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Gratitude Music & Movement: Celebrating Thanksgiving with Young Children

Nov 11, 2021    |   Art & MusicFallMovement & Motor Skills

November is the month of Thanksgiving, and a great time to talk with children about gratitude and about the importance of recognizing the people and things in their lives that they are thankful for. It also brings an opportunity to introduce new activities through the lens of thankfulness. In this article, we do that, with a special focus on music and movement activities that can help all of us to make thankfulness part of our daily lives.

The Importance of Gratitude for Young Children

Talking about gratitude with young children supports their social-emotional development and overall wellbeing. Colleen Beck, an occupational therapist and founder of The OT Toolbox, explains that “gratitude leads to self-awareness, perspective of others, kindness, and empathy. For children, having and expressing gratitude helps them to recognize the tools they have already as a way to be resilient against obstacles and challenges. When kids are aware of the things they have, the special skills they possess, or people they have in their corner, they can use those things so they are empowered, and not overwhelmed.” 

Gratitude Movement and Music

Young children love opportunities to move their bodies. Music, dance, and other mindful movement activities can be a great way to open the door to conversations about gratitude. 

Gratitude Yoga

Yoga provides an opportunity for children to learn about body and mind connection. It can be an activity that is done before nap time to help children calm their bodies, or in the morning to set the mood for the day ahead. 

Giselle Shardlow, the founder of Kids Yoga Stories, shares that a yoga position called child’s pose can be a particularly helpful pose for helping children to practice gratitude. Encourage children to sit on their heels with their heads face down toward the ground. Their arms can either be stretched out with palms on the ground or bent with elbows next to knees and hands under their forehead. As children rest in this pose for a few moments, guide them through a few long, deep breaths, and encourage them to visualize the people and things they are grateful for. 

“Thanks A Lot” by Raffi

Thanks A Lot is a song by Raffi that matches movements with lyrics that express gratitude for the natural world around us. Younger children can follow set movements that go with the song, while preschoolers might enjoy coming up with some of their own movement ideas. Kym Stevens, an educator, dancer, artist, and researcher, shares the following movement ideas ideas for younger children:

  • Sun in the sky. Cross the arms down low, and then lift them up high in an open position, and circle them back to rest at the side of the body.

  • Clouds in the sky. Position the arms into a circle with hands touching, and curve the torso from side to side like a rainbow.

  • Whispering wind. Lift both arms up in front of the body with the palms facing up, and then scoop the hands back towards the body (travelling fast up and slow down).

  • Birds in the spring. Stretch arms out to the side like wings, and then move the body around to trace the number eight while the feet stay still.

  • Moonlit night. Look up to the sky and reach two hands as high as possible.

  • Stars so bright. Hold arms in the air with ‘twinkle’ fingers.

  • Wonder in me. Move the head from side to side with an expression of wonder.

  • The way I feel. Place hands over the face, and then open hands out with a huge smile on your face.

  • Animals, lands, for the people everywhere. Squat down and put hands on the ground.

  • For all I’ve got. Jump up with feet and arms extended into a star shape.

“If You’re Thankful and You Know It”

We all know the popular children’s song “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” For a fun, grateful twist on this song, you might enjoy singing “If You’re Thankful and You Know It,” with the children in your care. After singing the song together and incorporating movements like clapping hands and stomping feet, ask the children about the things and people they are thankful for. Click here to find a free video of this song on YouTube to accompany this activity. 

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