Character Beyond “Thank You:” Helping Your Five-Year-Old Understand and Express Gratitude

Gratitude involves both feeling and expressing our thankfulness; it means we show our appreciation for others.  According to the Harvard Healthbeat, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” For a five-year-old, gratitude looks like consistently saying “thank you” to others, making thank you cards, and identifying things that make them feel thankful, such as a favorite toy or a visit from grandma. 

Three ways to get your child in the habit of expressing gratefulness:

Model Gratitude

Children imitate adult behavior. In your daily interactions, model saying "thank you" to store clerks, teachers, librarians and family members. Encourage your child to follow suit. When you write a thank you note to someone they know, let them add a picture or dictate a few words. As they get older, encourage them to write their own thank you cards or make thank you gifts for people who have touched their lives, such as teachers, coaches or community helpers.

Create a Gratitude Jar

A gratitude jar is as simple as it sounds. You need a large clear jar, a stack of sticky notes and a pen. Have each family member write (or draw) something that they are grateful for a few times a week. It can be small things, like a favorite food, or big things, like time spent with a grandparent. At the end of the week, read the gratitude slips together as a family. 

Give Awards to Everyday Heroes

Your child can identify and honor everyday heroes in your community by creating and distributing hero awards.

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Share "Three Good Things" Each Day

As a family, make it a ritual to share three good things that happened that day. This is a perfect way to connect at dinnertime or bedtime. Simply ask children, "What made you happy today? What are you thankful for?" And don't forget to share your own reflections, modeling for your kids a daily attitude of gratitude for the small things in life. 

Make a “Coupon Book” of Helpful Gifts

Making gift coupons is one way to say “I love you.” Together with your child, create a coupon book of ways your child can help with a family task or give as a gift on special occasions.

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Build Good Character Skills with Arthur

Whether facing down a bully, worrying about a new teacher or being the very last person on earth to lose his baby teeth, Arthur and his friends manage to solve their crises with imagination, kindness and a lot of humor.

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