Let Them Grow: Learning To Be Thankful

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Learning To Be Thankful

Being thankful is hard for any child, especially a toddler. Reminding them to say “thank you” is often my least favorite part of any interaction. “What do you say?” I ask, “It’s good,” my daughter says. “What else do you say?” I remind her using the sign for thank you “Use a napkin.”  She giggles and devours the apple the kind man at the orchard gave her. “Thank you. We appreciate it,” I say as we walk out.

Though it’s frustrating that my daughter may come across as rude and inconsiderate, I have to remind myself that she’s three. A three year old is thankful; they just don’t realize how wonderful it is to show it. This month we have been working on giving and sharing, and mostly learning about being thankful. We’re focusing on what it is to feel good when others do nice things for you. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we came up with a few fall themed art projects that can be used as a “thank you” for all the wonderful things the people in our lives do for us!

Mini Pies

One of our favorite go-to treats is mini pumpkin pies.  You can use a pre-made crust or make your own. Have your toddler spoon in the pre-measured amount of filling (about 2 tablespoons) needed for each pie to make it easier for them to help.


  • 1 can of pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 can of condensed sweetened milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp of pumpkin spice
  • 1 store bought pie crust divided among the little pie tins or cupcake tins
  • A jar lid as a cutter


  • Pre-heat oven to 400
  • Combine eggs, pumpkin, milk, salt and spice let your toddler mix
  • Cut out the crust circles using the jar lid and line the cupcake pan
  • Add pie filling
  • Bake for 30 minutes

Enjoy! And Let others enjoy them, too!

Leaf Rubbings

Using large and not too dry leaves, tape them under a thin piece of paper (like computer paper). Tape the leaves from the underside to insure the tape does not come through in the rubbings. Lay the paper over the top of the leaves and tape that paper to the table. Have you child use the side of a crayon to create a rubbing and bring the image to life. This is a fun activity and can be made large scale by using pine needles or crushed pine cones. These rubbings can be cut and turned into a card as a gift for those special friends during this season of giving thanks!


Leaf Painting

This is a multi-step activity that is great for the industrious toddler. First, use leaf shaped punches or cut out leaves from colorful paper. Allow your toddler to paste the leaves to a heavy construction paper wherever they seem fit. Using a brush, rollers, or other painting tools, add a small amount of paint and let your child paint away. I like to add colored sand to give the paint texture and allow for the child’s fine motor skills to get a work out. Let them sprinkle the sand throughout the wet paint. When the painting is dry, remove the leaves for a negative image of the pasted leaves.  This activity makes a great small gift, gift wrap, or a card for a kind gesture.

Being kind and patient with your child as they are learning the social skills around “thank you” can be challenging. Even more important than being patient is modeling appropriate behavior, encouraging it, and following through! Good luck with good manners. Happy Thanksgiving!

(Photo credits: Candice Chouinard)


Candice Chouinard has worked with youth of all ages and backgrounds, creating and implementing programming for children. She revels in hand-on, long-term, messy projects that are both fun and educational. Candice comes from a background in creative writing, as well as, child development and psychology. She owns and operates a day care in Northampton, MA.

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