How to Set Up a Gratitude Jar for Kids or Students: Step-By-Step

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Parents naturally want their children to experience as much happiness as possible. Teachers also wish to play a role in the overall happiness of their students.

In that light, there are many ways to boost a child’s temporary happiness in a given moment. Examples include buying them gifts or treating them to fun experiences.

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These gestures might make a child briefly happier. However, they don’t necessarily create a foundation that will improve a child’s chances of being content and satisfied throughout their youth and adulthood.

One of the best ways to support a child in establishing that foundation is to help them cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Researchers have learned that happier people tend to be consistently grateful for what they already have. They aren’t preoccupied with their feelings of dissatisfaction.

A method that may be ideal for helping a child develop a more grateful perspective is to create a gratitude jar with them. Whether you’re a parent or teacher, this guide will explain all the basics of creating a gratitude jar for kids.

What Should You Include in a Gratitude Jar for Kids?

A gratitude jar is a jar or similar container that you can fill with pictures, written messages, and other items that represent things to be grateful for in your life. You can also decorate the jar, so it becomes a visual symbol of your gratitude.

The types of items you might include for kids may depend on their age and the materials you have access to. Ideas to consider include the following:

  • Pictures of people, places, and things for which a child is grateful (these can be copies or prints of pictures they already have, printouts from the internet, images cut out from magazines, etc.)
  • Short phrases or individual words that relate to something a child is grateful for (such as “my family,” “my dog,” etc.)
  • Longer written descriptions of aspects of life for which a child feels gratitude
  • Small items that symbolize what a child is grateful for, such as a souvenir from a fun vacation

Along with these examples, you may want to ask the kids you’re working with if they have any additional ideas about what they’d like to include. Although not all their suggestions may be practical, you’ll give them the chance to take a more active role by allowing them to contribute their own ideas.

What Materials Will You Need to Set Up a Gratitude Jar for Kids?

Basic materials you may need when creating a gratitude jar include:

Jars

This may seem like an obvious need that there’s no point in including it on this list. However, it’s worth noting that not all types of jars will be suitable for all kids. You need to account for a child’s age and maturity level when choosing what kind of jar to use.

For example, maybe you’re a parent creating a gratitude jar one-on-one with a reasonably mature child. A traditional glass jar may be fine in these circumstances, given that you will have the option to oversee the entire process.

That might not be the case if you’re a teacher helping an entire class of potentially rowdy children create gratitude jars. In this case, glass jars could be dangerous if students drop them or otherwise are not careful with them. You would likely be better off with plastic jars instead.

Images

Most gratitude jars include at least a few pictures. Make sure kids have access to them before getting started on the jars themselves.

If you’re supervising a class of students and some want to include pictures of family members, friends, or similar subjects, make sure these pictures are printouts or copies. You don’t want one of your students accidentally damaging the original copy of a beloved family photo that they took without telling their parents.

You should also give kids a chance to look for images they can print from the internet. Consider supplying them with copies of old magazines as well.

Scissors

Kids may want to cut out images from magazines or cut printouts into various shapes, so make sure they have scissors on hand. If you’re helping a class of young students create gratitude jars, supervise them very closely to ensure they don’t harm themselves or others while using sharp tools.

Writing utensils & paper

Kids may also include written messages in their gratitude jars. If they’re young, they’ll likely want to write these messages with crayons or markers on colorful paper. This is definitely more fun than merely writing them in pencil on standard white paper. Give your kids or students a variety of options by gathering various types of paper and writing tools.

Glue or tape

Many people decorate their gratitude jars with images and other creative elements. Young children are certainly no exception. Help them accomplish this by providing glue or tape, and they can attach their chosen images to their gratitude jars.

Miscellaneous items

You might also consider asking your kids to come up with their own ideas on how to decorate their finished gratitude jars or containers. For example, they may want glitter, stickers, etc. Make a list of their requests and gather any materials they ask for (as long as they ask for reasonable materials and items).

Steps for Setting Up a Gratitude Jar for Kids

The basic steps for creating a gratitude jar for kids include the following:

1. Explaining the idea

You need to be sure the kids thoroughly understand the concept of a gratitude jar before getting started on the project. This is particularly true if you are teaching a fairly large class of students. As such, it’s important to set aside time to explain what a gratitude jar is before moving on to the next steps.

2. Showing an example

It’s wise to create your own gratitude jar before making one with kids. It will be easier to explain to children what can go in a gratitude jar if you can show them an example of a finished one. Doing this will also give kids more ideas about what they might want to include in their jars.

3. Listing ideas of items to include

Next, get your kids more confident in their ability to tackle this project by having them list items their jars might include. It’s best to emphasize that most items can be pictures and written messages, as those are easiest to work with and take up minimal space.

You can also use this opportunity to get kids thinking about what they have to be grateful for. If you set aside a decent amount of time for this project, you could even have them spend a few days beforehand writing entries in a gratitude journal.

Writing in a gratitude journal can make it easier for some children to think of ideas for what to include in their gratitude jars. Additionally, writing in a gratitude journal, like creating and growing a gratitude jar, is another effective way to remain focused on cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

4. Decorate

You could theoretically switch the order of some of the steps in this list. For instance, some might prefer to have kids add items to their gratitude jars and decorate them later.

However, you’re probably better off having kids decorate their gratitude jars first. This can be a messy process for young kids working with glue, tape, etc. It’s better to cross off the potentially messy tasks before proceeding to the final easy steps.

Naturally, you need to make sure kids have all the items they may need to decorate their gratitude jars. You should also give a basic demonstration of how they can gather items to decorate their jars. For example, you could demonstrate the process of finding an image in a magazine, cutting out the relevant segment of the image, and carefully adhering it to the outside of the jar.

5. Gather items

Next, it’s time for your kids or students to add items to their gratitude jars. That means they’ll need to have easy access to said items.

Keep in mind that providing the necessary materials and resources for this step is only one part of this task. You’ll also likely need to set aside time to allow kids to work with these materials. Kids may need time to print out photos, cut out sections of photographs and images, and write out messages, among other tasks. Be sure you don’t rush your kids during this stage of the process. Additionally, if you’re teaching a class, make yourself available to help any students who might be having trouble with specific tasks.

6. Fill the jar

Once your kids or students are ready, they can start filling their jars. Make sure they understand that this is not necessarily a one-time process. A gratitude jar is most valuable when we consistently add items to it. This ensures we are more likely to maintain a consistent attitude of gratitude, which is key to leveraging gratitude for our mental and emotional health.

Gratitude Jars for Kids: An Arts & Crafts Project to Boost a Child’s Emotional Wellness

Creating a gratitude jar for kids isn’t just a project that will keep kids occupied for a few hours or class sessions. This project could theoretically help a child achieve lasting happiness in life. For more information about the value of gratitude and how to cultivate it, check out our guide on books about gratitude. You may find some titles your kids or students could benefit from reading!

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