I am so grateful for Earth Day today as a chance for our bubble to reset after a particularly tricky day yesterday. Four weeks in isolation is hard for us all, no matter what our age. Looking at the bigger picture today, and enjoying some of the wonders of the world together has been soul-food for us all!
Today’s post is all about fun ways for our little ones to practice saying 𝕋𝕙𝕒𝕟𝕜 𝕐𝕠𝕦 - which seems just right for Earth Day. (This is part of a series of posts on Instagram, exploring the 'Be Kind' component of gratitude, which is where children build on their sense of connection to direct their gratitude into reciprocal acts of kindness. The first aspect of 'Be Kind' is to remember to say, 'Thank you!')
Here are three fun ways that you can help your children practice saying 'Thank You':
1. Bringing Thank You into Earth Day, with salt-dough ornaments.
We had a lovely time this morning kneading and rolling out salt-dough to make Thank You ornaments for our Earth Day branch. The sensory experience of handling the dough was another balm for our frazzled hearts and minds. If you want to make these at home, you'll need to make heart and Earth versions of the ornaments:
You can make the heart ornaments by pressing your thumb into a rolled-out circle of dough twice, so that the prints overlap at the base. Once it's baked, the imprints of your thumb will puff up higher than the rest of the circle, and these can then be painted with acrylic paints. We did something similar for the Earth ornaments, using our thumbs to press patterns into the dough circles. Again, these will puff up when baked, forming landmasses on your Earth that can be painted green, forming a contrast against the blue of the sea. Remember to poke each ornament through with a skewer before baking, so you will have a hole through which to thread your ribbon or string!
Set aside a special time together to hang your ornaments on the Earth Day branch. With each heart ornament, say a Thank you to Earth. (When we think about gratitude as adults, we often focus on what we're grateful for. But by changing the way we frame our gratitude, so that it becomes a Thank You to Earth, we build a deeper sense of our reciprocal relationship with Earth. Earth is not just a resource to be Thankful for, but an honoured Other to be thankful to, and with whom we enjoy a reciprocal relationship. Encouraging our kids to say 'Thank you Earth for ______' draws them into this sense of kinship.)
After making your Thank You's to Earth, it's time to hang up the Earth ornaments. This is when we allow our deepened sense of kinship to draw us into kindness. Talk about what pledges you might make together to care for Earth this year, and hang up an ornament with each pledge you make. (Perhaps it's time to finally start composting your food waste, to reduce the amount of meat in your diet, or change an aspect of how you travel.)
2. Saying Thank You with Lotto games
The game in the picture (my printer is playing up - and lockdown is preventing me from getting it fixed!) is one that we use in our Growing Gratitude Group Sessions, as part of our explorations into The Lion and The Mouse story. This beautiful book, by Jenny Broom, introduces kids to the idea of repaying kindness. The principle of this game can be applied though to any lotto game you may have in your toy cupboard at home.
Each child receives a lotto board, and the matching berry pictures are turned upside down in the middle of the table. Players take it in turns to turn over a berry (or whichever lotto pieces you are using). If it matches their board, they can keep it. If not, they show it to the other players. As soon as a child recognises it as one belonging on their board, they may ask for it, and the child who initially picked it up must pass it over. But - if they forget to say Thank You, the piece goes back into the middle pile, and play passes to the next player! The first person to collect all the berries (or whichever lotto pieces you are using) is the winner.
(In the Growing Gratitude Group Sessions, the berries in the pictures are connected to the Lion and the Mouse storybook - the mouse disturbs Lion whilst he is trying to reach for some berries to eat. In the game, each player is trying to help their mouse collect all his berries.)
3. HeartFelt Thanks
We use these hearts as part of our daily gratitude ritual, with our HeartFelt Thanks Jar. But sometimes, we like to switch things up a bit. Instead of using the hearts as a prompt for something we are grateful for, we use them to express our gratitude to someone else in the family.
We choose someone in our family to say Thank You to, and hand them a heart. It's really good to encourage kids to make eye contact as they say Thank You and hand over the heart, if they're comfortable doing that. Eye contact as we say Thank You helps to build a deeper sense of the connection that binds us together, through our acts of kindness and words of thanks. The adults in the family go last, so we can make sure that everyone has received a heart. This is an activity that really strengthens family bonds and feelings of goodwill toward each other!
I hope you'll have fun with these activities for practicing saying Thank You with your little ones. As always, do get in touch to let us know how you get on! Your feedback is part of making this a journey that we do together!