While gratitude journaling is usually thought of as an adults-only activity, kids can benefit greatly from practicing mindfulness themselves. There’s no age limit to making a gratitude journal. In fact, when kids get in the practice of being thankful when they’re young, it’s easier to adapt these skills as they grow into adults.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How to Explain Gratitude Journals to Kids
- Ways to Start a Gratitude Journal for Kids
- Helpful Apps or Programs to Start a Kid’s Gratitude Journal
- Prompts to Include in a Gratitude Journal for Kids
Being intentional with what you’re thankful for is no small task. Though it sounds simple, it takes real focus and awareness. Knowing the different ways to show gratitude is a powerful life skill.
Everyone can benefit from starting a gratitude journal, no matter what age. In this guide, we’ll share how to start a gratitude journal for kids. Whether you’re a teacher, parent, or friend, helping the children in your life create their own gratitude practice is a gift worth sharing.
How to Explain Gratitude Journals to Kids
First, you need to explain to your child the purpose of a gratitude journal. This can sometimes be tricky. The concept of “gratitude” is pretty complex, so it’s normal if they don’t grasp what this means right away. Children are naturally curious, so you can use tools like gratitude books or worksheets to get the conversation started.
When in doubt, keep your definition as simple as possible. A gratitude journal, quite simply, is a place where you share what you’re thankful for. Kids have a lot to be thankful for, so this is a place to share those special things. It can be an actual paper journal or a digital journal. For kids, gratitude journals can take many alternative forms like:
- Coloring book
- Bulletin board
Kids can be naturally creative, so let this be a space for them to express themselves. They might want to draw pictures, color pages, or create a bullet journal. There are no limits to what your child is grateful for. It’s important to give them the flexibility to explore the world through their own eyes, no matter what shape it might be.
Most importantly, express to kids that there is always something to be thankful for. This is even true if others have more than you. There will ALWAYS be people with more, but this is a chance to remember the things you do have. By setting this framework early in life, you set your child up for a lifetime of gratitude and mindfulness.
Ways to Start a Gratitude Journal for Kids
Are you ready to start a gratitude journal for kids? If so, it’s time to follow these steps below to get started. This is a process you can do together, making it the perfect way to get your child excited about practicing gratitude.
1. Choose a beautiful journal
First, kids love things that match their favorite style. This can be a beautiful, handmade journal from Etsy, something generic from Amazon, or something you choose together at a craft store. It’s important to let your child choose their own journal design. The more they like it, the more likely they’ll want to use it.
2. Decorate the journal
Next, give your child the freedom to decorate the journal as they wish. You can use stickers, paper, magazine cutouts, photos, and more to make the journal his or her own. Letting them decorate the cover is another way to bring them into this process, getting them excited to start journaling.
3. Get the right writing utensils
The right pen makes all the difference. Depending on the age of your child, you might choose gel pens, fountain pens, crayons, markers, or pencils. A writing utensil that feels “fancy” is more likely to get a reluctant writer excited in journaling. Don’t be afraid to test pens to find the right fit. This is a chance to play with different colors, writing styles, and more.
4. Learn about gratitude
To spark understanding of gratitude, open a conversation about this complex topic. This is a great time to read books about gratitude together or watch some videos online. You might show examples from your own writing, as well. If you’d like to read some age-appropriate books together, here are some ideas:
- Gratitude Is My Superpower (Alicia Ortego)
- Me and My Feelings (Vanessa Green Allen)
- Code 7: Cracking the Code for an Epic Life (Bryan R. Johnson)
5. Create a writing routine
Next, make it easy for your kids to build writing into their daily routines. This might not come naturally, and you’ll need to lead with your own guidance at first. Encourage them to think about things that happened throughout the day/week that make them happy. From there, schedule time on a daily or weekly basis to write.
This could be first thing in the morning, before homework, or right before bed. Alternatively, you might exclusively write on a single night of the week. To help your kids along, make this a family-wide writing time to bring everyone into the fun.
6. Start small
Lastly, don’t be afraid to start small. If your kid isn’t a natural writer, it could take some practice to build this habit. Spark some conversations and go from there. Don’t force your kids to name more than a few things they’re grateful for at first.
Slowly but surely, they’ll get the hang of it. You can use a journal prompt to inspire their first few writing sessions. When you stay consistent and start small, you create regular habits that they can continue into adulthood.
Helpful Apps or Programs to Start a Kid’s Gratitude Journal
With that in mind, you don’t have to get started alone. These apps and programs below lead kids through the concept of gratitude, making it easier than ever for them to pick up this idea for themselves.
Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
We can all remember learning the most important lessons from Charlie Brown during the holiday season. This Thanksgiving, download the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving app to share this experience with your kids.
My Gratitude Journal
While most gratitude apps are designed for adults, My Gratitude Journal is great for all ages. Though simple, this app encourages users to reflect on just five things they’re grateful for. Kids can use images, emojis, and more to express themselves.
The musical classic Annie is also a great digital introduction to gratitude for kids. This modern movie is an adaptation of the Broadway classic about little orphan Annie. Though she has very little, she never forgets to help others and express gratitude.
The Science of Gratitude
Lastly, this video by WellCast explores the science behind gratitude and mindfulness in a way that’s easy for kids of all ages. Better yet, it ends with a gratitude assignment anyone can do at home.
Prompts to Include in a Gratitude Journal for Kids
Last but not least, these gratitude journal prompts start your child’s journey to mindfulness. Use these prompts to inspire kids to think deeply about what matters to them.
What’s your favorite activity to do?
Kids love getting their hands dirty and getting active. While it might be hard to narrow down their favorite things to do, encourage your children to think about how they like to spend their time.
Who’s the last person you said “thank you” to? Why?
Saying “thank you” is more than a kind gesture. It’s a way to make real connections. Sometimes it can be hard to remember whether you said “thank you,” so this pushes kids to think back on their past few days. Do they use the magic words?
What’s something you’re looking forward to?
Kids look forward to things just as much as adults. From holidays to birthdays, what is your little one looking forward to most? The answer might surprise you, but it’s sure to get them excited about what the future holds.
Name 3 friends you’ve made at school.
Friends make life better, no matter your age. School friendships can be deep, complex, and meaningful. What three friends stand out to your child the most right now? What draws them to these friends, and what memories do they share together?
When was the last time you did something kind?
Finally, practicing acts of kindness makes the world a better place. You’re never too young to start acting with compassion. Does your child know the last time they acted out of pure kindness, expecting nothing in return? If not, what would they like to do for someone in the future?
Final Thoughts on Gratitude Journals for Kids
Ultimately, you’re never too young to create your own gratitude practice. Learning these skills early in life sets you up for long-term happiness, acceptance, and confidence. When you’re content with the things you have, you learn the value of true blessings.
Compassion, gratitude, and kindness come in all shapes and sizes. The sooner you learn to focus on what you have (vs. what you don’t), the happier you become. Embracing a life of positivity is no small feat, but it’s one worth attempting. How do you encourage your kids to practice gratitude?