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Toddler Talk: Cultivating Gratitude

This time of year especially, everyone has gratitude on the mind. While it's good to celebrate your blessings and spend time with loved ones this month, it's also important to be grateful year-round. Toddlers especially can have a difficult time understanding what it means to be thankful. Here are 10 ways to instill a grateful heart in your little one.

1. Tell your kid what you are thankful for. When you are sitting down for dinner or in the car on the road, go through a little list of things you are thankful for that day. "I am thankful for this wonderful meal we get to eat. I am thankful for my children. I am thankful for the beautiful fall weather."

2. Ask the kids what they are thankful for. Sure, you'll get answers like "Daniel Tiger" and "baby dolls," but that's OK. Every good thing in life is worth some recognition.

3. Count your blessings. Whether you are the praying type or not, it's important to name your blessings. When you are saying grace before a meal or tucking in your little ones at night, together come up with a list of things to be grateful for.

4. Live simply. This method is clearly easier said than done. When little ones live a simple life, they are more clearly able to articulate their gratitude. Instead of a room full of unused toys, give them just a few of their favorites. Instead of letting them raid the pantry for every kind of snack that sounds good, give them a choice between two.

5. Notice the small things. Giving attention to the small details around us is a great way to be mindful, and mindfulness often leads to thankfulness. Paying attention to the colors of a fallen leaf or the pink hues of an autumn sunset can do a great deal in the heart of a child.

6. Write thank-you notes. When your little one has a birthday party or gets to do a special thing with grandma, send a thank-you note her way. This little act of kindness says a lot about being grateful for the thoughtfulness of others.

7. Volunteer as a family. Many volunteer organizations allow little ones to tag along. An evening sorting canned food or passing out Christmas gifts to the needy can be a great way for little ones to learn the importance of being grateful and helping others.

8. Donate when you can. When your children grow out of their clothes, donate them to a local charity. Giving is a great way to instill a thankful heart.

9. Practice giving compliments. Help your toddler learn to recognize the gifts and strengths of others by giving compliments. When our minds are not focused on ourselves, we are more thankful and aware of those around us.

10. Set the example. If we want our children to be thankful, we have to be thankful, ourselves. As parents, make sure to set the example. Try not to complain. Be thankful for what you have. And make sure your kids see your grateful heart in action.

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