As with any other learned activity, thankfulness starts as a discipline. And, like any other learned discipline, gratitude requires repetition and pattern. How, then, do we teach in a way that does not equate “thankfulness” with a prompted (and probably sticky-fingered) “thank you”? The answer lies in variety. To teach toddlers and young children that gratefulness is big, we need to model it as big. Try using all five senses for “thank you.”
Start with the words. Give meaning to the P’s and Q’s by using them generously. Have children practice saying “thank you” individually and as a group. Varying pitch and tone (or singing a song) can be a fun and silly way to keep students engaged.
Utilize your snack routine to ingrain gratefulness. Talk about the kinds of tastes you are thankful for and ask the students to share about theirs.
Institute a “thank you high five” or a “thank you hug” as part of regular routine. Reward a special in-class helper by having the rest of the class line up for a high five tunnel. Hold hands in a circle around a special birthday student while sharing thankfulness for that person.
This one might seem tricky at first. Smell, however, has a strong connection to memory. Pass around a cinnamon stick and leaves to be grateful for fall. Pass around flowers, taking time to deeply inhale, before giving them to a parent or caregiver.
Gratitude truly involves our whole selves—our eyes, ears, fingers, mouth, and nose.