Every year in the aftermath of Thanksgiving, I’m compelled to brainstorm new ways to help my young children learn more about gratitude, appreciation, and giving back.
The reality is that these emotions and behaviors — gratitude, giving, thankfulness — don’t necessarily come naturally to young children (toddlers especially); rather than being innate behaviors, gratefulness and generosity are skills we need to help our children learn and grow. (Ever seen a toddler inclined to share all on their own?)
This week we’re bringing you five ways you can work to help cultivate your toddler’s sense of gratitude and giving:
1. Model Kindness & Gratitude
The obvious frontrunner here is also (for me, at least) probably the most challenging — but our children take in everything they see and hear us doing, and the more we can display and embody the same appreciation, patience, and gratefulness we’d like to see from them, the better.
This need not be any dramatic gesture — indeed, it’s actually in the small things, the day-to-day, and the minutiae where it may count the most. Try to acknowledge when your child makes contributions or helps with anything, be polite (HAH), and express thanks for everyday factors that boost your life.
Amara makes it easy for a big brother or sister to serve a healthy meal to their baby sibling. Even a "big" sibling as young as a toddler can mix up a pouch of Amara and spoon feed or load a spoon for baby. Just sit back and enjoy all of the smiles and giggles as big brother or sister gets to feed baby!
Speaking of which…
2. Say Thank You — Like, A Lot
Hearing “thank you” early and often can help instill the same habit among toddlers — at first, toddler “thank you’s” may be rote, but as with anything, young children will come to better understand the expression over time and as they grow.
Keep in mind, too, that there are SO many opportunities and different ways to say thank you — it goes far beyond the two words — and many are incredibly toddler-friendly. When you really pay attention, there are so many chances to express thanks throughout any given day; helping toddlers notice those moments of simple gratitude is a wonderful way to nurture gratefulness (for them and for you!).
Whether it’s actually saying “thank you,” making a card, picking flowers, or putting together some other token of appreciation, you can also extend your reach beyond your own household. Think about people your children know and could thank — teachers/caregivers, librarians, doctors, etc. — as well as some they may not, such as senior citizens at a local nursing home, veterans, fire fighters, school staff, local administrators… the list goes on!
Many of us think that volunteering is something we might do with our children down the road, when they’re older, but there are in fact numerous wonderful and age-appropriate ways for toddlers to get involved with volunteering. As with most things, making it a regular part of your family’s life early on is a great way to ensure it becomes a habit.
When it comes to volunteering with toddlers, keep an open mind. Depending on your family’s schedule and your child’s age, volunteering could be out in your community in a more “traditional” sense, but it also might occur in a less formal way in your neighborhood or even in your own home. Toddlers LOVE to help and be helpers, and there are so many ways to let them help that dovetail with the concept of volunteering. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Walk around and clean up your street or neighborhood;
- Help in your own home with things like laundry, dusting, organization, etc. (Yes, for those of you reading closely, I’m talking about chores, lol);
- Help a neighbor — whether it’s bringing them groceries, making them something special, or assisting with yard work, this is a low-stakes way to get toddlers out of the house and helping others;
- Formal volunteering — many traditional volunteer engagements are incredibly family friendly. Watch out for opportunities to bring your child to volunteer activities for your local school, community clean-ups, homeless shelters or soup kitchens, animal shelters, etc.
- Observation — If your child is too young to get involved, consider bringing them with you to volunteer activities, and the simple fact of their being present and witnessing your engagement is incredibly valuable. Whether it’s participating in a local blood drive or volunteering at the community center, your child seeing you giving back is meaningful. (Refer back to #1!)
P.S. — Don't forget to talk with your child about the experience afterward!
With any experience that may require extra patience from a toddler (walking, standing or sitting still, listening, you get the idea), a fun, healthy snack can be a great motivator and a way to extend the activity a bit. To keep little fingers busy and tummies full without the sugar crash, try Amara's Yogurt Smoothie melts. They are perfect for on the go and little ones love them!
Donating goods is another fantastic way to begin teaching children about gratitude, community, and giving back. To repeat, toddlers are generally inclined to help, so framing your conversations and activities around this concept — helping others — is generally a pretty effective angle to start out.
Some ideas to consider:
- Donating old toys and clothes to local toy or clothing drives, or Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Red Cross;
- Donating old books to your library or school;
- Donating canned goods and non-perishable foods to food pantries and local food drives;
- Donating winter gear to coat drives;
- Sponsoring a family in need and choosing gifts together with your child for the family.
However you choose to donate, try as much as possible to involve your child in the process — talk about what you will be doing and why, invite them to select the items for donation along with you, and bring them to drop off donations, too. It’s pretty amazing to see how good even young children feel about helping others however they can.
5. Have a “Do Something Kind” Day
I saved my personal favorite for last — I read about this somewhere a year or two ago and it’s straight-up GENIUS. Little kids love it, and it’s really a beautiful tradition to start as a family.
Here’s the premise: pick a day (it can be weekly, monthly, whatever) to designate as “Do Something Kind” Day. Everyone in the family is tasked with doing something good or kind on that particular day, and then you can all convene to share stories at the end of the day over dinner (or whenever). There are no rules about the particular act of kindness — it can be small, for a stranger or for a friend, whatever — and let me tell you: it’s SO fun! Seriously. Young children find the most incredible (and adorable) ways to extend kindness, and celebrating those moments together as a family conveys how special and important they really are. Yes, this mini-holiday is such a learning moment all around. Try it out :)
We’d love to hear from you — what are you doing with your toddlers this season? How is your family working on giving back?
We know as parents, we all want to do our best by our children. That includes everything from teaching them to be kind to others to instilling healthy eating habits for life. That's where Amara comes in.
You can count on Amara to have:
- Zero added sugars
- No preservatives, additives or fillers
- No artificial colors or flavors
- 100% organic vegetables, fruits, whole grains