“See, J?” I quickly responded to my three-year-old after the milk he was balancing ended up spilling on the countertop.
“No, I don't see, mom,” he replied with a hint of sass. I shot a glance over my right shoulder and noticed him sitting with his eyes shut.
Concrete to abstract. That is how kids learn best. Kids need visual and they need concrete, which makes teaching the “softer” lessons (like MINDFULNESS and COURAGE) in life a bit more challenging. I am always searching for ways (READ: Yes, you can Teach Kindness to Kids!) to get these important, vital, yet intangible points across to them.
This post examines how to teach kindness to children, including a simple, hands-on, concrete activity to add to your daily routine.
Above most qualities in life, I want my children to be kind. I want to raise thoughtful, good, gracious, productive, kind individuals. From those qualities, I believe happiness and joy will come to my children. Success, too.
We live in a fast paced world. Children, for the most part, have (and get) what they need (and want) immediately. There is no delayed gratification. I am guilty. I want to give my children everything. I truly do, but not at the expense of being unaware of the way the rest of the world lives and the right way to treat people.
I trust that they feel gratitude, even though at 3 and 5 they may not be able to express this gratitude naturally (or maybe they do but we adults need to pay closer attention?), for what we have as a family. I hope they want to be kind because, well, that is the right thing to do.
How do we teach kindness to children? Is it possible to teach kindness? I don't know the answer to that question. I do know that children pay close attention to what we adults say and how we adults act. I also know that helping a child develop empathy towards others is an important part of being a caretaker. Social and emotional intelligence come more easily to some than to others but regardless these intelligences are just as important to nurture (maybe even more so) than fine motor, language, and math skills.
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” ~ Aristotle
I wanted a concrete way to seamlessly integrate this learning into our daily routine. The below activity is the most simple way I could figure on how to teach kindness to my children. I hope you enjoy and are inspired by it.
How to Teach Kindness Activity for Kids
Kindness Jar Materials
- Mason Jar
- Various Sized Red Pom Poms
I chose red pom poms to represent love and the heart. I chose three different sizes. My children were keen to the different sizes. If a larger pom pom landed in the jar, a big act of kindness must have happened and this alone piqued there interest and a conversation about what it means to be kind.
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. ~Dalai Lama
Teach Kindness Jar Approach
- Ask the child what it means to be kind
- Introduce the jar to the child
- Explain that you will be adding pom poms as you notice kind acts throughout the day and weeks
- Come up with a fun celebration once your jar is full of kindness
- Explain that you must notice the act and not have it pointed out to you (my boys love to let me know when they have done something nice)
- Let the child know that he may also add pom poms to the jar if he notices kindness in your home
- Continue the discussion at meal time by asking questions such as “was someone kind to you today?” “did you help someone today?” This simple act of asking questions stimulates a child to think about kindness and how it impacted his day for better or for worse.
Kindness is one of those qualities in life that has a much bigger impact in the grander scheme of life than most of us realize. A simple smile could make or break a stranger's day. A phone call to a relative. A hand written note in the mail. Hold the door for someone. Simple.
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