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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15 Tips to Help Get Your Picky Eater to Eat

One of the most common questions I get when it comes to meal planning has nothing to do with how to meal plan at all.  Rather, nearly every day someone asks me, “how do you get a picky eater to eat what you meal planned/made?”

Yes, I have picky eaters at my house.  Yes, we have learned a few tips and tricks that help us overcome picky eating so I thought I would share them with you.  Dinner time is more fun and enjoyable when you aren’t in a fight over food, amen?

It goes without saying to keep an eye on your child’s response to food.   One of our children had a hard time eating certain foods and would gag when they were younger,  it wasn’t that he didn’t like the food. It’s important to rule out allergies, intolerances and physiological reasons first.


little girl eating dinner


1. Remember Everyone has food preferences & Be A Role Model

I am sure there are certain foods you don’t love.  I can’t stand olives!  Gross!  We all have food aversions and foods we don’t care to eat.  I also can’t stand a fish that still has its head on, ew!  Kids are no different.  Don’t forget our kids are watching so be a role model when it comes to trying and eating new and different foods.


2. Create a Bite Rule

Since kids often assume they don’t like things before they even try something, it’s important to have them get in the habit of trying at least one new bite of new food.  Ask them to try a “no thank you” bite.

Studies show that we have to try new food between 10-15 times before they “like” it.  So, don’t give up too soon and assume they “don’t like it.”

In our home we also have our kids eat the number of bites they are old to be excused.  So, if they are 4 years old that’s 4 bites of an item.  You could also stick to a 3 bite rule for everyone.  


4. Pair New Food with Food They Like

If you are trying out new meat like shrimp and your child loves tacos, pair the shrimp with a taco.   If it’s a food you know they don’t love, make sure you also have healthy sides like fruits and vegetables that they do love.  

Create connections between food.  If your child refuses to try asparagus but they love green beans, help them make a connection that both are green.


5. Serve A Food in A New Way

Maybe it’s not the food they dislike but rather the way it’s prepared.  I don’t love cooked carrots but I love raw carrots.  How can you serve food your kids don’t love in a new and different way?


6.  Let Your Child Experience the Food

Let your child experience the food with all 5 senses.  Allow them to smell it, touch it and maybe even just lick it.  

grocery shop with picky eaters


7.  Invite Your Kids to Help Meal Plan

Kids love to have some control and say, who doesn’t?  So, if your kids aren’t loving what you are serving, ask them what they would like for dinner.  Then, pick a meal they want and add it to the meal plan.  If they want macaroni and cheese one night, great!  Then, serve something you want another night.  Then, invite kids to go to the grocery store with you to pick out the food.  


 8.  Offer Choose Your Own Adventure Meals

We also called these “bar” nights.  Think taco bar, salad bar, or pasta bar.  Leave the foods “deconstructed” and let them choose their own adventure so to speak as they put the foods on their plate.   Give them rules like you need to have at least one vegetable, one fruit, and one meat and let them choose how they do it.


9.  Limit Snacks

We all eat better when we are hungry.  I don’t know about your kids but my kids LOVE snacks.  They would eat snacks all day long if I let them but when we fill our bellies with preferred snacks we are less likely to try new things.


cook with picky eaters


10.  Have Kids Help in the Kitchen

I know it can be messy and chaotic to have kids joining you in preparing dinner but occasionally invite them to prepare dinner with you.  They will have a sense of pride and will be more inclined to try the food they prepared.


11.  Communicate Why

It’s important we let our kids know we have food preferences too.  Explain to your children that different foods help nourish and fuel our body so we can be strong and healthy.  


12.  Offer Praise

Don’t forget the power of praise.  Praise them profusely when they try new things.  We all love positive reinforcement and we are more inclined to do it again!


13.  Offer Condiments

I don’t know what it is about ketchup but my two-year-old will dip ANYTHING in ketchup including fruit.  He loves it.  


14.  Be Consistent

Whatever you decide is your family’s policy stick to it.  You know your kids best so what you decide for your family is the right choice.  Just keep the policy simple and be consistent, they can sniff out inconsistency quick.

switch up dinner with picky eaters


15.  Make Mealtime Fun

Instead of a fork, try letting them eat it with a toothpick.  Grab plates that are divided so their foods can stay separate.  Skip the table all together and dine on a picnic blanket.  If things are stressful at the dinner table, think about how you can make it less of a fight and more fun again!  One of my kid’s favorite parts of mealtime is sharing their highs and lows from the day.  We call them roses & thorns!



Just remember this when it comes to your picky eater…

Food doesn’t have to be a fight.  You also don’t have to eat chicken nuggets for the rest of your life and you don’t have to cook a different meal for each family member.  

Trying new things or in this case, new foods is an important life lesson.  If you don’t try something, you might just be missing out on something great.  You won’t know unless you try! Don’t give up on your picky eater too soon, you’ve got this!   How do you get a picky eater to eat?  Share your best tips in the comments below?


Need Some Family Meals Ideas? 


Want help with meal planning?  

I wrote down this recipe along with the rest of my meal ideas for the week in the Simple Purposeful Living 52-week meal planner.  Get yours here.   Join the Meal Plan Simple on Purpose group on Facebook for more meal planning ideas and support.  Join here.


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

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How to Organize Kid’s School Papers

Every day my kids come home from school and one of their first jobs as part of their after-school routine (read more about that here) is to empty their school folders.  Some days my entire kitchen island is chock-full of school papers.  So, how do you organize your kid’s school papers?

 What do you keep?  Where do you keep it?  And the most popular one – Is it okay to toss school work in the trash?

It’s important to have a plan so you can know confidently what to do, what to keep and toss without guilt.  

Now you know me, It can’t be too complicated or I won’t follow through.  It must be simple and purposeful.   I am going to share with you the simple way we have found to tame the school paper monster and store the special papers as keepsakes!


How do you organize your kid’s school papers?

Sort The Papers Regularly

For me it works to do it every day.  When my kids come in after school, they empty their folders and I go through everything.  Inevitably, there’s a math paper, a cut and paste paper, possibly a writing assignment and occasionally an art project although the majority of art projects come home at the end of the year for us!  I look over everything and then determine items I might want to save long-term.

Things I like to keep include –

A funny or meaningful story

A special art or craft project

Math test or work the demonstrates grade-level learning

End of the year report cards

School Pictures


What if you aren’t sure it’s a keeper?

If you are not sure you should keep it or save it (within reason, you don’t need to save everything) go ahead and keep it for now.  You will have another opportunity to pare down later!  I toss whatever I don’t want to keep in the trash or recycling bin.  It’s okay to not keep everything, let that be my encouragement to you!


Need More Decluttering Tips?

Dive deeper into how to declutter your kid’s school papers in this post and struggling with decluttering excuses, read how to overcome the top 5 decluttering excuses here.



Record Date & Name on Papers Before You Store Them

This is key!  I have mom brain and I think I will remember what grade level and child this work belongs to but inevitably in the early years before I did this I forgot.  So, when you sort a paper you want to keep, write the child’s name, grade level and current date on the back or top corner of the paper.



Store the Papers in A School Bin

I place all the kid’s paperwork into these plastic hanging file folder boxes.  We now are the proud owners of 4 boxes!  As I collect things throughout the year, I just pop them into the corresponding hanging folder.  You can store these totes in your basement, closet or pantry.

The important thing is not so much the location but the boxes need to be accessible so you can easily stow papers away.  You don’t want have to get out a ladder or go to lots of trouble or you won’t do it, or maybe that’s just me.



What do you need for your bin?

**Click the link, to shop now**

File Folders (Pack of 25)

Simple Purposeful LIving DIY School Organization Accessory Kit (SHOP HERE)

File Box (I suggest the bigger size – 18.5 x 14 x 11)


Once a Year, Pare Down

You will have an influx of paperwork at the end of the year.  You can do a quick sort as we talked about above but often times I can be very sentimental when I am close to something so I like to wait until mid-summer when I am emotionally removed from the situation so I can objectively pare down further what I want to keep.

I re-sort the folder for that grade level and possibly the previous grade levels, only keeping my very favorites.  I am only keeping one bin per child for all school paperwork so I need to save room.  Ultimately, I know as an adult that’s all I wanted when my mom gave me all my things when I got my big girl house ;)!



How Do You Display And Keep Kid’s Artwork?

We also have an art gallery made out of these Ikea curtain rods that we clip artwork on.  Our kids, as I said, bring all their artwork home at the end of the year so I ask them which ones are their favorites and we display those for the next year on our gallery wall.  After that year, then I pick a favorite or two to keep on the wall or store in their school bins.

My mom has framed 3 of our art pieces that were her favorites and they are displayed in the grandkid’s bunk room at the lake.  I hope to do the same as my kids get older and favorites emerge!



What about school pictures, sports photos, and other photographs and other keepsakes?

We display the current year’s school photos as well as their current year’s sports photos.  All previous years, I pull out when I put the new one in the frame. I make sure to record their name, date and grade level on the back of the photo and then save those in the corresponding grade level in their school bins.

Sometimes, I will print pictures or kids bring home photographs from a school year and I’ll store those as well.



What about odd-sized artifacts?

We display some of the items like trophies, medals, pottery pieces in our kid’s bedrooms on their dressers.  As that area fills up, we transition the item to be stored in a bin in the top of their closet (since we don’t access it as often).  This bin houses items from when they were born (like what they wore home from the hospital) and other keepsakes they were given that don’t fit in the school bin.

As they age and the box fills up, we will get input from our children as to what to keep and what to toss but so far there’s still plenty of room!


What about special papers they have given to you?

Scott and I each have a special drawer in our bedside tables that we store special gifts, cards, and items our kids want to gift us.  As the drawer gets full, we sort out our favorites.

What about electronic items?

As your kids grow, more and more will be stored online.  You can create a file for each child on your computer and save a copy of that file.  Make sure you name it something specific and date it just like you would a paper copy.  You can also print a copy and store in the file system.  We have printed special emails and stored the paper copy.

Just Remember…

Keep it simple.  If you aren’t sure, save it for now and pare down at the end of the year or as your child ages and you need to make room.  It is okay though to throw things away.  Remember, your child won’t want everything.  Save the highlights.  When your child gets ready to graduate, you can simply pull out items to display at their graduation!


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

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4 Reasons For Parents to Stop Coaching From the Stands


It was his first time up to bat in Single A little league.  My heart was racing and I wrung my hands together hoping he would at least make contact with the ball.  He wanted a hit so bad.  Strike One.  Darn it, ok two more chances.  I cupped my hands over my mouth and shouted, you can do it buddy.  I could barely contain myself in my chair, all the while chastising myself for getting this worked up over a game.  Foul ball.  Good job buddy, way to get a piece of it, I shouted! 

The ball was thrown, Solon did not swing and the umpire’s fist flew into the air in a triumphant fist – strike three.  What?  That was not a strike! Are you kidding me?  I think that guy needs glasses!  All those thoughts ran through my mind, thankfully not out of my mouth!  Instead, I applauded as my son humbly trotted off the field. Suddenly, I had the urge to sideline coach.

My husband leaned over, sensing my frustration, and said Erin, he is in little league if they don’t have a large strike window, they would walk every kid on the team twice over.  He made the right call.  Ever the voice of reason and a high school referee himself, he is all too familiar with parents like me.  Unfortunately, I know full well I am not alone because I sit on lots of sidelines and there are a lot of people who think they know better and they let the world know.

4 Reasons Why to Stop Sideline Coaching

1.  We are not the referee.

Having a referee for a husband does give me a good perspective. They do read up on the rules, take tests and attend meetings to discuss the rules of the game.  Yes, they may get a call wrong from time to time but by and large, they know what they are doing!  Generally, there is more than one referee so they can confer and over-rule a questionable play should they need to.

2.  We are not the coach.

Every year, I get an email after email looking for volunteer coaches.  The harvest is ripe and the workers are few.  I try to remember since I didn’t volunteer, my job is to help and support.  It’s no wonder they can’t find coaches when people are constantly critiquing their efforts.  Most of the coaches are volunteers.

3. It’s Confusing to the Players.

There may be times you see something the coach, the player or the referee missed.  It happens!  There may be things you would like for them to correct but shouting it from the sidelines is not the most effective practice.  It’s hard enough to learn the craft of the sport.  I fell into this trap myself yelling at my son to pass when his coach (my husband) told him to shoot!  I learned my lesson!  During the game, they should listen to their coach.

4. It Is Not Helpful.

Last year, a referee in our town was actually physically threatened because of a call made during the game.  Is that the example we want to set for our kids?  It’s a game.  I try to remember the golden rule to treat others how I would want to be treated.  As my mom taught me, if you can’t find anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Remember, what’s at the heart of the game.  Being involved in sports is so beneficial for kids.  They learn life lessons like you win some, you lose some, good old-fashioned teamwork, respect, listening, tenacity, hard work, and resilience.
We all have the choice in how we act on the sidelines.   Just remember, everyone performs a little bit better with encouragement.  Go, team! 
If you liked this article, you might like this one – Lessons In Sportsmanship

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

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A Lesson in Sportsmanship

I was sitting on the sidelines of my son’s football game on another warm, sunny fall afternoon.  Before we arrived, I had given him another one of my “mom pep talks.”  It went a little like this, “make sure to be a team player, cheer on your teammates when they find success, be respectful to the officials and coaches, be kind, play hard and with heart.”  As usual, he answered with a haughty but agreeable “I know mom.”  

As he ran off to the field, my husband leaned over to tell me about a guy named Joel Lanning.
You might not know who he is but he is someone I want my son to know.  

Joel Lanning, from Ankeny, Iowa went to Iowa State University on a football scholarship with goals to be the starting quarterback.  He served in that role last year but at the end of they year, the head coach pulled him aside and told him he would no longer assume that role.  It would now be filled by a fellow teammate.  The coach then asked him to move to defensive linebacker, a position Lanning had not played since middle school. 

The coach shared in an interview with ESPN that most of the time after those difficult conversations, the player leaves the program looking for an opportunity elsewhere.  A curious thing happened, however, when Joel Lanning responded with something along the lines of I will do what’s best for the team.

In a day in age where it’s all about me, myself and I, it is refreshing to see a talented, college athlete who maybe could have found some serious playtime in the position he loved, put his personal interests aside for some serious team spirit.   Serious team spirit.

On a sunny, fall Saturday Lanning and his teammates headed to Oklahoma Sooner country to play a game of football.  ISU was slated by Vegas to be 31 point underdogs.

In a shocking turn of events, Iowa State, a 2-2 unranked team, with a 3rd string quarterback starting, a 2nd year coach and a young team took down a 4-0 team.  The Sooners had national title dreams and a Heisman trophy candidate, Iowa State beat them on their home turf.  

It was the first time ISU won against a top 5 opponent on the road EVER.  You get the idea…this win was the stuff movies are made of, a Cinderella story if you will.  

And Do you know who donned a “C” and led the charge?  Joel Lanning.

He played both sides of the field.  He threw a few snaps as quarterback before throwing down some serious you know what on the defense including a fumble recovery to change the momentum of the game.

Today the nation woke up, newspapers, media outlets and social media a buzz about the ISU cyclones and a guy named Joel Lanning, the recipient of the national defensive player of the week.  

If he had walked away because he no longer played starting quarterback, he would not have found his potential as a linebacker.  How many players can boast they played both sides of the field successfully?

So what can we all learn from a guy like Joel Lanning?  

1.  Put your team first and yourself 2nd, remember it’s a team sport. Do what’s best for your team.
2.  Take adversity in your life and make it an opportunity to learn and grow.  You might just find success you didn’t know was possible.  

3.  Don’t give up.  Keep on keeping on!

I hope if given the same circumstances, my son will choose to be the kind of selfless player Joel Lanning is.  I just wonder what his mom said to him before his pee-wee football games?  

You can bet, I will continue to give those “mom pep talks” because the lessons learned on the field will prove fruitful in life long after.  Here’s to raising our kids to be team players who play with some serious heart.  Just like a guy named Joel Lanning.
Now I am off to make myself a #7 jersey because Lanning has made me a big fan!  Go Cyclones!

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Until next time, keep on keeping on with a joyful, faith-filled life.  #tribekoko
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PS Don’t forget tomorrow, we will be linking up for 10 on the 10th and talking things in our bathroom drawers…hope to see you tomorrow.
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