In 2006, Carol McCloud’s book, “Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness” became a best seller. It’s sold more than a million copies and quickly became a popular way to teach preschoolers and kindergarteners how to be kind. Kindness is defined as a behavior showing consideration and generosity toward others. The key to kindness, though, is being nice without expecting something in return. Kindness is a learned behavior, which is why many early childhood teachers embraced McCloud’s book, which has people filling imaginary buckets by doing nice things for people.
As it turns out, kindness has its own reward as the saying goes because it makes for happier people. As parents, we want our children to be kind, but like most behaviors, the action is learned. The easiest way to teach kindness is to be a positive role model. Participating in kindness activities with kids is a wonderful way to show kids how to treat others. These types of activities actually end up helping everyone. Remember that reward? More than one psychological study has shown that being kind improves overall mood, self-esteem, and just makes people happier. So, how can we pass that on to our children?
Help a senior neighbor
The simplest acts without expecting something in return are one way to show kids how to be kind. Taking the time to hold a door open for another person is an example of an act of kindness. If your neighborhood or apartment building has seniors, lending a helping hand by shoveling the sidewalk, raking leaves, or even just bringing the newspaper up to the front porch teaches kids kindness. Get kids involved with helping a senior neighbor with effortless acts like bringing in the garbage cans or taking groceries up to the front door from the car. These actions are easy for kids and are a huge help to seniors.
Volunteering as a family at a local food bank, thrift shop, or animal shelter goes a long way in showing kids and teens how to be considerate toward others. It also shows kids the struggles some families face on a daily basis. Collecting donations for an area food bank or shelter is a great start and perfect for younger kids. Tweens and teens can get more hands-on with volunteering to work a shift at a local food bank, soup kitchen, or thrift shop. Getting involved in holiday food and gift drives is another way to volunteer as a family. Animal shelters are always in need of extra hands to clean up and show the animals some attention. If you’re not sure if your kids or teens are old enough to volunteer, call the shelter to find out.
Write a letter to a soldier
In today’s world of texting and emails, it may seem like letter writing is a forgotten art, but that’s not so. Soldiers stationed in the United States military enjoy receiving letters and several organizations like Soldiers Angels help the men and women of the armed forces receive letters and drawings all year long. Composing letters to a soldier is a noteworthy way to teach kids about holidays like Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day while also teaching kindness. The entire family can write letters. Younger kids can draw or color pictures. Letters can be sent through online websites or local VFW and American Legions. Many VFW and American Legions put together care packages for community members serving in the military and include letters and drawings from kids to help with morale.
Make a kindness jar
While being kind to others is important, sometimes it’s easy to forget that kindness starts at home. Of course, siblings and family members have their differences. That’s a part of everyday life, but random acts of kindness at home fill buckets, too. Parents and caregivers will certainly appreciate the garbage cans being emptied, the clothes being taken out of the dryer, or the dog being taken for a walk without asking. Having an older sibling suddenly sit down and play with a younger brother or sister can really make a little one’s day. There are a lot of ways to spread kindness in the house. When kids show kindness to each other at home, they are more apt to do it outside of the house. Inspire your kids to be kind at home by making a kindness jar. Fill it with kindness suggestions and place it where it’s easily accessible. Encourage everyone in the household, adults included, to do at least three acts of kindness a week. Before long, you’ll find you won’t need the jar. Here are some suggestions for your kindness jar.
- Play with a sibling
- Spend time with a pet
- Call the grandparents
- Write a letter to a relative
- Draw a picture for a relative
- Do someone’s chore for them
- Help with homework
- Help make lunches for school or work
- Brush the dog
Being kind actually does bring its own reward. Helping others makes you feel good. As parents and caregivers, we want our children to be kind and grow up to be considerate adults. Kindness though is a learned behavior. Actions often speak louder than words. So, showing kids how to be kind by participating in one or more of these kindness activities for kids will teach your child how to fill those buckets and spread kindness.
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