author’s note explains that “Omu” (pronounced AH-moo) means “queen” in the Igbo language of her parents, but growing up, she used it to mean “Grandma.” This book was inspired by the strong female role models in Oge Mora’s life.
Gratitude Make and Take Kits
The Youth Services department has prepared a kit to get your kids started on gratitude journaling. Register to reserve your free kit
Resources (all free)
Printable Gratitude Journals for Kids
Printable Weekly Gratitude Journal for Kids
Printable journal with many prompts
6 tips to start a gratitude journal for children (includes prompts)
NPR: If You Feel Thankful, Write It Down. It’s Good For Your Health