While most everyone would say that the simple act of saying, “Thank you,” is both powerful and important, gratitude extends far beyond that–it is both an attitude and an action. Not only does thankfulness improve our relationships with others, but it also enhances empathy, builds emotional intelligence, improves sleep, improves physical health, improves self-esteem, builds resilience from trauma, improves psychological health, and so much more. As parents, raising our kids to be appreciative and grateful is easier when we can use a practical tool. Gratitude Journals are a tangible way to introduce your little ones to thankfulness, in a way that is both fun and creative! 

A gratitude journal for kids is simple: children write down thankful thoughts, ideas, or blessings that they have witnessed from their day. Studies have shown that this type of gratitude activity helps to instill kindness and can have major benefits on the physical and psychological health of a child.

In fact, studies have shown that writing in a gratitude journal three times a week has a tremendous impact on individual happiness and contentment. But, what exactly are gratitude journals, and how can we help our kids utilize them?

Gratitude For Kids: What is a Gratitude Journal?

A gratitude journal is exactly as it sounds–a journal in which you can write down what you are grateful for. This can be as simple as sharing a meal with family, or as elaborate as listing the people you know and the contributions they have made in your life. 

How to Put it into Practice

As with anything else we do with kids, the more enthusiastic the adults are, the more excited the kids will be. Start by making this activity fun and collaborative. You can take your kids to the store to pick out their own journals or you can buy plain ones to decorate and personalize them at home. Then, talk to your kids about the journals and what they can write in them. This is a great opportunity to talk about thankfulness and the importance of gratitude in everyday life. Just remember, gratitude activities for kids should be fun! Inspire your children to open up and really think about what they are thankful for. 

There truly is no wrong way to fill a gratitude journal, but here are some tips to teach your children the value of appreciation: 

  • Encourage them to be specific. While it is easy to write, “I am thankful for food,” it takes more intentionality and thought to write, “I am grateful for our delicious dinner and my sister who makes me laugh.” Similarly, instead of writing, “I am thankful for my friends,” encourage your children to write the names of their friends and even specific character traits or things they have done that they are grateful for. 
  • Try to get your kids to be personal with their answers. Tell your child to focus on the people in their lives or experiences that they are thankful for instead of physical objects. This can help improve relationships over time and will really show true value for young children. 
  • If they get stuck and can’t think of anything to write, ask them to consider what their lives would be like without certain people or things. This can spark some deep thankfulness! 
  • Remember that gratitude can be expressed artistically, as well. Your kids can scribble, draw, paint or color in their journals to represent what they are thankful for. This practice is also great for younger kids who cannot yet write or kids who don’t like to write. They can also include photographs of things they love, favorite places, or people that they appreciate.
  • Help your kids develop a habit of journaling regularly. Whether this means setting aside certain days or times of the week, having it as a requirement before allotted screen time or filling the journals out together as a family and discussing it over dinner, encouraging consistency will do wonders for your kids and your family as a whole.

Also, consider making this a family project. Create a “Family Gratitude Book” together. 

This is an interactive activity that will get all members involved and participating in the same activity. Encourage everyone to add photos, notes, drawings and mementos of anything they want to include. Try sitting down with the family at least once a month to continue to fill out your family gratitude book.

Overall, incorporating gratitude journals into your family’s lifestyle can help play a role in teaching thankfulness to your children. We all want our children to grow up to be well-rounded, empathic, compassionate and caring adults, and cultivating an attitude of gratitude is one way to do just that!