30 ways to teach children about gratitude and kindness

by Debra Dane on March 13, 2012

in Parenting and family life

Last year I discovered the power gratitude could have in my life – it all began with exploring an attitude of gratitude and then extended further into my actions. I had always cultivated a spirit of gratitude and kindness in my children from a young age, but have been working on being more intentional and moving more towards more community acts we can take on this year now they are 7 and 8 years old.


Teach our children to focus on the positive and find gratitude

  • Create a gratitude journal – older children can write on their own / photograph things they are grateful for and younger ones can be part of a family journal
  • Reflect together on the best parts of their day – doing this regularly can help them pause and find the good in their days
  • When they are seeking new things out of boredom or wanting to be like their friends look at all they already have (if they have genuinely grown  out of / lost interest in their books and toys see “service” ideas below for donating and passing on things)

Celebrate big and small

  • Teach and acknowledge that they are on a learning journey so they are kind to themselves as they begin new challenges – shift focus to steps they have taken rather than where they still need to get to
  • Call grandparents and relatives / special people to share their progress
  • Keep a journal, a chart or a keepsake method (like a jar you place notes in) they can refer back to and see all the great things they have done, positives in their life, wonderful experiences and memories

Be a family of service and explain why you are helping

  • Volunteer formally in your community if kids are old enough (preschoolers and primary kids can often get involved in  nature conservation or animal shelter assistance in many places)
  • Volunteer informally amongst your local community
    • help with chores or errands for an elderly neighbour
    • help with gardening / mowing / pulling weeds
    • cook food for a family in need or with a new baby
    • pick up litter when you see it, especially common at local playgrounds

Be helpful and kind in your day to day life – at school, with friends, with neighbours

  • hold doors open
  • carry groceries
  • return someone’s shopping trolley to the stand
  • hold the elevator for someone you see rushing to catch it
  • invite someone shy to join your group at recess / play break
  • say thank you and wish your teacher a good weekend

Show appreciation for gifts and kindness you receive

  • create thank you cards together
  • teach your children how to receive gifts graciously even when they don’t like them
  • thank someone for sharing food with you

Connect with the spirit of holidays

  • At a time when many focus on things they want it is a great opportunity to shift the focus to thankfulness and giving (without having to deny our children fun and gifts)
  • Participate in Operation Christmas Child - our playgroup coordinated this every year.  You can take charge and organise one locally if it is needed or simply fill a shoebox or two. This is a great way for children to get involved as they can select the items.
  • Select a gift together to place under one of the giving / wishing trees in your local shopping centre
  • Collect donations of small books and toys and craft items for your local hospital – my girls and I started this 4 years ago and send out an email to all our friends each year and arrive at the hospital with upwards of four or five shopping bags filled to the brim. I explained to the kids that some children are sick or get hurt over the holidays and don’t even get to be at home. This way children waiting in the ER or staying as patients have small things to keep them occupied or cheered up. Last year one of our friends ended up in the ER suddenly with her daughter and she reported back how helpful it was to have something.
  • Visit a nursing home and bring treats and small presents (like socks, handkerchief, soaps, flowers) and spend some time with people who may be without family at this time of year. Let your children (and their friends if possible) be surrogate grandchildren for an afternoon.
  • Make it an annual ritual to clear out items no longer needed or wanted and donate them to charities and local schools and daycares or pass on to other families. My kids especially love knowing where their things are going.

Random acts of kindness

  • You are never too young and no act of kindness is too small – you can sit down and brainstorm ideas as a  family, explain how they can grab opportunities to be kind every day. If you need more inspiration check out the website random acts of kindness which has a wealth of resources or my post yesterday where I shared many other ideas for gratitude and kindness actions you can take.
  • acknowledge small acts of kindness in your home – sharing, caring, taking turns, helping with chores
  • talk about ways they can be kind at school
  • set a goal to come up with (and actually do) a certain number of R.A.K.


Have you talked specifically about gratitude or kindness with your kids – any tips, ideas, books you read together?


I am joining in with Jess for I blog on Tuesday – go check out all the awesome posts being linked up today.


Find your simple,



Image for RAK poster – from randomactsofkindness.org This and many other resources are available on their website.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole (SportyMummy) March 13, 2012 at 7:40 am

What a lovely post! I love how you are making gratitude and kindness more intentional. There are some great ideas here that I am going to share with my children …I have a 7 and 8 year old too (as well as a mr4!)
Nicole (SportyMummy) recently posted..Youth Sports Weekend: Swimming Speedo Sprints FinalsMy Profile


Debra Dane March 13, 2012 at 6:52 pm

They are at a great age – we started the Christmas drive for the hospital when Lulu was 3 1/2 and i would say 4 1/2 was when she started to “get” what we were really doing it for
Debra Dane recently posted..Simplify your life {Week Nine: Go easier on yourself}My Profile


Christy Myers March 13, 2012 at 7:59 am

Awesome post lovely. Printing for keeping into my ‘inspiration binder’. It was really lovely to meet you too over the weekend. C x


Debra Dane March 13, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Great to meet you too Christy! hope you had a good trip home.
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Trish March 13, 2012 at 8:13 am

Aw, this is just great! I’ve been trying to incorporate gratitude into my life everyday. What a great thing to teach that to our children. I fear I only do it know when I am lecturing them on being grateful as opposed to spoiled! These tips are a much better parenting tactic. Thanks!
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Debra Dane March 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Thanks Trish – focusing on gratitude definitely helped my now-7yo as she used to start so many sentences with “I wish” – we banned that phrase for a while as it usually was followed by a desire for more stuff, we now only get a few of those in a year and she is grasping how much she does have in both possessions and family and more.
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Ai Sakura March 13, 2012 at 8:37 am

Such a sweet and inspirational post :) we teach our girl to show appreciation and say thank you for things she receive and she says it on her own now. Makes me smile whenever I hear her say that :) these are good pointers to try out with her for sure..
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Debra Dane March 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm

I am sure that cutie of yours makes everyone smile when she thanks them!
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Debbie @ Aspiring Mum March 13, 2012 at 10:49 am

I think it’s so important for our kids to demonstrate this quality. It really saddens me that there are so many kids (and adults) who are just downright mean, rude and unkind. It really doesn’t take much to be grateful.
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Debra Dane March 13, 2012 at 6:47 pm

It can be such a habit to focus on what is missing and wrong and I do think it takes some effort to undo but it is worth it to be focused until you retrain yourself to see the positives (I still work at it but am happy I am now connected to it more)
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Julie March 13, 2012 at 11:16 am

Lovely ideas here Deb. Some we do, but others are a good prompt for me! I have had a few days lately where I’ve noticed the ‘ungrateful’ coming out in our two oldest kids at times. I hate slipping into a lecture about all the great things they have in their lives. These ideas are much better!
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Debra Dane March 13, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Thanks Julie – i think that is normal – we go through phases here too
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Jess March 13, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Some wonderful ideas here Deb. I think I might try the gratitude journal one with the girls. I think that is a very worthwhile thing for us all.
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Debra Dane March 13, 2012 at 6:49 pm

I hope you all enjoy that Jess – it will be nice to read back as well
Debra Dane recently posted..Dealing with memorabilia, collections and heirlooms My Profile


Misha March 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm

This such a beautiful post … and in such a practical way. The idea of having the children call their grandparents regularly to discuss and affirm their progress is one that I will focus on more this week as I think they’ll both get a lot out of it.
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Debra Dane March 13, 2012 at 6:50 pm

I hope it makes the grandparents smile too
Debra Dane recently posted..Simplify your life {Week 11 – Kindness, Gratitude and Altruism}My Profile


Java Jane March 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Some gorgeous ideas here… definitely ones I want to implement, some I am already doing and some I will tweak a little after reading this! Great post! x
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Debra Dane March 13, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Thanks – have fun with it
Debra Dane recently posted..Simplify your life {Week 11 – Kindness, Gratitude and Altruism}My Profile


Mrs Savage March 13, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Lovely post Debra. We’ re fortunate in that my mother works at an aged care facility, I can’t tell you how much both my children and the residents get out of it.
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rebecca at thisfineday June 15, 2013 at 2:20 pm

I love your list! I’m happy to see that we already naturally just do so many of them. I look forward to incorporating more of your ideas!

You may like this post about teaching gratitude through writing Thank You cards. So much to learn from this activity.

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