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Gratitude-themed Art Activities

The approaching Thanksgiving holiday can be a helpful reminder to take time to practice gratitude and appreciation, both on our own and with the children in our care. Being thankful lowers our stress levels by helping us focus on the positive things in our lives that lift us up and make us feel happy. Taking a “thank you” pause can be especially calming during the busy holiday season!

Gratitude and Early Childhood Development

Many early learning classrooms encourage children to show appreciation by saying “thank you” after someone has done something kind. Not only does this practice help children develop good manners, but it also has a positive impact on their overall health, development, and well-being! 

Meghan Fitzgerald, an early childhood educator and founder of the ECE-focused organization, Tinkergarten, describes the benefits of gratitude for both children and adults: 

“Gratitude can not only help you sleep better — which is crucial for kids and parents — but it can also help you feel more positive emotions and be a more compassionate and kind person…being grateful has the added bonus of helping you slow down and observe the world more closely. If you’re taking a moment to find something to be thankful for today, you are actually taking intentional time to pause from your overly busy life, be in the present moment and just notice.” 

Children’s Activities that Incorporate Gratitude

Art projects can be a great way for children to slow down and practice reflection as they enjoy the creative process.

The art activities below offer opportunities to introduce the topic of gratitude to the children in your care. While children are working on the projects, you can invite them to engage in conversations about what it feels like to be thankful.

Gratitude Suncatchers

image and activity from
The OT Toolbox

Making gratitude suncatchers is a great way to incorporate conversations about thankfulness throughout the day. You’ll start by cutting out several flower petals and placing them in a basket with a pen or marker. If you work with younger children, you’ll need to prepare the leaves for them, while older children can help with cutting out individual leaves for the project. 

Then, talk with the children in your care about the things that they are grateful for. This is a great conversation to have during circle time or morning meetings to help children understand what gratitude is and what it feels like. When children share different things that they are thankful for, write them down on individual flower petals. Once all the children have participated and their ideas have been recorded on petals, stick the petals together and put them in the window to make suncatchers. Have children work together to make the suncatcher stem by putting a thin layer of green paint on clear plastic cellophane. Stick the cellophane together and allow it to dry before hanging it in the window. Invite children to help put everything together in a window to make the suncatchers.

Handprint Gratitude Garland

image and activity from
The Artful Parent

This simple art project is also a fun sensory activity that uses taste-safe, homemade finger paints (made with sugar, cornstarch, water, and food coloring) to decorate children’s handprint cut-outs. 

Start by encouraging children to paint pieces of cardstock in different colors. Once these are dry, trace and cut out each child’s handprints. Older children will be able to use scissors to practice fine motor skills as they cut out their own handprints, while younger children will likely need help with this step. Once the handprints are complete, encourage children to share people or things in their lives that they are thankful for, such as their favorite food, playing with a special toy, or dancing to a fun song. Older children will be able to write or draw these on their handprints, while younger children might need teacher assistance. 

Then, hang the handprints on a string of yarn in your classroom or child care center. You and the children can make the banner look extra special by adding pom-poms, ribbons, and other festive decorations. 

Family Photo Gratitude Collages

This activity from Primrose Schools uses canvases, paint, and mod-podge to create collages of the special people in our lives. 

To prepare, encourage parents and family members to send in photos of their family members, or have children draw pictures of the special people in their lives. All families look different, so encourage children to include anyone who they consider family members. These might include parents, siblings, grandparents, pets, close friends, neighbors, or even friends from school. 

Set up the canvases with paints and any images that children might want to include in their collages. These can include photos, drawings, glitter, paints, and other decorative embellishments that you might have on hand (such as buttons, pieces of tissue paper, feathers, and more). Encourage children to paint and glue all of the items onto their canvases, and invite conversations about feeling thankful for the people in their photos and drawings. Once they are done, help children seal their canvases with mod-podge and let them dry. 

Mod-Podge Gratitude Rocks

image and activity from
Fireflies and Mudpies

This simple rock-decorating activity encourages children to paint pictures of things that they are grateful for. You might start by going on a nature walk to collect rocks from your yard. If you don’t have any available, small stones can be purchased on Amazon for children to paint. Talk to children about things that they are thankful for and then set out tissue paper hearts, mod-podge, and rocks for children to decorate. Older children can help with cutting out the tissue paper hearts, while younger children will likely need more assistance. 

As children glue their hearts on their rocks, talk with them about gratitude and how it feels in their bodies. The hearts on the rocks can remind us of all of the things that we love and are thankful for. Ask the children about what or who they are grateful for while they decorate their rocks. Place them all together outside to make a gratitude garden that children and their families can visit and reflect on what they are grateful for.

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