As the holiday season approaches, it’s the perfect time to actively practice gratitude in the classroom. Gratitude activities aren’t just thematically appropriate for the holidays—they’re also extremely beneficial for your students.
Research shows that practicing gratitude offers a wide range of benefits, including:
- Better physical and mental health
- Improved self-esteem
- Increased empathy and reduced aggression
- Better sleep
- Healthier relationships
- More productivity
Try These Holiday Gratitude Activities
Appreciating the good people and things in your life is beneficial year-round. But you can help your students start practicing an attitude of gratitude this holiday season with these six activities.
#1 Gratitude Journal
Ask students to keep a gratitude journal, writing weekly or a few times each week. You may instruct students to journal about 3-5 things/people they’re thankful for each time, or you can provide prompts. For younger children, prompts are helpful. Sample ideas include:
- Name two people you’re thankful to have in your life. Why?
- What are three things that made you smile this week?
- List three things that make your life easier or better. How?
- Name three experiences that you were thankful for this week, however small.
- What’s one memory that you’re grateful to have? Why?
It doesn’t sound like much, but multiple studies show that the simple act of recording what we’re thankful for improves health and happiness.
#2 Gratitude Tree
If you’re looking for a collaborative activity, have each student write what they’re thankful for on an autumn leaf made of construction paper. Together, construct a tree with additional construction or craft paper. Ask each student to read their leaf as they place it on the tree.
Not crafty? Conduct a similar activity with a gratitude jar. Place a jar in a central classroom location, along with strips of paper and writing utensils. Children write what they’re thankful for on the slips of paper and place them into the jar.
Each day this holiday season, read out a few strips of paper from the jar. Alternatively, read all entries at a celebration before holiday break.
#3 Thankful Thanksgiving Turkeys
Put a twist on the classic “hand turkey” by making thankful Thanksgiving turkeys with your class. Each student traces his or her hand. The thumb is the turkey’s head, while the four fingers represent feathers. Children draw a beak and legs to complete the turkey.
Next, children list one person or thing they’re thankful for on each of the fingers (feathers). Students can read their turkeys to a table group or to the class, then hang them around the classroom. You get a fun, meaningful activity and classroom decorations in one!
#4 Thank You Letters
Recognizing the people we’re thankful for is even more meaningful than recognizing the things for which we’re grateful. Ask students to write and deliver letters to family members, friends, or school faculty who they would like to thank this holiday season.
The activity is also a great way to work on student writing and teach them how to structure a friendly letter. Plus, it benefits both your students and the people who receive their letters.
#5 Gratitude Collage
Younger students who haven’t yet developed their writing skills will enjoy creating a gratitude collage. You can have them draw pictures, provide magazines and ask them to cut out pictures, or even have them bring pictures from home.
Whatever approach you take, students will create a collage representing what they’re thankful for, then share with their group or class.
#6 Gratitude Celebration
Before your students head home for their holiday break, have a gratitude celebration in your classroom. Like any celebration, it may feature healthy snacks, music, and fun games. For a gratitude-themed game, try the following:
- Give students a snack-sized pack of M&Ms, Skittles, or something else colorful.
- Create a key for each color (e.g. blue=a person you’re grateful for, orange=something you’re thankful to have learned this year, yellow=a memory you’re thankful to have, green=a possession you’re thankful for, etc.).
- Ask students to take turns sharing gratitude with a partner or their table group based on the M&Ms or Skittles in their bag.
You can also recognize gratitude by incorporating the five activities listed above. For instance, you may read out the slips of paper in your gratitude jar, ask students to read their thankful Thanksgiving turkeys to the class, or have students present their gratitude collages. You’ll leave your students on a positive note and set the right tone for the holiday break.
Final Thoughts: Holiday Gratitude Activities for the Classroom
As your students’ thoughts turn to presents and vacation plans, it’s helpful to place the focus on gratitude and appreciation. Even a short-term focus on gratitude offers enormous benefits for health and happiness.
Or, you can use these gratitude activities to kick-off a more long-term gratitude practice in your classroom. Whatever you do, your students will reap the benefits!