Kindness: It’s something children learn through daily interactions with their peers and develop as their moral compasses grow and mature.
While many children have trouble with activities like sharing, helping, or waiting, when they are young, they become proficient in these kindness and empathy-demonstrating activities as they grow up.
One question on every parent’s mind from the moment their children are born is Can I teach my children to be kind? While no parent can have complete control over their child, children tend to act with the values with which they were raised – kindness and empathy included.
We’ve compiled a list of six easy and fun kindness and empathy activities your children will love that will help their moral compass grow.
One obvious way to help your kids learn to empathize with others and strive to help their community is to get them involved in volunteering. From the time they are in preschool, there are plenty of age-appropriate ways for your tots to volunteer – whether it be participating in a walk/run for cancer awareness in your community, cleaning toys at a local church nursery, shoveling the driveways of older neighbors, etc… The important thing is for you to be excited about volunteering, as well – your energy and passion for helping others will be contagious! (Pro tip: Reward them with a fun toy that will not only make them happy they helped, but help them express their feelings, too!)
- Writing thank you notes.
Thank you notes are rare nowadays, where quick text messages or emails can substitute a hand-written note. However, kids are some of the best candidates for writing and sending thank-you notes, because the process of making a card (with lots of paint, crayons, or markers,) mailing it (sticking the stamp themselves!) and getting feedback from the receiver, excite them! Writing thank you notes teaches children that what others do for them is not deserved, but rather a blessing to be thankful for – and teaches them the art of actually saying thank you in a way that leaves a lasting impression.
- Doing acts of kindness around the neighborhood.
Who says random acts of kindness can’t be fun? Gather your kiddos and plan a day of doing random acts of kindness, whether it be baking cookies for the neighbors, taking a nearby dog for a walk, or planting some flowers along the community sidewalks. The key to making these activities fun is to get your kids as involved as possible, letting them help come up with ideas and then letting them take the reins on the completion of the projects (while supervising and helping them, of course!) Your children will beam with pride after a day of service. Be sure to tell them just how proud of them you are and how much their generosity helped others!
- Donating money or toys.
Encouraging your children to donate portions of their allowance to causes they believe in is a great way to encourage empathy. So is encouraging them to donate toys, books, and games they don’t use as much as someone else might. This teaches them that there are people in the world who aren’t as blessed as they are, and that they are lucky to be in a position where they have toys or money to donate. Praising them for giving up that special doll who now sits at the bottom of the toy box or donating a dollar from their allowance is crucial, because it shows children just how much their acts of kindness are appreciated by those around them – making them more likely to do it again.
- Reading about kindness.
Books that spread positive messages from great role model characters cannot be underestimated! Kids connect with literature in ways many adults cannot, and often imitate the behavior of their favorite characters. It’s why character-based Halloween costumes are so popular, and why playing make believe is so fun! Believe it or not, kids will imitate every aspect of their favorite characters, so choosing books for your children with kind, empathetic characters is a sure-fire way to bring out those qualities in your kids. Talk with your kids about what makes these characters special, and how they can be just like them – by being kind!
- Visiting nursing homes, hospitals, etc…
Especially effective for older children, last on our list is visiting nursing homes, hospitals, animal shelters, or other places known for people or animals in need of cheering up. Children, perhaps even more than adults, take pride in making people smile, and are subsequently great candidates for spreading smiles and positivity in places where it’s needed most. Gather your kiddos and have them put on a show at the local nursing home, or volunteer to snuggle with dogs and cats for a day. It will leave them with a lasting smile and sense of accomplishment!
Try these activities if you want to encourage kindness and empathy in your children. Doing so doesn’t have to be difficult – in fact, it can be ridiculously easy, as well as fun for the whole family.