Showing gratitude can strengthen social bonds, increase optimism, and even improve mental health. But gratitude isn’t just a feeling – it’s a practice that has to be cultivated daily.
Instilling a practice of gratitude at a young age can be beneficial to your campers as they grow older. In fact, a 2006 study showed that gratitude was directly related to happiness in older children.
Here are five of our favorite ways to teach campers gratitude at camp.
1. Keep gratitude journals.
Schedule a time at the end of every camp day for campers to write a reflection in a journal. Encourage them to include three things they are grateful for at the end of every entry.
Their three things don’t have to be camp-specific, but if they are thankful for something related to camp, ask if they want to share. This will give other kids ideas for their own journals and foster an emotionally safe environment.
2. Write thank-you letters home.
Remind your campers that the reason they are at camp having fun with their friends is because of their parents! Write letters home and ask kids to say thank you.
For younger campers, using a template like this may help:
Thank you so much for sending me to [Camp Name]! I like it here because [Reason].
I am having so much fun doing [Activity 1], [Activity 2], and [Activity 3].
My favorite part of camp so far has been [Specific Moment].
Thank you again for helping me make special memories at [Camp Name].
3. Focus on campers’ autonomy.
At first glance, autonomy may seem unrelated to gratitude. But that isn’t true at all.
Encouraging autonomy among kids by setting firm but flexible boundaries at camp can make them feel supported. This support instills gratitude and confidence as campers learn and grow together by testing their limits.
To focus on autonomy in a way that builds gratitude, try empowering campers to problem-solve in small groups and lead their own activities.
4. Remind campers to say “thank you.”
Remembering to say “thank you” to other campers, counselors, and staff is an easy way to incorporate gratitude into everyday moments. For example, remind campers to say an enthusiastic “thank you” when…
- They receive food at snacktime.
- Another camper helps them with something or gives them a compliment.
- A counselor gives them instructions for an activity.
- Anyone makes them feel heard and appreciated!
5. Ask campers why they’re grateful for each other.
Break into small groups. Highlight one camper at a time and ask the other campers in the group for three reasons why they are grateful for that person.
Keep things positive and ask campers to be as specific as they can. Open the floor for them to tell stories about fun times they’ve had with the camper or times when the camper made them feel appreciated.
The camper in the spotlight may feel shy at first, but this is a fun way to make all campers feel like they are a part of something bigger.
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