Cultivating Intentional Gratitude

I see my boys looking through the numerous catalogs that flood our mailbox. Eagerly they grab pens, pencils, or markers and start circling things that they just need to have. Their little faces are eager as they imagine all the possibilities of gifts that they’d like to receive.

I let them do this.
It’s exciting for them to dream.
But, in the midst of that I also intentionally cultivate gratitude.


Cultivating intentional gratitude

It’s easy to get stuck in a me me me mentality during the holiday season. In fact, it’s very easy for our kids to only focus on just getting. It’s a balance — yes, I want them excited about seeing those toy catalogs, but in the same breath I want them to remember all the good things that they’ve already been blessed with. Gratitude is something that we as moms can cultivate in our children’s lives. In fact, I challenge you to think that is something that we must nurture in our children’s lives.

Here are five simple ways to incorporate intentional gratitude in your home.

1. Thankful Notes. Have your children (and yourself) simply list things that you are thankful for today. I think that Ann Voskamp, who wrote One Thousand Gifts, captures the beauty and essence of this perfectly. Teaching our children to be thankful for the bed they sleep on, or the shoes (even though they might be scuffed) that they wear, or the homeschool books on the table, is a valuable life long skill. This takes being intentional and asking them to start to identify the sweet things in life that they love.

2. Themed Thanks. It’s really an easy concept, but one kids seem to enjoy. You could take a letter of the alphabet, or a color, or a person, and so on  — then you ask your kids to list five things they are thankful for that matches the theme. If it’s the letter B they could list bananas, brothers, blueberries, beds, and balloons. Yes, many times it’s little things, but they are items that they’ve had to think about that they are appreciative for in their lives.

3. Thankful/Love Note Tree. When I was away this summer, my oldest daughter enlisted all of her siblings to create this beautiful love note tree for me. On each leaf (heart) there was a note written from my children to me listing what they love about me. You could easily incorporate this into a Thanksgiving Tree. Simply gather some large twigs from the yard, tie them together, and then decorate with hanging leaves of thanks.

4. Thanks Around the Table. We love to go around the table and ask each of our children to list what they are thankful for today. Then we’ll also have them tell what they love, or are thankful for, about each family member. Again, this exercise gets them thinking beyond what they want to do next and begins to grow appreciation for others in their hearts.

5. Finally, get them involved. Donate food, drive meals, help out in church, knit blankets. Get them involved. Several years ago a sweet individual shared with our homeschool co-op how he delivers sandwiches to families in need in our area. As he was talking he shared how any bit of money helps — he told them how kids he sees don’t even have shoes. When he was finished, my little son Caleb (who was almost 5) walked up to him and pulled out 17cents from his pocket. For the kids with no shoes, he said. That’s love, that’s gratitude, in action.


This Thanksgiving, let your kids look through all those colorful catalogs. But also, take a moment to reflect with your kids about all the good things that have blessed your lives.

You, and they, will be blessed.

Rachel lives in the half-a-year frozen land of Minnesota. She’s a Christian home schooling momma to seven fabulous kids, and is the wife to an amazing cancer-surviving  husband. In January 2011 her youngest son, Samuel, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease so you’ll  also find her passionate about gluten free living and Celiac Disease awareness.  Between home schooling, blogging, running her family, and, of course, drinking coffee, you’ll also find her driving her girls to classical ballet or her boys to soccer. She’s passionate about seeking joy and living a faith filled, intentional life. You can find Rachel blogging at Finding Joy

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  1. Wow! Just what I needed today! I woke up to 3 of my boys giving me detailed descriptions of the very expensive item they wanted for Christmas. I would typically humor them, but since we just spent a couple of hours last night discussing the beatitudes, and the importance of not thinking of themselves this Christmas, I quickly became frustrated that these important values were not sinking in. Thank you for giving me ideas of how I can incorporate an attitude of gratitude in my home.
    Sincerely, Susan

  2. Great ideas…

    One thing we did as our kids were growing up was “say” thank you on a regular basis. I’ve noticed my kids picked up the habit as adults. They naturally say thank you for everyday things in life…thank you for the meal, thank you for the ride, thank you for helping with schoolwork, thank you for for helping clean up.

    I think it was habit they formed because thank you is one of the few things we said on a regular basis in our home.

  3. I love this! We do the catalog thing…..and we sometimes look online to create our wish lists (my kids are 6 & almost 3)…..but I do get tired of hearing “I want that!” with EVERY commercial….or every toy we pass in the store…
    I love your ideas for teaching them to be thankful, and for blessing others!

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