The Simplest Way to Teach Gratitude This Holiday Season

by Jessica Peters | Lakeshore Professional Development Specialist

Thank you—a great message during the holiday season, but an amazing message for every day.

Being grateful and able to express gratitude to those in your life who make you happy, love you, help you and take care of you starts as early as the toddler years. Showing gratitude can be done in many ways—verbally, with gestures such as a hug but also with written notes.

Kids are going to get gifts over the holidays. What better way to teach the concept of gratitude (and practice handwriting!) than to have them write thank-you notes?

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Realizing when someone has done something nice for you and showing appreciation can be taught in classrooms and in the home. Adults can and should model as well as encourage various ways to show gratitude.

As kids get older and enter preschool classrooms, they can start to say thank you in notes and cards. Learning to say thank you and show gratitude is a large part of development and helps the growth of social-emotional skills, language skills, cognitive skills, literacy skills and fine motor skills. Saying and hearing thank you increases a child’s connection to others and increases the child’s sense of belonging to a community. Studies have shown that people who are able to express gratitude also have more empathy, tend to be more optimistic and experience less stress. Understanding the feeling of gratitude, being able to label that feeling and knowing what prompted that feeling are all social-emotional skills. When you feel grateful, highlight that feeling for a child and explain why you are grateful. Modeling this feeling is the best way for children to begin to understand and experience gratitude. When you see children doing something nice for each other, highlight those moments by asking the child if she feels grateful. If so, did she let the other child know? The more we practice showing gratitude, the more it becomes second nature.

It’s easy to say thank you to someone who gives you a Christmas gift, but what about someone who does something for you on a regular basis? Even as adults, we often miss opportunities to show when we are grateful. In order to encourage reflection, brainstorm with children to remember all the times in a day when someone does something for us that makes our day a great one (cleaning the classroom, cooking our food, etc.). Talk with children about ways you can let those people know that you are grateful. Could you write a thank-you note? Could you tell the person—or maybe even give him a hug or applause? At the snack or dinner table, have everyone say two things or name two people they are grateful for from their day. Over time you can add to this by saying how the child did—or will—show their gratitude.

Writing thank-you notes is also a wonderful way to develop fine motor writing skills as well as cognitive and literacy skills. In a writing center, have thank-you card templates children can copy. With art materials children can paint a picture to turn into a thank you, or create a thank-you card with art materials, stamps and writing materials. In the toddler and early preschool years, drawing a picture with a message dictated for an adult to write can be a very meaningful thank-you note.

Expressing gratitude offers a sense of joy for the giver—and the recipient. What a great way to build lifelong memories and connections!

Polar Bear Craft

by Victoria Montoya | Lakeshore Director of Public Relations

Polar Bear Craft

As winter approaches and the cooler weather arrives, my kids start spending more and more time indoors. This is the time of year when I sometimes struggle to find enough fun, educational activities to keep the kids busy and engaged. So, I try to keep a bank of winter-themed crafts on hand to use as boredom busters—and to keep the kids thinking and learning. I especially appreciate simple crafts that use basic supplies we already have at home—like this cute polar bear craft made with cotton balls! After the kids are done crafting, you can channel their enthusiasm for this beloved animal into a fun research project—where kids learn more about polar bears and then record their thoughts and observations.

Note: This craft can also be adapted for use in the classroom—just add more supplies!

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You will need:


Polar Bear Craft

  1. Glue cotton balls onto the plate, covering the surface.
  2. Print out the polar bear face template and cut out the eyes, nose, mouth and ears.
  3. Glue the eyes, nose and mouth on top of the cotton balls to make the face, and then glue the ears to the top edge of the plate to complete the polar bear.
  4. To extend the fun and the learning, research polar bears online or check out a book from your local library. As you read about polar bears and look at photos together, guide children’s thinking with these ideas:
    • Talk about the polar bears’ fur. Ask, Why do you think their fur is white? If kids have never heard about camouflage, explain that the white fur makes it easy for them to hide in the snow, allowing them to sneak up on their prey.
    • Discuss animal habitats. Encourage kids to describe the region in which polar bears live and ask them to name other animals that might live in the same region (seals, arctic foxes, snowy owls, walruses, etc.).
    • You can also introduce early map reading skills by helping children use a map or globe to locate the Arctic Circle.
  5. After researching and talking about polar bears together, let kids use the polar bear writing page printout to complete each sentence. Help them think through any tricky concepts, like how to estimate a polar bear’s size.
  6. When kids are done, glue the printout to the back of the polar bear face and let kids use it to practice reading—developing reading fluency.