At this time of year when the giving and receiving of gifts is foremost in our minds, let us take a moment to think about the value of gratitude, why it is important for children’s future well-being and how we can encourage children to adopt gratitude in their daily lives.
At our school in our Montessori Children’s Houses for 3-6-year-olds, gratitude is carefully nurtured and entwined in everything we do. It begins with what we call Practical Life activities which are focused on doing things not just for oneself but for others. This could be preparing a snack for someone else who is hungry; arranging flowers on the tables of our friends; putting materials back in the right place and in the right way and making sure they are ready for our friends to use. Gratitude is also reinforced by our Grace and Courtesy activities which demonstrate positive social behaviour. In small groups children learn how to walk around a mat that someone is working on; how to observe a child working without disturbing their concentration; how to say thank you; or how to ask to touch a friend’s sparkly jumper.
By the time children arrive at the Elementary level in our school, having seen the beauty of nature all around us and appreciated the lifecycles of different organisms, they will now see the division of labour on the planet from the crucial work of the earthworm, to the people who keep our streets clean, to those that govern our countries. The children can see that we cannot help but feel gratitude to everyone and everything in our world, both in the past and the present.
So, at this time of year, let us remember the children who will take their place in the world today and tomorrow and how a sense of gratitude will enable them to be happy in their own lives and to increase happiness in the lives of others.
Dr Montessori wrote in ‘The Discovery of the Child’ that “Times have changed, and science has made great progress . . . but our principles have only been confirmed, and along with them our conviction that mankind can hope for a solution to its problems . . . only by turning its attention and energies to . . . the development of the great potentialities of the human personality in the course of its formation.”
Knowing that we are all trying to do our best for every child, whether at home or in our school, let us wish each other a very merry festive season and feel gratitude for all that we have.
Acting Deputy Head of School and Lead Teacher of Hornsey Rise Children’s House