Fun Art Professor - Inspiring & Nurturing Creativity in Young Children

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Artful Gratitude

“Things are never so bad that they couldn’t be worse.”
- my friend Caroline’s mother

While on the surface, that may seem to be a horribly pessimistic view of life, after first hearing my friend recount that statement from her mother, and then pondering on it, that phrase has actually become one of my favorite “attitude adjustment quotes.”   

No matter how bad things may seem, there is always something to be thankful for.

At about the time when my older daughter was 12, I read the book, Simple Abundance. This book’s author reiterated throughout, the importance of being thankful. She highly encouraged the keeping of a gratitude journal, where you would record 5 things, each day, that you were grateful for. I thought that was such a great idea that I trucked right down to the dollar store to buy little spiral notebooks for my children to get them started on their own gratitude journals.

That idea lasted about 3 days.

But I was still sold on the notion of weaving gratitude into the daily lives of our family. Even though, when they were younger, I found Sesame Street, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Swat Cats to be very effective babysitters (to the point of letting them eat their meals in front of that domestic help)*, our family meal time together had since become sacrosanct. But no matter how sacred I believed that time to be, it was not always an angelic setting.

(*Neither are a recommended parenting practice. I gave birth to 3 children in 4 ½ years and was desperate for any kind of help.)

What to do? What to do?
Ah, ha! No need to wait for Thanksgiving. We started a new family tradition.

Before having our evening meal, we would go around the table, each saying one thing we were grateful for. This always proved to be a great conversation starter and set a nice pleasant mood for our repast. They say it takes doing something 21 days in a row for it to become a habit. Happily, this one stuck.

I believe it’s never too early to instill your children with the gift of gratitude. One fun way to do this with them is to make a gratitude collage. (see my posts on gratitude collages under the "Artful Images Category " for ideas)

You can easily gather pictures from catalogs, magazines, Google images search or family photos. You can even include printed words from those sources. Glue them onto poster board with Mod Podge (a special glue for decoupage that you can find in any craft store or craft section of Wal-mart).

You could also take this one step further and cut the collage into the size of a placemat. Cover it with clear contact paper. You can then use it as part of your dinnertime table setting.

And how about a sweet dreams starter? Get some inexpensive plain white pillow cases and fabric paint in assorted colors. On the border edge of the pillow case, have your child paint images that remind him or her of what to be thankful for…..hearts for the love in their life, flowers for beauty, rainbows for hope, stars for light in the dark, etc.

Stencils are a great tool to use for this project. Remember, this is “fun” art, not “fine” art.

If your child is still a little young for this project, you can make him or her the art director, instructing mom or dad what to draw on the pillowcase.

I did this once when my very feminine 2 ½ year old refused to wear her black slip-on sneakers. (They weren’t girly enough for her taste.) She showed me where she wanted bunnies, flowers and hearts.

I whipped out my handy stencils and followed her directions. She then happily complied with my request that she wear her new designer shoes.

I would like to  end these musings on gratitude with this whimsical saying from a sign in the Mayflower Coffee Shop in Chicago that you can share with your children.

 “As you wander on through life, sister/brother, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole.”

26 Comments to Artful Gratitude:

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Julia on Friday, November 30, 2012 7:23 PM
I can't imagine any family not starting the gratitude tradition at Thanksgiving after reading this post. I'm certainly going to initiate this when dining with my children and grandchildren. Thanks Judy for another great post
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