Looking for an activity to help kids with gratitude? Try this.
In my elementary school library, it became a tradition the week before Thanksgiving to put a penny in my shoe and invite the children who visited the library to do the same.
Let's take a closer look at how this challenge works and what it teaches children about gratitude.
How does the "penny challenge" work?
The challenge: Keep the penny in your shoe while you are wearing it until Thanksgiving Day.
The purpose: Every time you feel the penny think of something you are grateful for.
The conversation: The discussion with the children as the basket of pennies circled the group was always enlightening and heartwarming. Gratitude for parents, family, friends, food and homes were always expressed. I would mention gratitude for books and the ability to read.
We would always spend some time talking about our favorite books. Then more unusual feelings were expressed like gratitude for eyebrows because a friend lost her hair due to cancer treatments and she doesn’t have eyebrows to stop the sweat from dripping in her eyes. Gratitude for a doctor that helped save a loved-one’s life. Gratitude for a night light because the dark is scary.
The second year I taught this library lesson, when the basket reached a particular sixth-grade boy he simply passed the basket on to the next student. The boy said he didn’t need a penny because he still had one in his shoe from last year. Surprised and impressed I asked why.
He said the penny helped him remember an older sibling he was grateful for who was away from home for an extended period of time. He planned to keep the penny in his shoe until the sibling returned home. The following years, there were always a couple of students who had kept their penny in their shoe for the entire year for a very special reason.
As the children walked around the library I would often hear, “I can feel the penny in my shoe,” followed by another student asking, “What are you grateful for?” Children love to have a chance to talk about what matters most to them.
This became a beloved tradition in our library and might be a fun tradition to start with your family. So tuck a penny in your shoe and let the grateful thoughts flow.
What books about gratitude do children love?
Thank you, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson
Here are a couple of picture books I love to share around Thanksgiving. This nonfiction title by an incredible author reminds us that a “bold, brave, stubborn and smart” woman saved Thanksgiving for all of us.
'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey
This delightful book is a great read aloud and makes everyone smile, especially when they discover how the children hid the turkeys. Enjoy!
Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora
Thank You, Omu! is a children's book written and illustrated by Oge Mora. The story follows a kind and generous woman named Omu who makes delicious stew for her neighbors. As she shares her stew with the people in her community, they show their appreciation by bringing her gifts and helping her in return.
The story teaches children about the value of giving and helping others, as well as the joy that comes from showing gratitude and appreciation. It also encourages kids to think about the ways they can show kindness and generosity to the people in their own lives.
The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau
The Quiltmaker's Gift is a children's book written by Jeff Brumbeau and illustrated by Gail de Marcken. The story follows a quiltmaker named Elvira who is known for her beautiful and intricate quilts. Elvira is very generous and always gives her quilts away to anyone who needs them, but she is also very poor and struggles to make ends meet.
Despite this, Elvira continues to make and give away quilts, and eventually she is rewarded for her kindness and generosity. The story teaches children about the value of giving and helping others, as well as the rewards that come from being kind and selfless. It also encourages kids to think about the ways they can show gratitude and appreciation to the people in their own lives.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The Giving Tree is a children's book written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein. The story follows the relationship between a tree and a little boy who loves to play in its branches. As the boy grows older, he takes more and more from the tree, eventually cutting it down to nothing but a stump. Despite this, the tree is happy because it was able to give the boy everything he needed.
The story teaches children about the importance of giving and being selfless, as well as the joy that comes from being able to help others. It also encourages kids to think about the ways they can show gratitude and appreciation for the things they have in their own lives.
Looking to boost reading skills?
Reading is a gift—one we're especially grateful for at our company. Reading introduces children to new ideas, helps them develop cognitive skills, and keeps them off electronics.
If you're looking for a tool to help your children read more, try a Reading Incentive Kit (RIK).