siblings playing

siblings playing

We were in the checkout line at Target one morning when a clerk swooped in and shoved holiday catalogues into my kids’ eager hands. My children are still small enough that I can put all three in the shopping cart, so they were sitting ducks. Two seconds later, I watched their eyes light up as they thumbed through the toy selection. Sure enough, next came a chorus of, “Mommy, can I have this? Can I have this? Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.”

Well, Mommy feels defeated.

In a season where kids are urged to build lists of things they want, I wanted to figure out a way to show them what they already had.

Naturally, I started on Pinterest, where I found a slew of projects that would make my own mother oooh and aah. With kids ages three to eight, I always find it tricky to find activities that work for everyone. But making gratitude jars was not only something we could do, it was also an exercise my kids — who have so much — could use.

The idea is simple: every day, your kids write down something they’re grateful for and put the paper into a jar. You need only three things. First, the jar itself. Any clear cup will do. Next, markers and construction paper. The more colorful, the better.

Finally, it’s time to get the kids involved. I caught mine on a Saturday morning right after pancakes, when the mood was light. And when I asked them, “What are you grateful for?” they replied without hesitation. 

Their answers were a triad of essentials: Legos, ice cream, and God.

We were up and running right out of the gate! I had the older two write their answers on pieces of paper, while I wrote out my three-year-old’s answer. Over the next week, we added to the gratitude jars every day after breakfast.

On the third morning, our God-loving son looked up at me and asked, “Why aren’t you filling a jar?” So, my husband and I joined in, ready to catch up. My first slip of paper had the word ‘family,’ but they wanted me to be more detailed. So, I changed it to ‘Aunt Jude in Alaska.’ ‘Nature’ also wasn’t specific enough, so I changed it to ‘the creek that runs through our yard.’ ‘Pumpkin pie’ was met with hearty approval. This was fun. 

There were happy surprises over the next few days: baseball, classmates, unicorns and popcorn. Our oldest son listed his bed. One day, they all wrote down their teachers, which made me smile. Eventually, Mom and Dad made it into their jars… after stickers and string cheese.

Someday, when I have more time and energy, I might unfold these paper slips and glue them into binders to sit alongside their (currently non-existent) baby books. But, for now, the kids like keeping the jars on the kitchen windowsill to look at, a shining reminder of everything they have, contained in a glass that’s more than half full. 

Beat that, Target. 

Toby Lowenfels is a writer who lives in Nashville with her husband and three children. She covers pop culture for What’s Up Moms and contributes to Joy the Baker’s Sunday Links.

P.S. Family rituals, and seven tips for raising grateful children.

(Photo by Maria Manco/Stocksy.)