cultivate gratitude

How Do You Raise a Grateful Kid + 10 Simple Gratitude Activities


One of the most popular questions I get when I talk about gratitude is “How do I get my kids to be more grateful?”  What are some simple gratitude activities for kids?  What are your best tips for teaching gratitude to kids?  

We all have personal stories of planning for months to take our kids on some vacation or some special event expecting our kids to be oh so grateful and you get a meh response with little to no gratitude and you think “what have I done wrong?  Why are my kids ungrateful?”



So, how do you help your kids become more grateful?

We are the Example

Let me start off with a little tough love but don’t get discouraged, keep on reading.  Our kids look up to us.  So, if our kids are being ungrateful, we need to ask ourselves if we have set a good example?   Do they see you expressing gratitude to them, to other family members and friends, those that serve you and strangers who open the door?

Studies show that we are a culmination of the 5 people we hang out with most and I hang out with my family A LOT so what are they catching from me?  Now that I got the gut punch out of the way, if you want to learn how to cultivate your grateful heart you can read 5 keys to cultivating a grateful heart here.  

My top tip would be to write down a list of things you are grateful for every morning when you wake up.  There is power in writing things down and research shows people that start their day with gratitude tend to have more joy-filled days and ultimately more fulfilling lives.  Do I have your attention yet?

Teach the Behavior You Desire

Once you have tended to your own heart and started to purposefully take opportunities to show gratitude to others, we can explicitly teach this behavior to our kids.  

Just like we held our kids when they learned how to walk and we gave them a little push toy to help them practice, we have to hold our kid’s hand as they learn how to practice gratitude.  They are not going to be perfect out of the gate but with practice, it will become easier!

Praise A Grateful Heart

When you see your child display a grateful heart praise them and tell them you are grateful for their response.  It’s our natural instinct to continue behaviors that are rewarded.  So, praise the behaviors you see that you want to be repeated.

Just the other day, my daughter made my bed because she knew it would make me happy.  I thanked her for her thoughtfulness and guess what she did the next day, she made her sister’s bed.  She knew she would get praised for that behavior and therefore she did it again.

It’s Ok to Say No

As parents, we want to give our kids good gifts.  Oh, how I love seeing my kids light up when I give them a gift.  I hate saying no.  I didn’t like hearing it as a kid either but I sure was thankful when my mom treated us to something special.  When we get everything we want, we tend to feel entitled.  Ultimately, in life, we are going to hear no, so just think of your no as a way to teach your child how to respond when they do hear it.

Your occasional yes will be so much sweeter because chances are your kids will be surprised and crazy thankful (but if they aren’t you can teach them how to respond #becausekids).

Expand Their Horizons

People are always surprised when we tell them all 5 of us are going to China to adopt our son.  Not only do we all want to be together for that special day, Scott and I both believe it’s important for our kids to understand the world is larger and much more diverse than the community we live in.

While we don’t expect a complete heart transformation after one trip, allowing them the opportunity to see different perspectives will hopefully over time give them a greater appreciation for what they have.  You don’t have to go to a foreign country to expand your child’s perspective,  there are opportunities all around us that we can purposefully teach our children about.

So, what are some practical and simple gratitude activities for kids?

10 Simple Gratitude Activities for Kids

Roses & Thorns Activity

While we are having family dinner we go around the dinner and share roses, things we are grateful for from the day, and thorns, things that were tough.

It never ceases to amaze me the things I learn about my family’s day that I otherwise might not learn from the usual questions.  Often times someone will say they have no thorns at all and a whole lot of roses.  Sometimes, we will even try to collect a dozen!

Read A Book About Gratitude

Often times, we assume kids just “know” what gratitude means but often they don’t.  Book do a great job of illustrating a point and making it applicable to them.  Here are a few of my favorites to add to your home library collection.

Monthly Gratitude List

I have a simple free printable you can download, sign up here and you can access it.  Taking a moment, it doesn’t have to take long or be fancy, to sit down and make a list of things we were grateful for from that month is powerful.  As a parent, I am always reminded of what really matters to my kids and moving forward to focus on those things more!

gratitude journal pages

Grab your gratitude journal here.

Gratitude Journal

When your kids are young, you could have a family gratitude journal and then after you have modeled it for a while, they could have their own.  Setting aside time each day whether at the start or finish to remember the good things helps us to keep our perspective positive.  Grab this gratitude journal today.


gratitude jar

Thankful Jar

Family friends of ours keep a jar on the counter and throughout the year, they all write down things they are grateful for.  On New Years Eve, it’s their tradition to sit down and reminisce about all the good things from the jar.  

If a year is too long to wait, try doing it for a month!

Gratitude A to Z

Having a grumpy, grumbling kind of day and need a good dose of gratitude?  Try the gratitude A to Z activity.  Take turns coming up with things you are thankful for for every letter of the alphabet.  You could take turns or all work together to come up with 1 item for all 26 letters.

role play gratitude with your child

Role Play Gratitude With Your Child

When an opportunity arises or even better before an opportunity, role play with your child the response you would like them to have.  For example, maybe your child is having a birthday party and they will be receiving gifts,  role-play with them what that scenario will look like and how they should respond.

“Johnny, Tom brought you a really nice present.  Look him in the eye and say thank you for this nice gift politely.  Remember, when you give gifts it feels good to be thanked because you put a lot of thought and care into buying the gift, making the card and wrapping it.  It feels good to know the person is thankful.  We want our friend to know we are thankful.”

Offer Opportunities To Serve & Share

Serving others and being others focused helps us to focus less on ourselves.  Whether, that’s preparing meals for 3rd world countries, collecting coats for the homeless, serving as a family at church, shoveling a neighbor’s driveway or holding the door open for others – how can you help your child experience serving others.  Check out this post on a fun holiday service project.

Thank You Cards

It might seem old-fashioned or out of date but I still love getting a thank you note in the mail and knowing our gift has been received and was meaningful to the recipient.  When my kids are little, I do most of the writing and then have them draw a picture and sign their name.  As they get older they start to write the thank you note themselves.

Say Please and Thank You

I can’t tell you how many times I have held the door open for someone and they don’t say thank you, I am sure I have forgotten too.  Those two words are so simple but so impactful.   When you teach your kids you will have to remind them often (or every single time).  Don’t forget to get into the habit yourself :)!  A heartfelt thank you goes a long way!

Just Remember…

My mom always taught us growing up “to treat others how you like to be treated.” When we do something for others, we like to be acknowledged and thanked for our time, efforts and service.  Those that serve us are no different.  Being an example to our kids, explicitly role-playing how to be grateful and daily cultivating gratitude over time will start to yield more grateful kids.

No one is perfect, I still struggle with gratitude and contentment on a daily basis so I can’t expect perfection from my kids either.   Thank goodness for loads of grace too!

You Might Also Like –
5 Keys To Cultivating A Grateful Heart
Simple Indoor Activities For Kids

10 Simple Ways to Prepare for Christmas in November


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Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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5 Keys for Cultivating a Grateful Heart

Have you heard it said gratitude changes everything?  How can you possibly be grateful in all things?  Life can be hard and sometimes it’s not easy to find gratitude.

Choosing gratitude leads to contentment, joy, generosity, peace, forgiveness, and compassion plus so much more.  Gratitude is good for the soul.  So, once you choose to be grateful how do you cultivate the habit of gratitude?   There are 5 keys that will help you cultivate a grateful heart.

5 Keys for Cultivating a Grateful Heart

1.  Gratitude is a Choice

I’ll never forget one of the hardest days of my life.  We had spent the day in and out of doctor offices to determine that at 12 weeks pregnant, I had miscarried.  Not only was I in emotional anguish, but I was also in great physical pain.  As we sat down to pray as a family that night, I put on my brave face but inside I didn’t want to talk to God.  I was mad.  Scott led the prayer and at the end he said, Thank you God for the time we did have with our baby and the hope we will see our baby again in heaven.  (Read more about that day here)

That prayer stopped me in my tracks.  Scott made the choice to be grateful in the midst of the crappiest of circumstances.

I have a lot of opportunities to be grateful but I don’t always choose to see my many blessings.  I don’t think I am alone, I think we all have a bent to want more and be discontent.  There is hope though, we all have the choice to be grateful.  Scott taught me that if we can find something to be grateful for on the worst of days.

Grateful people choose the attitude of gratitude in all circumstances.

2. See everything we have as a gift

Do you remember Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Charlie Factory (if not watch this video)?  Veruca is best remembered for singing the song “I Want It Now!”.   She was one of the few children who got a coveted golden ticket and a chance to tour the coveted Wonka Chocolate Factory but it wasn’t enough she wanted a golden egg.  

When she was told no, she said: “If I don’t get the things I am after, I am going to scream.”
How ungrateful was Veruca? She was entitled and discontent.  Then, I thought I can be just like her.

Veruca believed she had a right to what she wanted.  I know I have said things like, “I deserve that thing I really want.”  When we view things as rights it’s really hard to be grateful.  However, if we see everything as a gift, it’s much easier to be grateful.

Grateful people view everything they have as a gift and not a right.  This leads to contentment and dispells comparison and jealousy.

Don’t let your ice cream melt, while you are admiring someone else’s sprinkles.

3. Perspective is powerful.

I live in an affluent American dream bubble. I often take for granted that I have a home with heat, working cars, and a consistent income.   There was a time that I was really discontent with our home.  I would look at homes on social media and Pinterest and point out all the things we could do to update or change home to make it better or better yet, sell it all together and buy new. 

Then, we went to St. Kitts as part of our 10th-anniversary cruise trip (so thankful for that trip 😉 and we drove through little villages to get to our hiking destination.   Houses made out of scrap metal lined the twisting road.  Few houses had windows or a real door, there was no carpet or air conditioning.  Perspective is powerful.  I take so much for granted.

Grateful people keep a good perspective and remember all they have to be grateful for.

4. We see what we look for

One of my favorite movies of all time (and one of the few I have rewatched) is Pollyanna.  Pollyanna was an orphan taken in by her cantankerous aunt. She had every reason to be bitter at the hand life had dealt her.  Yet, she remembered a game her father had taught her when she received crutches instead of a doll in a missionary shipment.  He taught her the glad game.  He taught her you could always find something to be grateful for if you just looked hard enough. Watch this clip about the glad game.

In a world full of bad news, is there any good news left? It depends what are you looking for?

There is only so much room in our heart.  When you start to choose to reflect and look for reasons to be grateful,  you have less time to worry, grumble, live in fear, be bitter, and frustrated.

Grateful people actively look for opportunities to be grateful.

5. We practice what is important to us

A friend of mine just completed his first marathon.  He ran 26.2 miles and lived to tell the tale, I was impressed.  You don’t just wake up one morning and say I am going to run 26.2 miles.  You practice and train, day after day.  Some days you wake up with bruised feet and sore legs but you do it anyway.  

In the same way, we need to practice cultivating gratitude, on the good days and the hard.  If we practice on the good days, it will be easier to find gratitude on the hard days.  Obedience proceeds feelings, in order to feel grateful you need to practice.  A grateful heart won’t just happen.  We won’t just become grateful people. Sure, we might be grateful here and there but true daily gratitude happens with practice.

In order to practice gratitude every day, I journal what I am grateful for in the Simple Purposeful Living Daily Journal.  You can buy yours here.

Grateful people practice cultivating gratitude every day.

When we cultivate a grateful heart, we are an example to others.

I live by the phrase, more is caught than taught.  I know it’s true when I lose my cool with my kids and then a few days later my kid unleashes on their sibling in the same manner I did.  When my kids are ungrateful.  I look at myself first.  Am I modeling for them what it means to be grateful?  How can I more intentionally model being grateful?

Grateful people know they can be a positive example to others around them.

When we choose to see everything as a gift, keep a good perspective, look for opportunities to be grateful, and practice cultivating it daily we will start to develop the habit.  When we cultivate the habit of gratitude, we can be an example to others and spread the hope of a grateful heart to those around us.  Remember Simple Purposeful Living has a journal that helps you cultivate gratitude every day, you can shop here.

An attitude of gratitude might not change your circumstances but it can change your perspective which really can change everything.  Don’t wait until Thanksgiving, practice gratitude year round simply on purpose.  Your life and others will benefit from cultivating a heart of gratitude.  What are you grateful for today?

You might also like –

Go from Grumbling to Gratitude

Gratitude is One of Life’s Greatest Antidotes

Create A Daily Devotion Time

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Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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