Children have countless opportunities to act for the reward of adult adulation and praise. But there are not many chances for them to act simply for the satisfaction of knowing that they brought joy to someone else. Doing random acts of kindness gives kids the chance to see that they can have a positive impact on other people. Making other people smile makes kids feel great inside too—what a way to get kids hooked on kindness!
In honor of World Kindness Day on November 13th, we're sharing one way to make kindness a regular part of your family’s routine. This activity is featured in our November calendar. If you do not yet have your free copy, get it here.
What did Long Hair do to care for other people? How did she give back to her community? How did she make other people feel?
Make a Kindness Jar!
Get an ordinary jar and hold it out. Ask kids, "Do you know what this is?" Take answers, then let them know it is no ordinary jar...it is a “kindness jar!” Kindness jars are jars in which we can hold ideas for acts of kindness we could do for other people.
Brainstorm and fill the jar:
Talk with kids to brainstorm things you could do to fill other people's buckets. You can think about each person in your family or close friends and what would make them happy (great boost for cognitive empathy). Use that to spark ideas. Write ideas down on slips of paper and fill your jar with them.
Want ideas? Try some of these kindness activities:
Tell 3 different people about what you like about them or what they are really good at.
Stand on the corner of the street and wave and smile to the cars and people who go by.
Make a card to thank the people who care for your local park.
Pick from the jar whenever you have time for a random act of kindness guaranteed to spread smiles around your family and community.
Each time you perform a "kindness," talk about what you did, how it made you feel and how you think it made the recipient feel. This kind of reflection help kids develop long lasting empathy and get hooked on kindness, too!
Why is this activity great for kids?
Kindness given and received feels joyful, has lasting effects on kids’ overall wellness, and helps kids develop confidence in their ability to have a positive impact on the people around them. Thinking about what would make another person smile and then taking action to make them smile is a great way to boost kids' empathy. Empathy is a rather elegant set of skills. It can help to break it down into three sub-types:
By creativity, we mean the ability to both imagine original ideas or solutions to problems and actually do what needs to be done to make them happen. So, to help kids develop creativity, we parents need to nurture kids' imaginations and give them lots of chances to design, test, redesign and implement their ideas.
"Creativity is as important now in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”
Why, you ask? For one, it is through being creative that a person is able to get senses, sensibility and spirit working together. Simply put, without creativity, we don't think our kids will live a full life.
On a more practical level, it's also the means by which humans of all ages make an impact on the world and other people around them. A lot of heavy stuff is going to go down in our kids' lifetime, and their generation will need to imagine and implement solutions to big and very complicated problems. Although our kids are still far from public office or the boardroom, today's political and business leaders worldwide are already pointing to creativity as the most important leadership quality for the future.
Although years from the art studio or design lab, little kids can learn to think and act creatively if you give them time and the right practice.
What is Empathy?
Simply put, empathy is the ability to think and care about the feelings and needs of others. The good news is, the more we study, it appears that children are empathetic by nature. All we need to do is nurture it in them—that of course is now always easy. Even though young children are simply working on gaining control over their emotions and won’t learn to really think about their emotions and the cause and effect of their behavior on others until their school years, they can start to develop the foundation for empathy much earlier. Taking actions (and watching adults take actions) that benefit other people, caring for animals and their environment and even just wondering how other people or creatures are feeling helps build both positive habits and a strong base for the development of empathy.
Why does it matter?
Empathy is at the root of what psychologists call “pro-social” behavior—behavior that people must develop in order to develop a conscience, build close relationships, maintain friendships, and develop strong communities. Empathy also helps kids avoid bullying, one of the most worrisome social challenges young kids face. Being able to think and feel for others can keep kids from becoming either bully or victim and equip them to stand up for others who are bullied. Imagine if all kids had such tools!
What is Teamwork?
Teamwork is the ability to be both an individual contributor and a supportive member of a group. Not easy for little ones, but never too early to start learning how. Although the notion of teamwork seems rather self explanatory, the combination of skills that are required for kids to effectively work on a team is rather complex. People can work effectively in a group when they have a sense of their own strengths and needs, the ability to understand the needs and motivations of others, the ability to agree and focus on a common goal, and the capacity to adjust their personal needs for the good of the group. Needless to say, young kids are too young to master these skills, but they can make tremendous progress if we give them genuine experience with teamwork and help them develop the foundations that underlie this more complex set of skills.
On a most basic level, kids start to build teamwork skills as they learn to negotiate and share limited resources. Anyone who has kids know that these skills do not come naturally, but are developed with age and practice. Kids who have experience sharing and working in groups without the dominant management of parent or authority figure (e.g. the good old pick-up game of kick-the-can that was managed only by the kids in the neighborhood) get much more opportunity to develop the self awareness and skills needed for effective collaboration. The more chances we give kids to feel the pleasure in sharing and giving, the more quickly they become effective at sharing. In addition, when we model how to set a goal and allow kids to practice working towards that goal, we model the behavior they will eventually adopt as their won. Finally, when they experience success as a member of a team, they develop a lasting sense of the power of teamwork and the motivation to start to value a team over themselves.
Why does it matter?
Collaboration makes the cut on nearly every list of top 21st-century skills—and it has become not just a goal but a requirement for most jobs. Technology increasingly enables people to work together with people who differ by geography, culture and mindset, and businesses and institutions worldwide expect employees to work effectively in both face-to-face and in virtual teams. Those who collaborate effectively will not only be effective workers but will be poised to help find solutions to the increasingly complicated challenges this young generation will face.
Further, in most schools from elementary level up, kids get more out of the curriculum if they know how to work well in groups, and this trend of increased peer-to peer-teaching and learning is only gaining ground in older school years. Research even shows that how well young children solve simple problems in groups predicts how they will transition to and fare in formal schooling.