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Katie Mohar


Toy Stories: Teaching Kids Gratitude

Nov 21

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Text copyright © Katie Mohar. All rights reserved.

Teaching kids gratitude
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Thanksgiving used to be a gloriously under-commercialized holiday for giving thanks and spending time with loved ones. Over time, November and December have collectively transformed into one big shopping marathon. While snagging deals is fun, it is hard to express gratitude for what we have while focusing on accumulating more.

A survey of parents in the UK finds that nearly half (47%) of children tire of new toys in only seven days. The same research indicates that over a quarter (28%) of parents discard toys in perfect condition because their children no longer find them interesting. It’s no wonder that Pixar’s animated film, Toy Story, is a relatable tale!

Focusing on quality over quantity is becoming popular among parents looking to reduce waste and teach children gratitude. Some parents are adopting the “4-Gift Rule.” This practice involves limiting the number of presents to four quality items, where one of the four is something “to read.”

Do what’s right for your family. Kids will treasure the time we spend with them – and the memories – more than any toy. Reading books together during the holidays is excellent “together time.” Build a culture of gratitude while children are young without making gifting feel so restrictive that kids wonder if maybe the Grinch did steal Christmas!

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” 

– A. A. Milne, Winnie-The-Pooh

Unlike toys, books are gifts that children can and will treasure for years. Books also engage a child’s imagination and increase their attention span. Below, I highlight three special books written by children’s, middle grade and young adult authors. These books make great gifts to ring in the season!

3 Book Gifts for Teaching Kids Gratitude

The three books below are examples of texts that can take kids outside of themselves. I have a special place in my heart for authors who teach kids to appreciate older generations, which is why I love the message of Christmas Fairies for Ouma. I also appreciate how the authors of Fearless and Bold Women of Medicine inspire young people to be courageous and appreciate those who’ve come before us, essential for teaching kids gratitude.

Teaching kids gratitude.

Christmas Fairies for Ouma is written by Lindsey McDivitt and illustrated by Katarzyna Bukiert. The book “follows the magical journey of a child’s card traveling 10,000 miles across the world to her grandmother in South Africa – from the hand of one kind stranger to another with NO name, no street and no stamps. Is it kindness or Christmas magic?” 

Available from which supports independent bookstores. Christmas Fairies for Ouma is written for children ages 4-8.

About Lindsey McDivitt: “As a kid I was totally fascinated by The Borrowers series by Mary Norton. Those little people under the floorboards!”

Teaching kids gratitude.

Fearless, by Kristin F. Johnson, is a middle grade adventure book. “Jessie’s mom is enlisted but MIA, so Jessie and her dad move in with her grandpa who lives in a small, tornado-torn town. There Jessie meets new friends, stumbles on a puppy mill, and steals a dog, but the dog is fearful, so Jessie must gain its trust and figure out how to save the rest of the dogs at the puppy mill before it’s too late.”

Purchase Fearless through any bookstore online. Fearless is for readers ages 8-12+.

About Kristin F. Johnson: Her favorite book to read as a child was The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg.

Teaching kids gratitude.

Bold Women of Medicine, by Susan M. Latta, “tells the stories of twenty-one courageous women from the 1800s to the present focused on finding cures, tending the sick and wounded, and healing with science and compassion.”

Readers meet groundbreakers such as Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, who eventually founded her own hospital, staffed by all women; Mary Carson Breckinridge, the “nurse on horseback” who delivered babies in the Appalachian Mountains; and heart surgeon Kathy Magliato, one of the few women trained in heart transplant surgeries.

For readers in upper middle grade through young adult. Purchase a copy here.

About Susan M. Latta: Her favorite books to read as a child were Charlotte’s Web and My Side of the Mountain.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with a friend. And if your family has any gifting traditions that are great for teaching kids gratitude, please drop me a line!