When it comes to being a parent, above all, I want to raise good people. Sometimes, between all the sibling bickering and potty words, I wonder if I’m AT ALL doing a decent job. I made this gratitude journal for kids as a way to hopefully improve my own kids’ attitudes and build their character. Sometimes, I think maybe it’s helping. (To be fair, there are still some days when I totally think they’re a lost cause.)
My main goal with this journal was developing a sense of gratitude. Let’s be honest. Kids are not the best at appreciating all the tiny aspects of their lives that are amazing. My kids, at least, would rather obsess over the ONE thing they don’t have (especially if their sibling does). It’s a well-documented fact that grateful people lead happier lives. I’ve challenged my kids to come up with a different reason why they are lucky each day. I hope they someday realize that they will never run out of things to be thankful for. (Note: I do the actual writing for my 3 and 5 year olds.)
In addition to gratitude, I decided to use this journal as an opportunity to promote other skills that I hope to embed in my kids as well. Namely, empowerment, accountability, kindness, thoughtfulness, resilience, and grit. The second question the journal asks is what the child can do to make today great. This was inspired by a section of the 5 Minute Journal. I love the idea of having the kids take some responsibility for the outcome of their day. It also gives them the opportunity to *plan* to be kind or helpful.
The picture book, Each Kindness, was my inspiration for the third question. I want my kids to remember that their actions have consequences and that choosing to be kind will have a positive impact on those around them, even if they don’t see it. (Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed is another picture book with a similar message presented in a different way.) One of the things my oldest and I regularly fight over is his piano practice. After starting this journal, one day he started practicing without my even having to remind him. (I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.)
I realize the last question about mistakes and failure is sort of an odd choice for a gratitude journal. However, after all the reading I’ve done about the benefits of developing a growth mindset in books like Grit, I love the idea of having my kids reflect on their mistakes in a positive way each day. This has actually been my favorite part of the journal. Whenever one of my kids is struggling with something, like my 3 year old getting upset about not being able to draw a circle or my oldest messing up his piano piece for the hundredth time, I can remind them that they can’t do it YET and at least they’ll have something to write in their journal at bedtime. (Related: I love this TED talk called The Power of Yet.)
It’s too soon to know whether or not this journal will have an overall positive impact on my kids’ behaviors and attitudes, but so far, I think the outcome is promising. My kids definitely love filling out their journals and I love that it only takes a few minutes each day and seems to be improving their attitudes.
Recommended Age Range: Preschool, Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle School
Time Required: ~5 minutes to make, about 5 minutes to complete each day
Cost: Free printable, a few cents for paper
- paper for printing Gratitude Journal for Kids printable
- 1 sheet of colored paper (optional, for cover)
- stapler (preferably a long arm stapler, but a regular one will work if you bend the pages so the stapler can reach the middle)
- x-acto knife (optional, for making a clean edge on journal)
- cutting surface (optional, if you using the x-acto knife)
- ruler (optional, if using the x-acto knife)
- Print out the free, printable Gratitude Journal for Kids. If you have a double-sided printer, you can print the entire document as is (if using, put the colored sheet on top of the paper in the printer). If you can only print single sided, then first print the cover (page 1) using the colored sheet of paper (if using). Next, print 10 copies of page 3. Take the stack and put it back into the printer, then print 10 copies of page 4. You may need to experiment with the orientation to get it to print correctly, so the first time only print one sheet to make sure it’s in the printer the correct way. Obviously, you are welcome to use more or less pages of the daily sheets if desired. Since each piece of paper has 2 days per side, 10 sheets of paper will last 40 days.
- Fold the cover and the question sheets in half.
- Use a long armed stapler to staple the pages together.
If you don’t have a long arm stapler, you can fold the pages on one end an extra time so the regular stapler can reach the middle, then unfold the extra fold once the journal is stapled together.
- If you would like the edges to look clean, use a ruler to mark off a width of 5 and quarter inches on the top and bottom of the journal.
- Line up the ruler along the pencil marks to make a straight edge.
- Use an X-acto knife to trim the excess paper.
- Let your kids know they are welcome to write their names on their journals and decorate the covers.
If desired, you can use my tutorial for a homemade traveler’s notebook to make a cover for your gratitude journal (and the other booklets you use to organize your life).