Teach Gratitude through Art {and a great booklist too!}

 

A Reggio-Inspired Invitation to explore Gratitude

Gratitude is an abstract concept for many children, but books and art make it so much more concrete and experiential. The following is a booklist to support your children's examination of what it means to be grateful, and the video includes a beautiful art invitation through the language of clay. 

There’s an old adage that says if the only prayer you say in your life is Thank You it will be enough. As a child I remember my grandpa standing at the head of a long table, 30+ people waiting to eat, waxing eloquent about his full heart and giving thanks that each of us kept showing up.  Now, as an adult, I am constantly looking for ways to teach my young children about such an abstract concept as gratitude. 

What does gratitude look like? How do we best show it? And more importantly, when does teaching basic manners like “please” and “thank you” translate to helping children have full hearts for the abundant life they have now? 

Three things we do in our family to cultivate gratitude are: 

1. Ask: What are you grateful for today? every night at the dinner table.

2. Create a grateful tree during autumn (usually in November) with a golden tree trunk and maple leaves to display a growing visual in our dining room. 

3. Spread kindness with an annual kindness challenge.  This system is imperfect, as my children are still learning. But it’s a start. We also bask in books that teach kids to look for the good and create a grateful mindset. 

Do you have any tips or tricks for cultivating gratitude in your family? 

For links to these books, please visit my Amazon shop.

An Awesome Book of Thanks!

by Dallas Clayton

Cars, boats, and people once didn’t exist. But now, looking around at the vast wide world, there are everyday things to notice and be grateful for. From the sun in the sky to a train racing by. For books to fill nooks and kites to fly high. We say thank you! for countries and states, for music and dancing, for things big and things small, we say thanks! for it all. This all-encompassing book covers so many real and imagined things to give thanks for. It would pair wonderfully with a beyond the book craft with a medium of your choice. 

Ages 3+

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message

by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup, Jr. 

“To be a human being is an honor, and we offer thanksgiving for the gifts of life.” For the bounty of Mother Earth, for the beauty of blue waters and the feel of cool grass on our feet,for animals and sun and moon. The expansive images in this book reflect a connection between the spirits of all living creatures. Written by a member of the Mohawk Nation and Founder of the Tree of Peace Society, this timeless message of thankfulness is a way to celebrate Indigineous people throughout the year. 

Ages 5-8

Giving Thanks: More than 100 ways to say thank you

by Ellen Surrey

A little boy named Andy thinks of all the people he wants to thank in his life. He then thinks of what he specifically wants to thank them for. With a series of eight subsequent questions, Andy reflects on ways that he can spend time with and show thanks to the important people in his life. Children are encouraged to make a gratitude jar and write thank you notes with encouraging prompts at the end of the book.

Ages 5-8

Gratitude is my Superpower

by Alicia Ortego 

Betsy steps outside but her plans are thwarted by rain. How can she have a good day when her plans have been spoiled? When her mother gives her a small, smooth stone, she tells Betsy to rub the stone to remember all the things she is grateful for. A bit of magic, a shift in mindset, and a hands-on activity at the back of the book make this recently published rhyming book a real winner. 

Ages 4-8

Non-Random Acts of Kindness 

by Lauren Myracle, illustrated by Jed Henry

Ty is a second grader who, along with his classmates, has been tasked to perform a non-random act of kindness and report to the class about his experience. Throughout the week Ty has a playdate that goes awry and struggles as he unsuccessfully tries to get a pet for his baby sister. The night before his project is due, Ty laments to his older sister that he still hasn’t completed his assignment. At the last minute Ty taps into the well of kindness he didn’t know he’d been demonstrating all along. A wonderful chapter book for early grade-schoolers.

Ages 6-8

Thankful

by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Archie Preston

Gratitude is a lifelong lesson and this book celebrates everyday blessings, woven together with playful images and a sweet text. The waitress is grateful for a customer and comfy shoes to wear. The gardener is grateful for the rain. I especially appreciate how the mishaps and inconveniences of life are portrayed as ways to be grateful with just a shift in perspective. A perfect rhyming bedtime read-aloud.

Ages 3-7

Thanks A Lot 

by Raffi, illustrated by Jamie Kim

A melodious refrain turns gratitude into an everyday practice in this book based on the popular Raffi song. Thank you for the sun and sky, for clouds and pets and people on the planet. Thanks for “the wonder in me” and all the moments that make up a day. This simple book is one that can be used throughout the year to help children notice all the good throughout their ordinary days. Be sure to pair it with the song to commit this one into the minds and hearts of little ones. 

Ages 0-4

Thanks a Million

by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

 This collection of 16 short poems holds a special place in my heart. With relatable experiences (tripping over shoelaces or leaving a goodie on a neighbor’s front porch), each stanza tugs at the heart and offers young readers a glimpse into our shared humanity. Savor these poems as part of your morning routine, they are truly delicious. 

Ages 4-8

Thank You, Helpers 

by Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Michael Emmerson

This pandemic-specific book takes a look at all the community workers (doctors, nurses, delivery drivers, grocery clerks, and volunteers) who work tirelessly to keep others healthy and safe. Bouncy rhyme helps children look outside of themselves and notice all the helpers who keep the world moving. This would be a great book to pair with a service project to one of the specific groups of individuals mentioned in this book.

Ages 4-8

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac

“Cherokee people say otsaliheliga to express gratitude.” This is a reflection that lasts throughout the year (not just at Thanksgiving). From the beginning of the Cherokee New Year (which starts each fall) and through the various seasons, we follow a Cherokee Nation and learn about the sacrifices of people past and the legacy of the Cherokee culture that still exists today. The backmatter includes definitions and an author’s note, making this an outstanding book for young (and old) readers alike. 

Ages 4-8

We Are Thankful 

by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Mike Gordon

Mrs. Conner instructs her class to write about what they are grateful for. Reza sits down with his mom and together they make a list of what Reza is thankful for. At school the next day Mrs. Conner asks the class to share their list. Hands shoot into the air and child after child shares one thing they are grateful for. When it’s Reza’s turn to share, he hesitates since all the items on his list have already been mentioned. In a moment of quick thinking, he decides to share an on-the-spot gratitude for all of his classmates. An excellent early reader book. 

Ages 4-6

What I Like Most

by Mary Murphy, illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang

A young girl looks out her window and sees a changing scene. She can fog the glass and make pictures or simply imagine what might be all from the view of her window. That’s what she likes most. Except for when she likes apricot jam more or the river near her home. It’s hard to choose only one thing to like best, and although things may change (in fact they always do) some things remain constant. A standout book of 2020—one that fosters both gratitude and mindfulness and gently nods to the fickle heart of human nature. 

Ages 3-6

This blog post was written by blogger and Children's book reviewer, Miranda of @Bookbloom.

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If you enjoyed this lesson, we'd love to have you join us for InspirEd at Home: Play-Based Enrichment for Kids ages 4-7. We meet weekly for a LIVE class (recordings always available), and it's equal parts academics meets art meets play!

 

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