Gratitude and Thanksgiving in the Montessori Environment

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” — Cicero

In the Montessori environment, lessons on grace and courtesy are vital at every level. These lessons go beyond the common “please” and “thank you” by demonstrating empathy and courtesy as integral life skills.  Gratitude is one of the many lessons of grace and courtesy. We are hardwired to teach “thank you” as a habit, but to truly understand the value of thankfulness, one must first build a foundation of generosity, humility, wisdom, joy, integrity and trust.

To help children learn to value gratitude, we practice incorporating it into our daily Montessori activities. With younger children, we can learn to be vocal about the things we appreciate. We begin by modeling, using our words and tone of voice to appreciate what we see around us:


  • – I appreciate how Adam cleaned up after he made a snack.
  • – Thank you for these lovely flowers. I truly appreciate your thoughtfulness, Samantha.
  • – Freddie the fish really appreciates his water tank being cleaned. Thank you for helping with that today!


We can help children express their gratitude by using descriptive compliments, or “appreciations.” Appreciations often make others feel important and acknowledged by recognizing their efforts. Maren Schmidt, of Understanding Montessori: A Guide for Parents, writes, “Descriptive compliments describe what you see, what you feel, and then use a word that sums up the entire experience.” (Schmidt, 2007) Descriptive compliments describe rather than evaluate, which make them a bit different from a general compliment, or praise. In our Spark studios, we practice appreciations throughout our day by naming and noticing behaviors and actions that we appreciate.

Let us all remember that Thanksgiving is more than a day of feasting- let true thanksgiving and gratitude live in our hearts every day!


“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” — Gilbert Keith Chesterton