The 12 Days of Gratitude Challenge


What’s the magic word? Society praises parents who raise well-mannered children who say “Please” and “Thank you” with little to no prompting. While it is nice to receive parental validation, good manners serve a far greater purpose. Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, says, “Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” 

This sentiment is backed by research. Many studies suggest that empathy increases social and professional success and that the simple act of gratitude may decrease depression and increase overall satisfaction in life. Findings show that these benefits do not come from simply memorizing “Please” and “Thank you,” but are the outcome of parents’ fostering social-emotional skills in their kids. It is never too early, or late, to model and practice these skills with your family.

The “12 Days of Gratitude Challenge” is designed to help your family practice many of these skills over a 12- day period.  Go to to download printable challenge cards. Print, cut, and hang each card from twine or string and let your children pick the prompt of the day.

The 12 Days of Gratitude Challenge

Day 1: Dig Deeper. Start by asking each family member what they are grateful for, then press on with questions about the feelings behind what they named. For example, if they name a material gift, did they feel important that someone listened, and took time to buy what they specifically wanted?

Day 2: What Makes a Gift? Ask your family to think of the best gift they have ever received. Next, ask them what made that gift so special. Continue the discussion by asking questions, such as did the giver have to give them the gift, did they do something to earn the gift, and how did receiving a gift they did not “deserve” make them feel? Discuss the situation in which a gift is given freely and willingly, and where the giver expects nothing in return.

Day 3: Gratitude as Attitude. Ask your family what they think gratitude means. Remind your child of the gift you all discussed on day two and ask if/how they expressed gratitude for the gift. Ask each person to describe all the good things that happened to them that day, and how they did/could have express/expressed gratitude. Finally, prompt your family to imagine how it would feel to go through a whole day expressing gratitude.

Turn Gratitude into Action. Meerabelle Dey wrote an article in The Huffington Post, “Turning Gratitude into a Verb,” that inspires days 4-6 of this challenge.

Day 4: Express Gratitude through Self Care. Ask your family to name what their bodies have done that day that they are grateful for. For example, “I am grateful my legs allowed me to ride bikes with friends” or “I am grateful my brain remembered answers for my math test.” Discuss ways to express gratitude for their body through actions like speaking positive words, practicing joyful movement, getting enough sleep, etc. Have each family member write down how they plan to express gratitude through self-care the next day.

Day 5: Express Gratitude by Taking Care of Belongings. Check-in with each family member, did they complete their plan to express gratitude through self-care?  After discussing that experience, ask what material things each person is thankful for; examples include house, toys, clothes, etc. Then discuss and come up with action items to show gratitude for these items by taking care of them. Have each family member commit to completing one of these actions the next day.

Day 6: Family and Friends. Check-in with each family member—did they complete their plan to express gratitude through taking care of a belonging? After discussing this challenge, ask your family to name people in their life they are grateful for, then have them come up with actions they can do to show them gratitude (examples: tell them “Thank you,” perform a small act of kindness, etc.). Have each family member commit to doing one of those actions the next day.

Days 7-12: Caring for the community. Check-in with each family member, did they express gratitude to someone through action? After discussing this challenge, introduce the idea of expressing gratitude by giving back to the community. Decide as a family what population you want to give to over the next five days. Then come up with an action item to do each day. Some existing options are “Toys for Tots,” “Adopt a Soldier,” and the “Angel Tree.”



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