Raise Thankful Kids

By Nora Heston Tarte

Raise good humans—that’s the goal. Kids can start learning how to express gratefulness at a very young age, with a little guidance from parents.


Age 1+

Integrate thankful vocabulary young. The first steps to teaching kids how to be thankful are using the words themselves. Even before a child is speaking, sign language can be used to teach words such as thank you and please.

Age 3+

Teach children to give to others. Simple conversations explaining how some kids do not have toys to play with, books to read, or clean clothes to wear is a good introduction to helping others. Have toddlers and preschoolers help bag up old toys and too-small clothes to donate to a local organization. To get the most out of the lesson, bring children along for the drop-off.

Teach kids the value of money. As much as you explain treating items with care because replacement costs money (i.e. don’t jump on the couch! A new one costs too much money!) kids won’t understand if they don’t know how difficult making money can be. Pay small amounts for chores around the house. A toddler can feed the dog for a quarter or bring laundry to the laundry room for ten cents. Older children can make more mowing the lawn and washing dishes. Next time your kid asks for a coveted new item, tell them to spend their own money on it unless they want to wait until a birthday or Christmas.

Ages 6+

Volunteer. As much as you tell children about the discrepancies between families, there is nothing more powerful than showing them. Sign up for quality parent-child time at a local soup kitchen, participate during a food drive, or take part in a fundraiser that cares for those less fortunate.

Age 10+

Encourage kids to make small gestures on their own. Ideas include cleaning out their own closet and bagging items that no longer fit, packing old purses or bags with personal care items and handing them to homeless people they cross (with adult supervision), or bringing a worthwhile project to the classroom, such as adopting a family for Christmas to raise money and shop for.

Age 12+

Encourage kids to start their own initiative. Choose a cause and organize the efforts, from fundraising to implementation.


Get Started, locally:


Women’s Center of San Joaquin
Locations in Stockton & Lodi
(209) 941-2611

Second Harvest Food Bank
704 Industrial Park Drive, Manteca
(209) 239-2091

Salvation Army
Multiple locations

The McHenry House
739 A St., Tracy
(209) 835-2328

Case For Kids
1852 W. 11th St., #134, Tracy

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