What’s better than gold and starts with a G?
Yes … Gratitude!
This following gratitude activity is awesome for almost any age.
But first …
Did you know?
Studies have shown that …
Gratitude has a powerful impact on our mental and physical well-being
Gratitude practice decreases stress and negative thinking, increases happiness, and promotes social intelligence.
It makes us more resilient and kinder, and it also strengthens relationships.
Decreases stress and anxiety
Makes us more resilient
Makes us more socially intelligent
Makes us kinder
And even makes us more likely to feel love.
Specific studies on teens and kids have shown that:
Gratitude practice is linked to enhanced happiness, optimism, and social support as well as overall satisfaction with school, family, community, friends and self.
In a 2006 study of children’s strengths, Park and Peterson found that gratitude was the strength that had the strongest link to life satisfaction.
Another study, conducted by Jeffrey Froh & colleagues, with teens ages 14-19 found that:
grateful teens are more satisfied with their lives,
use their strengths to better their community,
are more engaged in their school work and hobbies,
have higher grades,
are less envious,
depressed and materialistic
(Froh et al. 2010).
Okay … now you know why I practice gratitude on my own AND with my son.
To me it’s a no-brainer …
and it’s so sweet when we practice together … it’s a fun way to connect, too.
Okay … here’s the activity:
Mindfulness for Kids & Teens — The Gratitude Jar aka Treasure Jar
I gave my son a Treasure Jar for his fourth birthday.
It didn’t look as cool as the other gifts …
It’s just a cookie jar filled with paper notes.
At first Anton was way more impressed by his new Star Wars toy … but … time has proven that the treasure jar prevails and toys get forgotten.
We visit the jar weekly … after almost a year.
And it makes us happy every time!
What we do with the jar and the notes is this:
My son can’t write much yet so we write down good things that happened together on the paper notes and read them out aloud.
We write things we are grateful for.
“Hugging Mommy felt so good today.”
“Playing with the new Lego Chewbacca is so much fun!!”
“Thank you, Mommy for the new Lego truck.”
“Playing badminton is awesome. We love playing together.”
“WOW … we rock! We had so much fun dancing today.”
These are our treasures … hence “Treasure Jar.”
But you could call it a Gratitude Jar or a WOW Jar too, if you like.
Here’s what our gratitude jar / treasure jar looks like:
I like to put dates on the notes so that we can see when the things happened. It’s a lot of fun.
Just yesterday Anton came up with a new application for the Treasure Jar …
He decided that we should pick some of the longer notes and read them at bedtime together as bedtime stories.
What a great idea! It’s so sweet. And it helped us wind down … and go to sleep faster, too.
After some time with a gratitude jar, you will start to notice and remember more of the good in your life.
And that’s the point of this activity:
You experience more joy when you notice the good stuff as it happens AND later …
… you experience even more joy remembering the good that has happened.
You train your mind to notice and remember the good.
Which then brings you more joy.
Here’s a hack you can use to remind yourself of the good:
I have a “G” list on my phone, too. I have it always on me so it’s easy to remember to make entries.
Later I like to check my list and transfer some of the entries to the G jar.
“Thank you for hugging me when I felt overwhelmed today. Isn’t it amazing how you can make me happy with a hug :-D.”
“Wow you are the funniest. I know you sleep talk but this is something else. I woke up last night when you pretend snored when you actually slept—for real. How awesome is that. I laughed out loud and wished I wouldn’t wake you up.”
Ha ha :-)
“Thank you for waking me up with 20 kisses. It made me so happy!!”
This inspires my son and it’s a way for me to show him how I appreciate him.
I make notes of how my son makes me grateful—how he makes me happy.
Okay, here’s a summary of how you can create your own Treasure or Gratitude Jar.
How to Start Your Own Gratitude Jar
Sit down together with your child and discuss the meaning of gratitude.
Discuss things you are grateful for and write those ideas on pieces of paper.
If your child is old enough, he can write his own; if not, then you can help him with that. You can draw pictures, too.
When ready, fill a jar with gratitude. Any jar will do … but you could make the jar really nice by writing on it or adding stickers and glitter if you like.
You can start with just ten notes and make a habit of adding a few more each week as a family. It’s a wonderful habit, and you can pause and read them all on Mondays to brighten up your week.
Then, tell your child that she can visit the jar to remind herself of all the things she’s thankful for. Or do it together if your child can’t read yet.
You can journal the good with the whole family and have a family gratitude journal if you wish. You can write it for small children, and teens can have their own gratitude journal.
A family gratitude jar or journal will become a wonderful treasure you can come back to for a happiness boost.
It’s a lot of fun to look back at all the happiness—all the joy you’ve experienced.
If you’re into crafts, you can even make a cool scrapbook of it.
But even a simple post-it note will do the trick.
You can have a classroom jar or journal too, if you’re a teacher. Or a wall where you pin small gratitude notes.
Our way is to fill the “Treasure Jar” with small paper notes with one thing you’re grateful for on each. You can add a note per day—or whenever you remember. We’ve placed the jar on the kitchen table to remind us.
It’s a wonderful habit, and it brings lots more joy to our days.
I hope that you enjoyed these ideas.
You can find this and 150 more playful mindfulness activities in my book:
May you be happy & healthy,
If you are new to mindfulness with children we recommend our online courses: Get notified here!
Chris Bergstrom is the co-founder of BlissfulKids.com and a dad who is thrilled to practice mindfulness with his son. He is a certified mindfulness facilitator, and trained to teach mindfulness to students in K-12. He’s also an executive consultant, and has taught meditation for more than 10 years.
Related research links: