I actually was saving this activity for a different time of the year – perhaps in the spring. But when our guest instructor (apple pie baker extraordinaire!) had to unavoidably be away on Friday, we had to come up with something quickly and so I decided to pull out the Gratitude Journals. I know what you are thinking – this woman is obsessed with gratitude journals! Evidence of this being true can be found here and here and here.
Yes, I am obsessed. But as I told these fabulous 10-11 year old girls, gratitude is a magic trick. If you feel like complaining, or being sad or your feelings are hurt or you think your parents are lame….think of something you are grateful for and it will change how you feel about yourself, your experiences, and your life. It won’t fix whatever happened, but it will help you fix how you feel about what is happening. That’s why it’s the ultimate magic trick. A guaranteed way to be happy: expressing gratitude.
So why not teach these girls how to express gratitude each day with one little sentence in a cute mini gratitude journal? It had to be done, don’t you think? But don’t worry, if you want to use this idea don’t think that you have lost your chance simply because Thanksgiving is a few days away. As I told the girls, this lesson is not about Thanksgiving. It’s about how to be happy. And that can be taught any time of the year. Just pick a date sometime during the year. That’s a good day for this project.
After a short lesson about where negative feelings come from and how to use gratitude to overcome them, we dove into the project. We only had an hour to work with for the lesson and project and because I am new to working with these young ladies I wasn’t sure what their independent crafty ability was. Therefore, I got the project ready for them to a certain extent. They each chose a little kit created from my stash that looked like this:
- (2) chipboard pieces cut 3″x 5.5″
- (50) 3″x 5″ ruled index cards (found at Dollar Store)
- (2) strips of cardstock (I used double-sided printed) cut 3″x 10.5″ and folded in half
- (1) paper flower embellishment (3″ diamter is what I had on hand)
- (1) circle-punched pattern paper flower center
- (1) pop dot adhesive for flower center
- (2) ribbons cut 10″ long
- gratitude journal tag and THNX tag (click on image below to download the titles I designed for this project)
- glue sticks
- something to help them poke the ribbon through the holes of their journal
I didn’t want to deal with hole-punching at the activity so I decided to use an office hole puncher (more heavy duty) to pre-punch all the holes in the chipboard covers and the index cards. I made each hole the same distance from the edge so that the chipboard could be turned either direction and still line up. The ruled index cards got their holes punched on the left edge (same distance as on the chipboard) so they could use the lines on the cards for their journals. When lined up, the chipboard extended about 1/2″ beyond the right edge of the cards.
I also didn’t want them to cover the pre-punched holes with paper or have to line up the paper with the holes so I decided to use acrylic paint to cover about 1″ of each chipboard piece where the holes where. More work for me beforehand but easier during the activity. And it only took about 15 minutes to do them all so I was ok with that.
First, using lots of glue, they covered the two chipboard pieces with the cardstock strips, placing the fold on the edge of the chipboard to help them make it straight.
Then they added the pop dot adhesive to the flower center and attached it to the flower. They used glue to place the flower on the front journal cover.
To finish off the front cover they added their own name to the top of the “gratitude journal” tag and glued it to the front. They glued the “THNX” tag to the inside of the front cover to help them remember the purpose of this project.
Finally, they made a little pile: 1) back chipboard cover 2) index cards 3) front chipboard cover – lining up all the holes. They poked one ribbon through each hole, using a friend to help. To make sure the ribbon “binding rings” were loose enough to allow the journal to open properly, they placed a pen along the edge of the binding and tied the ribbons in knots around the pen. After removing the pens, they had enough give in the ribbon to turn the pages.
With my partner, Jessica, lending a hand, it only took about 20 minutes to help each girl complete their journal. We then challenged them to write something every day that they were grateful for. Something short is great. One sentence. For practice, we had them write the date at the top of the first index card and make their first entry into their journals. It gave us the opportunity to reconfirm how simple it was to do. They realized that it took only about one minute to write something. No hard at all! I put my gratitude journal by my bed so I can remember to write in it each night and offered that as an option for them. By filling in their first entry, they also realized that they could write more than one entry on each card. They were definitely getting excited and catching on to the principle of expressing gratitude. We even talked about how they might miss a day or two but to keep moving forward.
Final challenge? Let’s see how we do writing down one thing a day till Valentines Day. Then maybe we can make it to the end of the school year. Little bites. Doable goals but ones that require some commitment. We’ll see. I know the power of gratitude in living a happy life and I believe that the sooner a person realizes even a portion of this power, the happier they will be.
Why not learn it when you’re 11 instead of figuring it out when you are 30?