Very young children have an expectation that all good things will come their way. It is a pretty good place to be. Gratitude, however, means taking a step back from this space and looking at what has come our way, sifting through it and feeling love for those good things.
It isn’t very easy to cultivate this kind of soul mood with very young children. You can’t sit down with them and say “Now, what are you grateful for?” I am not sure that gratitude is something that very young children experience on a conscious level, although it may come out in a physical way – expressions of joy, cuddles, caring play and precious out-of-the-blue remarks that make your heart sing. I think it is a pretty important skill to learn, and one that we can teach through imitation – that is by demonstrating gratitude in our everyday living.
There are a few ways we can show gratitude at home. They are simple, and some are considered old-fashioned now – but we make an effort to do them regularly:
– saying a blessing before meals
– acknowledging thanks and praising others for their achievements (my goal this year is to write more thank you letters)
– talking about our day in terms of what we experienced, what we enjoyed and what we learned.
For playgroup this week we made prayer flags – little colourful reminders of happiness and thanks to flutter in our windows. To be honest painting with children is not one of my favourite experiences – I have troubles getting over the inevitable spills of colour and the need to clean up afterwards. But it is so worth the preparation and the patience.
The children drew their own thing and I talked about the messages I was writing and the love I put into my pictures as I drew them. The littlest one was pretty grateful for the opportunity to paint – on herself. And it was a while before I realised she was just as happy to paint with a brush and plain water …
My son is a bit older and he caught the idea of the exercise quickly. Here he is grateful for his strength, which he used to create a straw bale cubby in our yard. This cubby has brought many hours of joyful playing and constructing.
We made them with an old bed sheet ripped into squares, felt pens and watered-down fabric paints. Hung to dry and stitched on to a ribbon. What are you grateful for?