It’s the little things that matter!
“The more grateful you are, the more things and reasons you get to be grateful for”- Louise Hay
Since Thanksgiving is around the corner, I decided to come up with this interesting yet meaningful activity for Pratham, my four-year-young child. The spirit of thanksgiving is all about celebrating gratitude and sharing. To inculcate the same spirit in him, I tried creating a game, our ‘A-Z Gratitude Game’!
This game is based on the magic words: ‘Thank you’ and ‘Welcome’. We have reminded the kids many times to say thank you when they receive the presents. We also have reminded them to say thank you when anyone compliments them. But have we reminded them to be thankful and be appreciative of what they already have! The initial stressful Covid-19 period got me into teaching my 4-year-young child gratitude practises and feel grateful for whatever he already has at home to play and enjoy.
My son is fond of cars. To illustrate his fondness for cars here are a few instances.
The Story of Pratham and his Cars! (Promise, we will come back to the gratitude game!)
To begin with … He sleeps with his toy cars, wakes up with them, talks to the cars, and even takes his bath with them. He enjoys reading books on cars and especially gives utmost importance to those books which have cars as the front/back cover. A car picture of any kind is enough to fascinate him flip the pages. He also weaves beautiful stories on cars, car traps, or car rescues. He mostly watches the car series or movies.
During the lockdown, we were not ordering or buying toys for him, especially during the peak infectious months, March to July. We bought him his first set of toy cars at the beginning week of August.
Touchwood! He had adaptively found creative ways out for his temptations. He also found out beautiful alternatives to calm off his pulls. He indulged himself in making some astonishing car contraptions and showdowns. He also made all sorts of car parts, its accessories like car-lift, car garage, car parking areas, car shades, etc. with his classic Lego sets.
He has cars of all sizes, types, colours… almost! Not to miss … a red car lounge also… his Ferrari for the sawari!
Being a keen-observer, his eyes are always set upon the numerous cars on the roads whenever he takes a walk outside the house. He observes every car and its elements in the car parking closely, especially the wheels, the colour of the radials, and the enormous headlights. He is only four, and he’d sit in a full flat footed-squat position to watch the wheels.
If I get busy talking to someone while walking down the lane to my house, he will go missing. Now that I’ve learnt that he must be between cars, it is easy to locate him. But to those who don’t know what I am doing around the cars may think, I am deflating the tyres or encouraging my child to do so. Alas, I can’t help it! Nobody out there knows my child’s interest and his love for cars.
I remember, once we bought a Cars’ bedsheet and he would not let us spread the sheet on the bed. He rather chose to wrap the sheet around his body like a blanket to receive warmth and cuddle from the cars. This is what we felt from his gestures. Next day he woke up saying ‘Good Morning’ to the bedsheet, with a wide-bright smile, as if he slept peacefully in his “Car Wonderland.” Touchwood, he is blessed with a sound sleep like my husband! The activity of sleeping under the car bedsheet could last for three-four days only. As another day, I sneaked-in and kept it out of his sight for days to distract him. He is quite an adaptive child otherwise.
My son is a shy tot and usually takes two-three meetups or interactions to open to a new person unless it’s an authoritative figure for him, such as his teachers in the pre-primary. To his new teachers for the current academic year, I had to suggest a few ways of breaking the ice and bringing him to open up. It is either by asking him about his cars or praising his cars or allowing him to share a car story.
We also engage him in a decluttering practice for his toys or CARS. Every month, we buy him cars or toys which he likes or asks us for. He also receives full liberty from us to decide how many and the types. But on the other hand, we encourage him to give away the ones that he’s outgrown to or the ones he doesn’t like playing with to the underprivileged kids. We pack them aside and donate them once a year. One thing that I have observed is that when we give freedom to the kids to decide on the number of cars/toys they want, they choose better and wisely. With my experience, Pratham and other kids in my family they’ve never asked for more than one or two toys, maximum I would say.
That’s all for our story for the time being (we will explain the relevance ahead, stay tuned!), now let’s get back to the game!
During the alarming Covid-19 strict period, gratitude journaling and mindfulness practice helped me sail well and bounce back when the old morbid thoughts, beliefs, or my own fears would throw in the towel. I was thinking to model the same to my child and teach him how to be thankful and appreciative of what he already has. Then, by the passing days, we devised this “A-Z Gratitude Game” to play in the morning after his breakfast.
And here’s how this game looks like (drumrolls!):
Name an object or a toy that begins with each letter of the English Alphabet: Starting from A till Z, ask the child to look around for all the toys, favourite and not so favourite objects/things/items present in and around the house. Sort of treasure hunt!
We can ask the child to share their thoughts first and later we can give our inputs with items in and around the house. Not just this, we can even let them know about their body parts- A beautiful way to inculcate the practice of Gratitude.
Sometimes, it’s quite challenging to keep through with the game till Z. One major reason is the attention span of the child. As he is only 4-years and to keep his pull-through till ‘Z’ is difficult, sometimes we run out of words, and sometimes the game becomes repetitive, so tweak it a little those days. But ‘A-Z Gratitude game’ definitely helps him learn a new word and look for his long-unattended toys. It keeps my gratitude practise continued with the added spice of fun. And the peace of keeping my son usefully occupied with the creative tangy ideas is a cherry on the cake.
So, here’s one of Pratham’s list for your reference. Also, read the benefits listed in the link.
Getting to know his list of things that he feels grateful for and so happy about, for a few moments took me aback in aww! His happiness is in the littlest of things, and isn’t that how life is supposed to be, ‘about the little things’! Sharing the above story of Pratham and his love for cars was my attempt to share his innocent take on the little things in life and how those matter to him. This game not only helped Pratham count on his blessings but also reminded me of such important learning of life and in my gratitude list, undoubtedly, Pratham tops!
So this was motivation enough for me to come up with a spin-off of this game, but this time a greater role for me! Knowing that children model their parents, I decided to thank Pratham by keeping a surprise note under his pillow- “a thanking note”, which we read together before going to bed. I tried writing at least one thing about how he made me feel thankful to him.
Here’s a few thank you notes written during the most stressful period of pandemic 2020:
1) Thank you for being so patient.
2) Thank you for being co-operative with me at work.
3) Thank you for forgiving me when I raised my voice at you during your homework routine.
4) Thank you for listening to Mumma when she reads you a story.
5) Thank you for appreciating the meals Mumma prepared for you today.
6) Thank you for noticing my frowned face today and asking me about it.
7) Thank you for bringing a smile on everyone’s face by mimicking my sad face look
And this was it! This is our learning for Thanksgiving and beyond, and we have promised each other to celebrate the littlest of things! Have we been successful in convincing you to make a similar promise with your little one? Do let us know!
Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Parenting!