Posted by: angelnorman | November 5, 2008

Cultivating an “Attitude of Gratitude” in your Preschooler, pt. 1

I googled a lot last night in the hopes of finding some ideas to teach Nicholas about thanksgiving. Not the holiday, but the actual act of being thankful, being grateful, celebrating every moment for what it is- an extraordinary segment of our lives. I want him to know that there are other children in this world who are dying; their homes are made of sticks and dirt, and they don’t have cozy beds or boxes filled with toys. They barely have food, water, shelter, or clothes. They don’t know about the Power Rangers or Halloween or candy. They don’t have access to medicine when they’re sick.

I want him to know that his life is unique, that he could not have the things that he has. I want him to be grateful for things in his life because he recognizes them as special things that he’s fortunate enough to have– like a mother who loves him very much, for instance 🙂

But this was our conversation.

Me: All over the world, there are kids who are dying right now. Some of them don’t have clothes or even underwear. They don’t get a choice on what to eat for breakfast because they don’t have any options. They don’t have toys, they don’t have fun.
Nick: Did I die?
Me: What? No, not you. Other kids.
Nick: Like who? Like my friends?
Me: Nevermind.

Outside of coloring pages with Pilgrims, Indians, and turkeys on them, I didn’t find much that would help me teach gratitude to my child. While I do want to teach him about Unity and Togetherness and how the Indians helped the Pilgrims, and why for one day a year we come together and we have a big feast, I also want to teach him the core principle behind the day that we give thanks to our Heavenly Father for the absolute blessings He’s given to us. I want to teach him that God the Father is responsible for bringing us joy, peace, good health, happiness, laughter, etc. I want him to give thanks to God for the love and mercy that we receive EVERY DAY.

But how do you teach a child these things? How do you talk about it in a way that is easily understood by an almost-4 year old?

The answer, I decided, lies in forming a habit of gratefulness. If you take time every single day to thank God for something, you are mor elikely to really get the spirit of Thanksgiving. Knowing that it takes a good solid month to really form a habit, I decided that I would try and make a Thanksgiving Tree again this year, with pre-cut leaves that we write our sentiments of gratitude on and adhere to this tree.

The plan is that every single day we write down one thing that Nicholas is thankful for on a leaf. We adhere them to the tree and repeat the process every day until Thanksgiving, and on Thanksgiving Day, we will read them all one by one to remind ourselves of all the 27 things we were thankful for this month.

So far, our tree reads like this:

“I am thankful for scissors. I like to cut.”
“I am thankful for Power Rangers. They are fun to play with.”
“I am thankful for Mommy and Daddy. I love them.”
“I am thankful for my house and my room. They are warm and cozy.”
“I am thankful for leaves. I like to rake them up.”

He is slowly but surely getting it. I will keep you updated on our progress.

For now, though, here’s some pics of Nicholas and his Thanksgiving Tree. (Deciding that there was no way I had enough brown construction paper to make the trunk, I improvised by using my jewelry tree from IKEA, which honestly was just in my bedroom collecting dust, as the base of my Thanksgiving Tree. Just so you know.)



  1. Does he always do crafts naked? LOL Perhaps that was the problem here with the Turkeys the other day?

    I love the “Nevermind” part.

  2. Don’t let his scissors fool you. He didn’t do the craft. He simply cut paper. He refused to help me trace the leaves, pick the colors, or cut around the pattern. I also gave him the option of coloring them, but he refused that too. 🙂

  3. reply, kids are so funny! I love your response about him having nothing to do with it! sounds like abby the last time I tried to get her to do a craft! Anyway love the whole tree idea! very awesome! If you don’t mind, I may snag the idea and try to do it with Abby. You always have great ideas!

  4. Funny. This is the exact Thanksgiving activity I had in mind for our outreach on the 18th at Greenhouse ministries.

  5. Charlene: Of course I do not mind. I have been wanting to do this Thanksgiving tree for YEARS, and this is the first year that I feel like it would make a difference to Nick, that he would understand what I hope him to understand from it. So yes, please, do this for Abby too if you have the time ’cause I think she would enjoy working with you on it. And if you start now, you only have to make up 5 days worth of “thankfulness”! Just don’t forget to blog about yours so I can see it too 🙂

    As a matter of fact, check out this link for more inspiration. I like the hand-shaped leaves a lot:

    How cool is that forest of gratitude?! I love it!

    Mandy: Good luck with that. I hope it works out for you too.

  6. I love your post. I have struggled with this issue myself. I have a 7 year old daughter and have worked very hard with her on this very issue. I have a business based on Gratitude, so I am always coming at things from an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness. I love the whole tree idea. I’m actually getting kits to make these in my sister’s third grade classroom and my daughter’s second grade classroom. I can’t wait to work with the kids on these.

    I know things are so much different today than they were even when I grew up. There is so much that our kids are exposed to. It’s great to be able to get back to these wonderful, yet simple practices.

    November is actually national “I Am So Thankful” month. I’ve been doing a big push with my social networking, my blog, and my press this month. It’s very exciting.

    Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed this post!

    In gratitude,

  7. Deanna, thank you so much for taking the time to write to me and let me know you enjoyed this post. I delighted in looking at your website and reading the Inspiration section especially; your jewelry is just lovely and what a wonderful testimony you have. Thank you so much for sharing it with me.

    I hadn’t heard that November was national “I am So Thankful” month! I am excited to push this theme more this month as well now. See, I am fortunate enough to be a member of a mom’s group in my area, and a part of being a member of this group means I have access to an online forum where we can post questions and thoughts to share with one another. Every Thursday of every week in the year, we have a running post where we all just list out what we’re thankful for; we call it Thankful Thursdays. Sometimes I blog about mine here instead. I think encouraging this practice to be of the utmost importance. It always helps me enter into the weekend with a peaceful heart and mind, freshly reminded of what I am thankful for. I firmly believe that it affects the way I spend my time with my family for the better, too.

    I only hope to inspire my children in the same way one day… I want them to see me as a grateful person always.

    Anyways, I didn’t mean to ramble. I was really inspired by your work and I just wanted to thank you for sharing that with us!


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