“Gratitude is not a passive response to something we have been given, gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us.”

David Whyte

One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the habit of gratitude, fostering within them with the ability to raise forth positive emotions in their own lives.

Practicing gratitude as a family not only instills children with a lifelong ability to evoke positive emotions, but it also builds deeper family bonds. We build family connections through hiking, but one of my favorite ways to teach gratitude along the way is by taking a Thank You Walk. 

The concept of a Thank You or Gratitude walk is said to have been conceived by mega-guru Tony Robbins as a way to manifest your goals and improve your mindset. In my opinion, it goes back even further to Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh, who wrote the incredible “Peace is Every Step.” Even if you’re not Buddhist or a big believer in the law of attraction, I think we all could use a little more positive psychology in our lives, and it doesn’t get any easier than taking a walk. Step 1: Open the door. Step 2: Walk out the door….just kidding! But honestly, get outdoors and go for a walk.

 

Some folks do this practice by front-loading their gratitude intentions into each step, letting the rhythm of their steps guide their thoughts. I find this tricky to do with my younger kids so we combined two gratitude activities into one (you can’t have enough gratitude after all, right?)

For your gratitude tree, you will need a handful of sticks to place in a vase. So we set out on our walk to collect some fallen sticks. As we began our walk, I told my children that with each stick they picked up I wanted them to say out loud something they were grateful for. I think when children are younger, having a physical representation of those blessings helps them. Another way to introduce this concept is to read the wonderful book, “A Thank You Walk,” by Nancy Loewen before you head out the door.

 

Bring the sticks home, stick ’em in a vase and print out this Gratitude Activity. Cut out the leaves and write down some things you and your children are grateful for. Tie them onto the sticks with some bits of string, voila! We like to write down one blessing a day until Thanksgiving, and then share them all out loud, during our holiday meal.

Do you have any family traditions that help foster gratitude? Share them in the comments!