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Apple Cake and Gratitude Practice

“The more grateful I am, the more beauty I see.”

– Mary Davis

Apple Cake by Dawn Casey and Genevieve Godbout

Through this story of simple rhyme, a child says thank you for the gifts nature provides and eventually, the family has enough ingredients to make something special…a delicious apple cake!

We tend to put a large focus on being thankful around the holidays, but you can help your kiddos practice gratitude with these ideas anytime of year! Below are a few sweet, simple ways to feel, give and show thanks for nature and for the people we love in our lives.

Gratitude Curtain 

A great way to help your child strengthen a gratitude mindset is to find joy in and give thanks for what is around them. In this activity, we’ll notice the nature we like around us and discuss the people who we are thankful for.

Materials: rope, twine, nature treasures, small sticks or other objects (for weighing down twine), printable Thankful Cards from Tinkergarten, clothes pins (optional)

Set up:

  1. Stretch a rope or long piece of twine between two trees or posts. 

  2. Hang 3-foot pieces of twine along the rope, tying them at the top to the rope and tying a stick or other object to the bottom to help each piece of twine hang straight.


  1. Wonder with your child → “How can we show our thanks for nature and the people we love?”

  2. Point out rope and hanging twine → “What do you think this could be?” Take any guesses then share “This is the start of a nature curtain. We add treasures to a nature curtain to create something beautiful. As we add treasures to our curtain today, we can think and feel thankful for each treasure we find and all that nature provides.

Guided Play:

  1. Wonder → “Would you like to help me add treasures from around our yard/park/greenspace to our nature curtain?”

  2. Pick up a treasure and model how to add it to the curtain (untwist a section of twine, poke the treasure through the hole created, release the twine to tighten around the treasure). If your twine isn’t working for this part, you can attach treasures with clothes pins as well.

  3. Incorporating Gratitude → Chat with you explorer as they pick up nature treasures or model your own thoughts by expressing why you are thankful for each part of nature you add to the curtain. If you’d like to add in a writing component, print the Thankful Cards from Tinkergarten and make markers available for your child to draw or write about people, things, and places they are thankful for. These can also be added to the curtain for now and later removed and added to the thankful jar (explained below).

Celebrate and Wrap Up:

  1. Before cleaning up, take a moment to admire the curtain you created together! Touch it, listen to it, and again name something or someone you are thankful for. If you can leave the curtain out, revisit it and continue adding items with your child.

What are we learning?

🔹Activating multiple senses → taking time to touch, smell, listen to, and explore each treasure is a great way to engage the senses and research tells us that the more senses we engage, the more likely our brains are to learn from an experience.

🔹Vestibular system → located in the inner ear and connected to balance, our vestibular system is activated and strengthened anytime we change the position of our head (such as bending down to collect nature treasurers.)

🔹Gratitude → practicing gratitude not only makes us more thankful, but it has lasting positive effects that can help us weather difficult moments down the road. Science show that people who make noticing, feeling and showing gratitude part of their daily routine experience better sleep, more positive emotions and even a boosted immune system!

Looking for more ways to instill a gratitude practice in your children’s daily routines? Check out these wonderful ideas from Tinkergarten!

Gratitude Jar - Turn an empty jar into a “gratitude jar” and write, draw or dictate things kids and the whole family feel grateful for.

I’d love to hear which ideas sparked play and joy with your explorers or if you have any other connections for play! Comment below or tag me in your play on Instagram @magnoliaoutoor.

(The lesson above was created by our team at Tinkergarten and adjusted for you an dour community by Magnolia Outdoor.)


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