Featured activity: Practicing Gratitude with Kids

Published on November 08, 2021 - Updated on November 29, 2021

We don’t have a consistent gratitude practice in our family, which is why we are doubling down.

My kids know — albeit with frequent prodding — to say their “pleases” and “thank yous.” They sometimes surprise me with a random hug or praise for handing over their favorite snack. But a regular habit of acknowledging their thankfulness? Unfortunately, not in my house.

That’s why I’m doubling down on gratitude this November.

I want my kids to understand the true spirit of Thanksgiving and recognize the goodness in their lives. And I want to learn from them, too. Kids have a way of finding gratitude in the most mundane places. Plus, a Harvard University study found gratitude is strongly linked with greater happiness. So, count me in.

Here are some ideas for practicing gratitude with your kids.

Make a daily gratitude turkey

A gratitude turkey is the perfect activity to help little ones conceptualize thankfulness. I snagged the idea for this ongoing activity from the Busy Toddler blog, which has step-by-step instructions for building your own turkey.


In a nutshell, you use a brown paper bag to make the body of a turkey. Then you cut feathers from colored construction paper. Each day leading up to Thanksgiving, your kids can tell you or write down what they are thankful for and tape it to the turkey. It’s a great chance to start each morning with a practice of gratitude, and my kids have been loving it this month.

Make a gratitude jar

A similar concept, but one you could maintain all year long, is a gratitude jar. Simply have kids start out by decorating a clear jar. Then cut small slips from colored construction paper. Each day, kids can tell you or write what they are thankful for on a slip and fill their entire jar. It would be sweet for the kids to end the year by reflecting on all the things that brought them gratitude.

Send “just because” cards

My kids have a lot of people to be thankful for. From grandparents to teachers, neighbors and friends, there are plenty of kind and thoughtful people in their lives. I plan to use our gratitude theme this month to have my kids make and send cards to some of these individuals. Our goal is to send five “just because” cards before Thanksgiving.

Go on a gratitude walk or run

How about pairing exercise with gratitude? Talk about a health-boosting duo. Use Thanksgiving as a reason to go on a family run or walk and share with each other what you feel grateful for this season. Your kids will probably surprise you with their answers — like the pretty flower they spotted along the way that you overlooked — and you’ll all get a mood boost from the positive vibes.

Join the happyly Virtual Turkey Trot!

Copy of happyly Turkey Trot.png

The happyly community is excited to come together this year to show our gratitude and Thanksgiving spirit for the 1st Annual happyly Virtual Turkey Trot.

Stay tuned for details!

Share your family's favorite gratitude practice on Instagram and tag @gethappyly! We love to hear from you!

For more inspiration, check out another recently featured activity, Camping With Kids, make time for Family Bike Rides or Find a State Park near you! For a fun activity at home, check out our list of Chalk Games.

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Thoughtfully captured by:
Lizzy Alfs
Lizzy is a Michigan transplant living in the always bustling Nashville, Tenn. After graduating from the University of Michigan, she spent a decade working as a business journalist in Ann Arbor, Mich. and then Music City. She recently transitioned her journalism career to freelance writing so she could stay home with her two little boys, Milo and Jude. Lizzy grew up in the summers on a lake in beautiful Northern Michigan and she spent the winters making the most of the state's endless snow and slush. She lives by the motto "There's no such thing as bad weather" and you'll find her outside rain or shine. These days, Lizzy and the boys like to adventure around Nashville, looking for toddler-friendly hikes, parks and swimming holes.
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