Make time for gratitude, saying thanks

Teaching children to be appreciative of others is a goal for many families. But in the midst of activity and abundance, we often miss the opportunity to instill this important value.

Helping our children learn to value attention and gifts from others is a big task. It takes time and effort. To develop this awareness, parents and caregivers need first to lead by being good models.

Then as children’s first teachers, we can do things to encourage little ones to foster a sense of gratitude and practice the art of being aware of others, feelings.

For more see and “Learning Through the Seasons” podcasts at WNMU-FM and YouTube.

Materials needed

Post cards or recycled holiday cards, scissors, glue and paper.

What to do

Learning to be appreciative, say “thank you,” ” I’m sorry” or to give a compliment can develop naturally over time as young children listen to the conversations of others. By making the effort to explain why you are saying these things and by coaching kids to remember to respond politely, you are helping foster awareness of feelings and a habit of kindness.

You might do a little role-playing as you talk with children. Many young children need some practice with you to counter the natural inclination to ask for more and more or to ignore or make hurtful statements about something they don’t like.

This situation is a perfect time to reflect about feelings, and to think about words or actions that make others feel appreciated. Often a quick phone call, Face Time, or Skype “thank you” or “sorry” message is welcomed by relatives, especially grandparents.

While a verbal “thank you” or “please” is a good first step, many people are happy to receive a little card or note from children. Again, guidance from an adult and sharing ideas is so important. In a quiet moment help children think about a special gift item or perhaps a gift of time or attention. Make it a little project to write or draw a picture on a postcard, address it, and send it off to the gift giver. Some children enjoy cutting pictures from old cards and pasting them on blank folded white or construction paper. Very young children can draw and decorate, dictate a simple sentence, and print their name. This activity works well for invitations, get well cards, and thank you notes.

What else can we do?

If you have a computer and use email, help children spell out a message.

Share some books about feelings and talk together about being thankful. How can we help others to feel appreciated and happy? Ask your librarian for suggestions or check out “Lots of Feelings” (Rotner), “Feelings” (Aliki), and “The Thankful Book” (Parr).

Editor’s note: This column is penned by retired Marquette Area Public Schools teachers Iris Katers, Jean Hetrick, and Cheryl Anderegg. Esther Macalady is from Golden, Colorado. Tim Fox currently teaches at Superior Hills Elementary. It’s supported by Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, the School of Education, U.P. Children’s Museum, U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, and U.P. Parent Awareness of Michigan. Their book “Learning Through the Seasons” is available at area stores and Their mission is to provide fun standards based activities that adults can do in the home to prepare children for school and a lifetime of learning and reduce the stress of child care.