We know that genuine gratitude is scientifically proven to be good for people (source). Further, there are few better ways to foster gratitude and create a sense of meaning than serving others (source). What about acts of kindness for kids, though?
Of course children can do good works for others. Just like with all things, the more they engage in altruistic behavior from a young age, the more natural it can feel for them to continue as they grow older.
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You can use an advent-style calendar or multi-compartment storage box and pick a random act of kindness each day. Even a regular old shoebox or a cookie jar can work well. Every day, let your child pull a pre-written note from the container and see what good you get to do together.
perfectly valid "holidays" these days.
The older your child, the bigger part he or she can play in random acts of kindness for kids. For little kids, especially, you might model raking the leaves more than expect your children to do the heavy lifting. (I bet they'll have lots of fun jumping in piles and bagging them up, though!)
Modeling gratitude without making the work obligatory helps keep the spirit of it all authentic. And of course, opportunities to volunteer increase with your child's age. The focus here is togetherness; acts of kindness for kids are truly ways to have quality time together. Take time to be present with your children.
Acts of kindness for kids have no upper age limit. Let your children see you joyfully engaging alongside them.
Once you've gone through the list and made acts of kindness for kids part of your routine,
challenge your children to continue with their own ideas.
Let them continue to observe you treating others well without expecting anything in return. After all, that's one of the gifts that gratitude fosters, isn't it?
A gratitude garland is an inexpensive and fun craft that helps kids be mindful of others every day. It's also a lovely option for those of us whose crafts aren't, say, Pinterest-worthy. (I'm raising my hand here. Heck, I can barely pack a lunchbox without a map.)
You and your kids can trace and cut out whatever shape (or shapes) you plan to use. Each day, write one thing for which you're thankful on one of the shapes. Cut a small hole in your shape. Feed your twine or yarn through it, and make sure you cut a long enough length of yarn to last awhile. Use a paperclip to secure your shape to the yarn. Hang the yarn somewhere visible in your home, and each day, recount your blessings together as you add a new one. We find that hanging it over the door frame in the kitchen works well.
It takes practice sometimes. For all of us. But kindness itself can be one of the best gifts of all, and it never needs to be wrapped with a bow.
Sarah R. Moore is an internationally published writer and the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. She’s currently worldschooling her family. Her glass is half full.