Using Gratitude Journaling to Teach Kids About Thankfulness

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Last year, I got a gratitude journal for Christmas. It’s a simple book, and I have been filling it out every night before going to bed. Amazingly, this little book on my bedside table has changed my life. I’ve found that I have become more grateful and more positive all day long as I am noticing things that I might record in gratitude journaling.

This is the same attitude that I want for my kids, so much so that I have introduced the practice of sharing gratitudes with my family as well. We’re trying to teach our kids to be more thankful for what they have, and the practice of writing in a gratitude journal has gone a long way toward making that happen.

gratitude journaling

What is Gratitude Journaling?

Gratitude Journaling is the process of writing down things that you are grateful for. It works best when it’s a habit that is done every day.

Scientific research has actually proven that writing down what you are grateful for on a daily basis will increase happiness and well-being. The format of the journal can vary; the important thing is to create a practice that you can continue consistently.

What Should Kids Write in a Gratitude Journal?

When starting out with a gratitude journal, it is easy for kids to get paralyzed with the thought that they don’t have anything to be grateful for. They may think that their gratitudes aren’t important enough to write in a journal. Fortunately, gratitudes don’t have to be big things.

Simple little things are OK to write about, too. “We had delicious macaroni and cheese for dinner today” or “I found a really cool leaf outside” are perfectly acceptable gratitudes.

The key is to help your child be specific about what they are grateful for. “I am grateful for my family” is good but “I am grateful for my sister because she helped me pick up my toys today” is better because it is much more specific.

Kids should also take some time to think about the reason why they are grateful. An easy trick is this: after thinking of the gratitude, ask your child, “Why are you thankful for this?” Your child should add their answer to their gratitude for a more meaningful experience.

What Can Kids Learn from Keeping a Gratitude Journal?

In addition to the fact that regular gratitude journaling is shown to increase well being and happiness, kids can learn a lot by writing in a gratitude journal consistently. The more kids practice writing what they are grateful for, the more they will start to notice things to be grateful for in their lives.

Writing in a gratitude journal helps kids to draw attention to things to be thankful for throughout their day, and helps them develop an attitude of thankfulness all the time. And, writing in their gratitude journal on hard days will show kids that no matter what, there is always something good to be grateful for.

How Does Gratitude Journaling Help Teach Kids to be More Grateful?

The Raising Grateful Children project at the University of North Carolina found that kids who are learning about gratitude need to think about 4 steps:

1. Noticing what they are thankful for.

Kids need to see the blessings around them. This teaches kids not to be entitled, but to appreciate the blessings that they have. As a parent, you can work with your child to brainstorm ideas. Another great place to start is by reading a book about gratitude with your child.

2. Thinking about why they have those things.

This step is all about taking the gratitude a bit deeper. Why is it that those blessings have happened? Was this a gift from God? A result of your child’s hard work? Something nice that was done by a loved one?

Thinking about the reason for the gratitude helps your child to appreciate it even more deeply.

3. Feeling how they feel about those things.

What does being grateful feel like? Kids should explore how this gratitude made them feel. This is a great time for kids to practice naming their emotions.

4. Doing something to express their appreciation.

This is the step that we often rush to as parents who are trying to teach gratitude. We want our kids to act grateful and to show their appreciation for what they have.

When we insist that our kids “Say thank you!” we are having them practice this. But the reality is that expressing appreciation comes naturally when our kids go through the earlier steps in the process.

Gratitude journals are helpful because they can give kids a place to process the noticing, thinking, and feeling steps. They can help parents balance their natural focus on the doing step when they are teaching gratitude to their kids.

Writing in a gratitude journal with our kids helps us to focus on teaching the whole process of gratitude. Kids that are thinking through each of these steps will start showing their appreciation more naturally.

How Can We Get Started?

The key to gratitude journaling is to build a consistent habit. You can create or purchase a gratitude journal for your kids so that they will have a place to keep all their gratitudes together. It’s important to find a simple gratitude journal that your kids can use independently.

Choose a time in your daily routine to practice gratitude journaling together. And then remember to make this a consistent part of your routine.

gratitude journaling

To help you get started, I have created a free printable gratitude journal. You can download and print the pages to fill out with your child. There are several kinds of pages to choose from depending on the age of your child.

The pages have questions to guide your child through the noticing-thinking-feeling-doing process of gratitude. Leave your name & email below. Check your email for my gratitude journal. Download your free gratitude journal pages today and get started!

Sarah Miller is a homeschool mom of two and an educator with over a decade of experience teaching kids in preschool through high school. Her passion is to help homeschool parents get started homeschooling with confidence. She blogs at Homeschooling 4 Him, where she shares tips and tricks to make homeschooling simple and fun. You can also connect with Sarah on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram.

NOTE: Not all views from guest bloggers are the views of Kerry Beck or How to Homeschool My Child.

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