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Counting Blessings

Teaching kids gratitude is tough—especially when Christmas presents are involved.

Is it possible to convince a 3-year-old that Christmas isn't just about Santa bringing presents?

Teaching gratitude to toddlers and preschoolers is tough. By nature, the little buggers are ego-centric.  

However, it is also incredilbly important. According to Barbara Lewis, author of "What Do You Stand For? For Kids," when kids learn to be gracious, they develop empathy and other major life skills. Ongoing research at the University of California at Davis shows that grateful people are less stressed and more optomistic, report less physical pain and greater focus.

Still, Santa reamins on the forefront of my daughter's mind.

My realization: The key to making an impression on my toddler is to say less and do more.

Here are some ideas I have focused on this holiday season:

  • Have kids make gifts for others. Whether it's helping bake cookies for a neighbor or coloring a special picture for grandma, kids love when grownups express thanks for their hard work. A warm-fuzzy example of gratitude goes a long way—and provides a perfect chance to mentally connect their efforts to grandma's happiness.
  • Write thank you cards. For young toddlers, this doesn't have to be more than scribbling on a quick note from you. Saying thank you doesn't need to be complicated. But establishing the regular practice of showing appreciation is key. Not to mention, receiving "thank you art" is adorable.
  • Purge regularly. If a kid is surrounded by a sea of toys, it's hard for them to tell when something is special. Regularly donate and discard excess toys to keep things managable.
  • Discuss thanks daily. We say what we're thankful for during bedtime prayers. Some families say what they're thankful for over dinner each night. Some people keep a daily journal of thanks. The point is to focus on your blessings every day.

How do you counter the gimme's during the holidays?  Do you have tips on teaching gratitude? Tell us in the comments.

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