Teaching Gratitude: A Thanksgiving Music Therapy Session

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and it’s a time to stop and reflect. I have a tendency to ruminate and worry a lot. My thoughts circle around all I haven’t accomplished, all I don’t have, and all the work I should be doing. This time of year is a gentle reminder to take a step back and just be grateful for everything I have in my life right now. I’m only human, and I’m slowly learning that it’s okay to not be perfect or the best at everything. It’s no wonder that the concept of gratitude is a hard one to teach our little ones, since even us adults struggle with it at times!

Since November began, I’ve been slowly trying to integrate the concept of gratitude into my sessions. Here are a couple ways that I’ve had success:


Thanksgiving Prayer by Johnny Cash

This song is great to use in sessions with older adults, and I’ve even had success using it with young adults and older children. I encourage my group to listen to the song carefully and tell me one thing Johnny Cash states that he’s grateful for. This leads to a discussion about what it means to be grateful, and what they’re thankful they have in their lives. The song lends itself easily to a rewrite, where I keep the lyric “I’m grateful for…” but add in their contributions. If they need additional help I’ll prompt them by asking them their favorite person, food, toy, place, etc. It’s so fun to hear everything the group is grateful for. I’ve heard everything from “my mom,” and “food,” to “a roof over my head,” and “still being here on this earth.”


Pass the Egg

This song was inspired by a chant I found by Tuned in to Learning. This works well for little ones, as I’ve used it in my kindergarten and preschool sessions.


Thanksgiving is a time to share,

I’ll find a friend and show I care,

I have something to give to you,

Here you go….and THANK YOU!


I introduce this song with a quick discussion about how to say thank you. We can use sign language, verbally say thank you, smile, give them a high five, etc. During this song I’ll have the group pass an egg around the circle, hot potato style. I’ll musically cue the student with the egg to say “here you go”, and then musically cue the student on the receiving end to use one of our ways to say “thank you”. This is a really fun way to encourage giving thanks, and also shows them that there is more than one way to show gratitude!


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