While grace and courtesy lessons and practice are encouraged for Montessori children everyday, November is the month when giving thanks and showing gratitude are brought into focus.
Learning about gratitude is a wonderful extension of our fall themed activities, especially leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.
6 Montessori-inspired Gratitude Activities for Thanksgiving Season
Through these activities, I hope my toddler learns to be more mindful and appreciative for what is around us, and learns to express this awareness through words, actions and behaviour.
It is important to intentionally teach these gratitude lessons as my toddler is at the developmental age of understanding interpersonal relationships, emotions and behaviours. I believe these lessons of empathy and grace helps to build character and may eventually shape the way she conducts herself as well as make decisions in later life.
These are 6 toddler-friendly activities that are fun and hands-on to explore as well as encourage them to naturally learn and understand more about the concepts of gratitude and kindness.
1. DIY Gratitude Wreath 手工制作感恩花环
The idea for a DIY gratitude wreath came from The Classroom Creative (there's free leaf templates on the site too!)
My toddler and I cut out paper leaves in orange and yellow (fall colours) and I removed a large circle in the middle of a paper plate to form the wreath base. We discussed things we felt grateful for / that made us happy / we love about our lives and I wrote all of the suggestions onto the paper leaves. My toddler enjoyed applying white glue to the paper leaves and sticking them onto the paper plate wreath.
This simple activity of crafting a DIY gratitude wreath provides children with the opportunity to articulate and express what they are appreciative of, putting them into words.
The rich print not only helps children visually see that they have plenty of things to be thankful for, it also supports them in vocabulary building and langauge development.
Some prompts might be needed to get the suggestions flowing, such as, "今天谁让你开心的?" ("Who made you happy today?") and "你今天做了什么让你开心的事?" ("What did you do today that made you happy?")
It would be helpful to run through happenings throughout the day to recollect people and things around them that provide happiness.
It doesn't have to be big impactful incidents like going to the zoo, you could remind children of the little details in our everyday environment and lives that matter, such as caregivers who love them, soft toys they can hug, meals and snacks when they are hungry, a comfortable bed to rest in and clothes to keep warm in.
I was touched and amused when my toddler mentioned Mama's milk.
What a lovely tribute to all breastfeeding mothers and the hard work they do!
A decorated wreath is great Thanksgiving decor around the home. I also love the Thanksgiving tree by CHALK Academy (made with real twigs and branches).
2. Gratitude Board Game 感恩棋盘游戏
My toddler is interested in board games lately, and I have been introducing simple ones such as memory match games to her. That gave me the idea to construct a gratitude board game to spark off a conversation about gratitude.
This gratitude board game is wonderful as a family bonding activity. We made our own board game tokens from rocks collected on nature strolls. I drew our likeness on the rocks to represent ourselves on this gratitude board game journey.
By sharing about what we like and what makes us happy, we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our family members.
The board game design is very simple - I drew 10 boxes on the peripheral of a cardboard, labelling each box from 1 to 10. The start box is labelled 'GO'. I also fashioned a DIY dice from a cube-shaped toy by enlisting my toddler to stick washi tape over all its side and labelling 1 to 6 on each side with a permanent marker.
Nine questions also labelled 1 to 9 were written on strips of cardboard, and have to be answered when the token lands on the numbers. There is no 'winning' mechanism but that didn't stop my toddler from rolling the dice time and again to make many rounds.
These are the questions I wrote on the cardboard strips:
- What is your favourite colour? (你最喜欢什么颜色? / Nǐ zuì xǐhuān shénme yánsè?)
- What do you like to find in nature? (你喜欢在大自然中找什么? / Nǐ xǐhuān zài dà zìrán zhōng zhǎo shénme?)
- Who is someone you love? (你爱谁? / Nǐ ài shéi?)
- What makes you happy today? (今天是什么让你开心? / Jīntiān shì shénme ràng nǐ kāixīn?)
- What do you like to smell? (你喜欢闻什么? / Nǐ xǐhuān wén shén me?)
- What do you like to see? (你喜欢看什么? / Nǐ xǐhuān kàn shén me?)
- What do you like to hear? (你喜欢听什么? / Nǐ xǐhuān tīng shén me?)
- What do you like to taste? (你喜欢尝什么? / Nǐ xǐhuān cháng shén me?)
- What do you like to touch? (你喜欢触摸什么? / Nǐ xǐhuān chùmō shén me?)
You could add a 'today' (今天 / Jīn tiān) context to the questions if you're intending to play this board game frequently so that the answers will be varied and ever-changing.
Apart from boosting communication and language skills, I found this game a good way to reinforce my toddler's numeral recognition.
3. DIY Gratitude Card-making 感谢卡制作
This activity provides my toddlers with the hands-on opportunity to craft a physical token that expresses gratitude and love to people around her. The card design is done using a washi tape resist art technique, whereby tape is randomly lined across the card which is painted over and then the tape is peeled off to reveal clean strips beneath. Messages (dictated by my toddler who totally turned it into a birthday card!) can be penned along those strips.
Note: This washi tape resist art technique has been around for ages so I don't know who's the originator. Here's sharing a popular tutorial by <a href="https://heraldeecreates.com/washi-tapes/>Heraldeecreates.)
Gratitude cards are great as they can easily be mailed to our loved ones all around the world and instantly warm the hearts of the recipients.
Card-making works especially well for us as we live overseas far from family and friends and this is a great way to keep in touch amid our different lives and busy schedules.
During this covid pandemic, card-making takes on a special meaning.
I'm keeping a lookout for those who might particularly need a card to lift their spirits, particularly seniors, those in fragile health or with compromised immunity as well as children kept away from friends and schools affected by isolation and quarantine.
4. Gratitude Cookies 感恩主题饼干
This fun, hands-on kitchen activity provided my toddler with the opportunity to think of family and friends who matter to her, and make cookies for them. I used the easy yet healthy 2-ingredient almond cookie recipe here.
I added a third ingredient - cocoa powder - to create a darker cookie dough color so as to shape Chinese characters and English letters on the cookies.
The sweet part is that cookies can be individually packed and dropped off as gifts for family and friends whom we can't meet in person but live reasonably close.
Out of an abundance of caution, cookie recipients could heat up the cookies before consumption to ensure they are covid-safe.
5. Fall Harvest Cardboard Puzzle 秋收纸板拼图
This puzzle activity provided the opportunity for me to explain the history of thanksgiving, why and how people celebrate this holiday.
Specifically, I illustrated a scene of farmers having a bountiful pumpkin fall harvest.
Thanksgiving is a significant and special holiday to farming families as it is a time for farmers to give thanks for the fruits of their labour at the end of the harvest season.
The fun part about this puzzle activity was that my toddler got to cut up the cardboard picture i.e. "make" the puzzle and then re-build it on her own.
Seasonal toys tend to lose their meaning when the holidays pass, so this easy DIY helps to save money and keep the collection of toys at home minimalistic.
This puzzle can grow with the child and be brought out every thanksgiving - simply add more snips with each year as the puzzle gets more and more challenging for your growing children!
6. Putting into Practice - Giving Help
“An attitude of gratitude creates blessings. Help yourself by helping others. You have the most powerful weapons on earth – love and prayer.”
— John Templeton
During this covid pandemic, I put together a box of household essentials and sanitising products to gift to a beneficiary in my local community, whom I was connected to via my local Buy Nothing Facebook group.
These are items that greatly help day-to-day and in keeping safe:
- sanitising wet wipes,
- sanitising spray,
- toilet paper,
- hand soap,
- dry shampoo,
- sanitary pads (for ladies)
This experience was a deeply humbling one and through it, I formed a relationship with an elderly lady who has chronic medical conditions and can no longer patronise physical stores for essentials.
I was glad that my toddler was with me every part of this experience - packing the essentials into a box and following me for a drop-off (even briefly seeing the beneficiary) - seeing first-hand how we could provide tangible help and support to those who need them, particularly in this crisis.
There are many, many ways to help people around us and this is just one of them! Even a kindly smile to a passing neighbour counts as passing on kindness and grace.
Wishing everyone love and grace during this thanksgiving season! Keep well and stay safe!
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.