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  • Whole Child Counseling

Favorite Gratitude Picture Books and 5 Tips for Teaching Thankfulness to Kids

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

In our last blog post we talked about teaching kids how to practice gratitude and gratitude exercises for kids, now let's take a quick pit stop and chat about us. Yep, you read that right! Here’s the tea: Whether you’re a school counselor, parent, or teacher, the kids around us are always watching and soaking up vibes from us, kind of like mini human sponges. So, guess who's the biggest influencer when it comes to teaching gratitude? Yup, it’s you!

How to Teach Kids about Gratitude

Leading the Gratitude Parade: Now, I’m not saying you need to burst into song about every little thing that makes you happy (though, hey, if that's your jam, you do you!) It's more about incorporating tiny moments of gratitude into your daily routine. For example, try incorporating one of these routines into your day for teaching kids how to be grateful:

1. Daily Dose of Positivity

How about a little morning or evening ritual where you think about or jot down something good that happened? It could be that morning coffee that was the best or a surprise text from an old friend.

2. Dinnertime Delight

When everyone's gathered at the table, why not share the day's highlights? Let’s swap out the standard "How was your day?" for "What's one thing that made you smile today?"

3. Dreamy Bedtime Routines

Before hitting the hay, make it a cozy routine to reflect on something you're thankful for. Bonus points if you get the kids involved and it becomes a nightly family routine.

Remember, it’s not about making a big production out of it. These simple shifts in your daily routine can ripple out in powerful ways, and trust me, those tiny eyes (and ears) are noticing. Plus, I bet you’ll find that sprinkling these gratitude moments into your day brings a whole lot of sunshine into your life.

4. Try a Fun Family Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

You can also try a family gratitude scavenger hunt! As a family, create a list of things to find that can inspire gratitude, and then go out looking for them! Here’s How It Works:

List It Out: We're not just looking for random objects here; we're on a mission to find things that spark a real sense of gratitude. Think about stuff like "a song that makes you dance" or "a treat that you love."

Some Fun Gratitude Prompt Ideas:

  • Something that made you laugh today.

  • A cozy spot you like to cuddle in.

  • An old item with a great memory attached.

  • A smell that reminds you of a happy place.

  • A book or movie that made you dream.

  • A friend who's always got your back.

  • Someone who taught you something cool recently.

  • A neighbor who waves hello.

  • Something that made you smile yesterday.

  • Someone who helps you.

  • A song that makes you dance.

Jazz It Up: You can scribble these prompts in your journal, type them out on your phone, or get a bit fancy and print them on some nice cards. Maybe even doodle around the prompts if you're feeling artsy!

Go On The Hunt! Once you've got your list, take a walk or just explore your surroundings. See how many prompts you can tick off. The real fun? It's not about how many you find but the heartwarming feelings each item stirs up.

Bonus Round: Take it up a notch and snap a pic of each gratitude-inspired find. By the end of the hunt, you'll have a mini photo journal of happiness!

Wrapping Up: This isn't about winning or ticking off the most items. It’s about taking a moment to really notice the good stuff around us. Plus, it's a gentle reminder of how the simple things can bring a whole lot of joy. So the next time you're feeling a bit "meh", try the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt. Trust me, it's a game-changer!

5. Read Gratitude Books for Kids

Are you looking for some ideas for how to teach kids about gratitude with picture books? Well, there are a bunch of awesome picture books out there all about gratitude! Reading these stories together isn’t just entertaining, but it sparks real, genuine chats about thankfulness. And guess what? It’s a double win! You get that quality family bonding time and plant little seeds of gratitude with your kids. So next time you're hunting for a bedtime book or lazy afternoon read, check out a picture book about gratitude. You may be surprised at the rich conversations and observations it can lead to! Here are a few of my favorite books on gratitude.

11 Books and Activities for Teaching Gratitude to Kids

Five Little Thank You’s by Cindy Jin is a cute board book in the shape of a hand. My favorite line is “but most of all, I’m thankful to be the one and only special me.” a great gratitude children’s lesson to do with this book would be to have the child trace their hand, on construction paper and then cut it out. On one side of the hand, the child will write five things they are thankful for (one on each finger.) On the other side of the hand, write five things that make them special and unique.

Kyaw Lin's ABC Thankful Me goes through the alphabet, expressing gratitude for diverse things with each letter. Ideal for upper elementary students, since some terms, like “insight”, are a little more sophisticated. A corresponding activity after reading this book would be to have students to write their own alphabetical gratitude list.

The Thankful Book by Todd Parr is one of my favorites. Parr lists a bunch of things to be thankful for and this book is sure to get some giggles from your kids because one of the pages says, “I am thankful for underwear because I like to wear it on my head.” This is great for a discussion of unexpected behavior! Parr not only mentions what he's thankful for but also provides a reason. An accompanying activity could involve kids completing and illustrating the prompt: “I am thankful for ____ because ____.”

Thankful by Elaine Vickers is a gorgeously illustrated picture book that delves into a family's December tradition of creating a paper gratitude chain. Written poetically, it's a heartwarming read that I recommend. A fun activity you can do after reading this book, is to create your own gratitude paper chain.

Thanku: Poems of Gratitude is an awesome compilation of poems, touching on everything from being grateful for scotch tape and shoes to the sky! With 31 diverse poems showcasing various literary devices—from haikus to tyburn and free verse—it offers great inspiration. An activity for -after reading some poems in this book, would be to have the children write their own gratitude-inspired poem. Since there are so many poems in this book, you can spread it out over time and consider reading alone each day for a month.

In Grow Grateful by Sage Foster Lasser, a girl goes on a class camping trip and confronts her fears of heights. She discovers that helping others alleviates her anxieties. The definition of gratitude provided is great: "Gratitude is a warm feeling in your heart or a thought in your head about someone or something that they did that you appreciate. It’s more than merely saying 'thank you' out of politeness; it’s a genuine appreciation and understanding of what someone did for you." A helpful aspect for readers to note is the emphasis on 'theory of mind’ as well. For more information about teaching perspective taking to kids, check out this blog post.

Thank You, Neighbor! by Ruth Chan is a cute story emphasizing the importance of community, kindness, and connection. While it doesn't directly focus on gratitude, the narrative underscores the value of noticing, appreciating, and connecting with those around us. After reading this book, a fun activity would be a neighborhood walk to greet and thank neighbors.

Eileen Spinelli's Thankful is a concise, rhythmically written book accompanied by adorable illustrations. It presents an intriguing angle on career exploration, highlighting what different professionals—from artists and beekeepers to tailors and chefs—are thankful for. An activity related to this book would be to have children brainstorm various careers and then imagine what workers in those careers might be thankful for and write or draw about it.

Giving Thanks: More Than 100 Ways to Say Thank You by Ellen Surrey introduces readers to Andy, a thoughtful boy who asks the reader questions such as who do they want to express gratitude towards? If you can give them a gift, what would you give them? If you could share an afternoon with them, what would you do? If you could give them a vehicle, what would it be? If you could give them a feeling, what would you give them, etc. This would be a good book to read before children write thank-you notes because they could use some of the prompts from the book.

The Thank You Letter by Jean Cabrera is a cute story about a girl, named Grace, who has a birthday party and writes thank you letters afterwards. The book is filled with a lot of short, simple, sweet, thank you letters. This would be a nice book to read before teaching a child how to write a thank you note because there are so many examples.

If Animals Gave Thanks by Ann Whitford Paul is a charming picture book that imagines what various animals, such as bears, skunks, and coyotes, might be thankful for. This story provides an excellent opportunity to discuss perspective-taking and the changing seasons. An activity that you could easily involve children in after reading this book is have each child name an animal or creature, then imagine what that creature might be thankful for, and then draw a picture of it.

Picture Books About Gratitude Towards Nature

Dear Little One by Nina Laden and Melissa Castrillo is a whimsically illustrated picture book that urges children to cherish and protect nature. The narrative beautifully encapsulates gratitude for the natural world, with standout lines like, "Be thankful for the wind, the rain, and the snow; be in awe of the sun that makes everything grow."

Can You Hug a Forest? by Frances Gilbert is an engaging read that encourages children to appreciate the many elements of a forest, from the towering trees to the babbling streams. This picture book fosters a sense of gratitude for nature's wonders.

Sus Yoo: The Bear's Medicine by Clayton Gauthier tells the heartwarming tale of a mother bear's love for her cubs. As she introduces them to the world, the theme of gratitude resonates deeply.

Thanks From the Very Hungry Caterpillar is an inspirational little book that is quite charming. One of my favorite lines is “thanks for showing me to be kind to every creature, to care for the trees in the sky in the oceans, to be curious, gentle, and brave.”

More Picture Books about Gratitude

The Last House on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson is a story about a boy named CJ, who ventures around the city on a bus with his Nana. CJ learns to change his perspective and see the beauty in the world around him. One of my favorite lines in this book is, “He wondered how his Nana always found beautiful where he never even thought to look.”

Most Thankful Thing by Lisa McCourt is a delightful book that delves into the bond between a mother and her daughter. As they leaf through the mother's scrapbook, they reminisce about past memories, discussing what they're most thankful for. In the end, the mother reveals that her greatest source of gratitude is her daughter.

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell is a captivating picture book that showcases the gratitude of the Cherokee people as they navigate through the changing seasons and events of the year.

A Thankful Book for Kids: Giving, Thanks, Helping Others, and Feeling Grateful by Stacey Freeman is labeled for ages 1 to 3, but in my opinion, it's suitable for children up to kindergarten age. What's great about this book is its use of simple, child-friendly language. It emphasizes the importance of seeking help, describes the sensation of happiness within oneself (helping in the development of interoception skills), and offers ways to express gratitude without words. The book even addresses jealousy in a manner that's relatable for kids, encouraging them to appreciate what they have and illustrating the joys of sharing. One standout quote from the book is, “Being thankful is a feeling, but it's also something you choose to do. You can be thankful every day. Being thankful for your life makes you feel happy.” Additionally, there's a helpful note for grownups at the end.

Olaf Gives Thanks by Colin Hosten is set against the backdrop of the popular "Frozen" universe. This is a cute rhyming book with beautiful illustrations. Children will enjoy following Olaf as he expresses gratitude for various things in his life. This book is also great for winter-themed readings.

Counting Our Blessings by Emma Dodd is a sweet tale about two dachshunds who list ten things they're grateful for before drifting off to sleep.

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree is a humor-filled picture book that provides readers with an unexpected gift scenario. Ever received a lemon tree when you were hoping for a toy? This story is silly and fun by also a list of things you shouldn't do in this kind of situation.

Shannon Welbourn's Step Forward with Gratitude is an informative children's non-fiction book that delves into what gratitude is and why it’s important. The book even spotlights Taylor Swift, highlighting her appreciation for her fans. This feature is bound to resonate with many young readers.

We Are Thankful is a The Robin Hill School book by Margaret McNamara about first graders who learn about being thankful. This is a Level 1 Ready-to-Read book so kids may be able to read it themselves.

Apple Cake A Gratitude by Dawn Casey is a short simple book that reads like a poem. Each page only has a few words on it. It is a really sweet little book about gratitude.

Let’s be Thankful by PK Hallinan is a short book about a little boy who knows how important it is to be thankful for both the big things and the small things in life.

Building Character Being Grateful shows what a few different kids are thankful for and how they say thanks. Rae wrote a thank you note for gift she got. Zoe bakes cookies for a fire fighter who helped her and Lee is grateful for his wheelchair.

Playing Gratitude SEL Games

Gumball Gratitude is a super fun digital and print game where kids will learn how to choose an attitude of gratitude, even in frustrating or disappointing situations. Children wiill practice identifying "icky sticky thoughts" or choosing an attitude of gratitude with this fun Gumball Gratitude digital and printable activity set.

Includes: ✨

✔ A self-checking digital Google Slides™ game with 30 scenarios perfect for telehealth, smartboards, or distance learning

✔ 60 printable scenario cards

✔ A printable board game with dice, spinner, and cards (in color and black and white)

✔ 2 Sorting mats

✔ Rules for playing a game visual poster

✔ Gratitude worksheets

The prompts will lead to some great discussions about choosing helpful thoughts when faced with disappointing situations. This Gumball Gratitude game:

➜ Helps kids identify and sort thoughts as being either grateful or ungrateful.

➜ Is a great introduction or review of basic CBT concepts.

➜ Addresses one of the first steps in cognitive restructuring or reframing.

➜ Boost self-awareness, positive thinking, and self-confidence!

Social-emotional learning competencies addressed include self-awareness, self-management, and responsible decision-making. This resource can be used in distance learning OR in person to enhance emotional regulation and teach social-emotional learning skills.

This game can be played through Google Slides™ and is aligned to Session 11 in the book Skills for Big Feelings: A Guide for Teaching Relaxation, Regulation, and Coping Techniques by Casey O’Brien Martin. Please note this is a companion resource to the book, but the slides review the concept, and so this can also be used as a stand-alone resource.

Gratitude Journals

You can start a gratitude journal easily by encouraging children to write down or draw one thing they're thankful for each day. Have them use stickers, glitter pens, or collage to make it more fun and vibrant. A lot of kids can feel writer’s block so using sentence-starter gratitude prompts like these will help them get started. I think it’s useful to have kids share what they’re grateful for with each other too, to help generate commonalities and shared ideas. Encouraging kids to reflect using these prompts will not only help instill gratitude but also spark their creativity and observational skills.

  • A piece of technology I’m grateful for is…

  • A food I am grateful for is...

  • A person in school who made me smile today is...

  • My favorite part of today was...

  • A toy or game I really enjoy and am thankful for is...

  • Something in nature that I appreciate is...

  • A song or story that makes me happy is...

  • Someone who helps me and I'm grateful for is...

  • A place I love to go to and am thankful for is...

  • Something I learned today that I'm excited about is...

  • A game I am thankful for is...

I've got these super cute gratitude journal covers as a freebie for you! All you have to do is subscribe to my free SEL resource library at the top of this page or here. Once you opt-in, you'll get on my email list and unlock my SEL resource library! I suggest using a personal email, rather than a work email. If you don't get the automatic email check your promo/spam folders.

In our journey exploring the power of gratitude, we've looked at fun activities, daily routines, and insightful books tailored for kids. But let's not forget the key takeaway: we, as adults, play a pivotal role. Our kids look up to us, absorbing everything. By integrating gratitude into our lives, not only do we enhance our own well-being, but we also lay the foundation for our children to approach life with appreciation. So, whether it's through a nightly chat, an adventurous scavenger hunt, or a heartwarming book, let's make every moment count. After all, gratitude isn't just a practice; it's a lifestyle. Here's to living more days with purpose, warmth, and a thankful heart!



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