A couple of Ramadans ago I wanted to try something different with my kids. Their ages ranged from 2 to 13 years at the time, but I hoped to figure out an activity we could all benefit from. I decided to make a gratitude board using the following verse from the Quran as a theme:
“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will certainly give you more. But if you are ungrateful, surely My punishment is severe.’”
(Surah Ibrahim 14:7)
We would document what we were thankful for each day. My goal was to instill a sense of gratitude in my children, encouraging them to remember Allah and to use what they wrote in their supplications. It became somewhat of a social experiment.
Make Being Grateful a Habit
It was my first time doing it, so I kept it simple. I took a huge 30 x 25 x 25 inch post-it from a Post-it Self-Stick Easel Pad and stuck it to a wall in the hallway between their bedrooms. I grabbed a marker and balanced it on two thumb tacks close by. On the top of the sheet, I wrote the words “Alhamdulillah for…” When my kids caught a glimpse of what I was doing, they gathered around inquisitively, probably wondering what Mom was up to now. I explained that this was our gratitude board. Every day during Ramadan, we would write one thing we were grateful for. I encouraged them to write a different thing each day and told them I would do the same. For the little ones who couldn’t write yet, they could draw a picture.
The concept was simple enough. I often sang to my youngest in the morning as I heard in a local Muslim mom and me group, “Alhamdulillah for (insert name).” We would start with his name, then Mom, and Dad, and continue with the name of each brother and sister. Then, we added other items as we went along. So, when Ramadan began, the other kids knew what to do. I walked past the gratitude board each day and read some of what they had written. At first, they kept it simple, writing things like “my parents” or “my family.” They drew happy stick figure portraits of loved ones or their favorite foods. My toddler would scribble at the bottom of the sheet where he could reach. As time went on, their gratitude posts became more thoughtful “Alhamdulillah for our car” (our cars had been stolen the previous year), “Alhamdulillah for Islam,” “Alhamdulillah for my eyesight,” “Alhamdulillah for the food we have,” etc. By the end of Ramadan, the sheet was filled from top to bottom and corner to corner with words and pictures of gratitude (and, of course, scribbles).
It became a routine for the kids to stop by the gratitude board and write something every day. They used different colored markers, pencils, and even pasted stickers on the sheet. After Ramadan, we looked through the gratitude board and read over everyone’s responses. I reminded my children that we should always be thankful for the things we have beyond just the sheet of paper – to make a daily habit out of being grateful. If they listened, then the experiment was successful, insha’Allah. While the project was something that we did to increase our mindfulness and worship during Ramadan, it is something that can certainly be implemented during the whole year. All it takes is more materials and consistency.
Designing your own Gratitude Board
If you are interested in making your own gratitude board for the year, here are some ideas:
- You will need supplies like a large sheet of paper, poster board, corkboard or a white board. Any kind of board where you can write, post, stick, or paste your writing or artwork will do. Also have colored pencils, dry erase markers, thumb tacks, regular or poster markers, stickers, and other crafting supplies available.
- Get creative! My initial thought was to print out a hadith or ayah of the Quran daily to paste beside the gratitude board as a prompt, but alas, life happens. I did not have time to do it, but that should not deter you! Decorate your gratitude board however you think is best and use the Quran and Sunnah as your guide. You can have your children make a collage by adding pictures or cutting sections of a magazine or color-coordinate sections for each family member. It is up to you.
- Let your kids get involved in the planning. They can decorate, choose a location, and give their ideas about the gratitude board. The more they contribute, the greater the chance they will be enthusiastic about the project.
- Be an active participant. You should also plan to write and/or post on the gratitude board. Your children will follow your example – if you slack, they will do the same, but if you take it seriously and write consistently, they will put forth their best efforts.
- Set a goal. What do you intend to achieve? Decide whether you want to have everyone share their responses and/or swap or erase the board after a certain time. Do you want to have a different theme each month? It could be gratitude (Alhamdulillah for _______) one month and forgiveness (AstaghfirAllah for _______) another month. Or you may want a gratitude board for the whole year. It may take some maintenance, but it can be done.
Remember that a gratitude board is a means to come closer to Allah. Our intention is to be better worshippers and human beings and to increase our gratitude to Allah. Use it as a guide in your prayers and as an affirmation to start and end your day. Refrain from posting about it on social media or sharing it with people outside your family. Oversharing can lead to a shift in our intentions. It could also be very embarrassing for kids and a breach of their privacy. Keep your gratitude board in a private place. Let it be a beautiful secret between your family and Allah, and a means to come closer to Him, inshaAllah.