Learning to Be KindIn an effort to be more mindful, I have discovered amazing resources aimed at guiding children to mindfulness. It “educates the heart” to react kindly and to embrace happiness. Being present isn’t tough for young children but the longevity of that ‘skill’ (yes, it is a skill that we’re all born with but lose over time because most of us don’t exercise the brilliance of it) is lost as the business of life takes over our bodies and our minds.
Kindness for KidsHave You Filled a Bucket Today? is a children’s book that has particularly resonated with my 3.5 year old son. The idea behind the book is that each of us carry an invisible bucket. We can choose to keep it full by being kind or we can choose to empty it by being unkind. We need each other to keep our buckets full. For example, if I’m walking down the street and I smile at a neighbor, my bucket fills up and my neighbor’s bucket fills up. On the other hand if a playground bully knocks another child down, not only is the bullied child’s bucket empty, the bully is left feeling sad, alone and, well, empty. The point being is that when we’re unkind, the actions don’t make us feel good. Being kind brings happiness not only to those people around us but to ourselves also.
Kindness Activities for KidsAlthough I clearly adore this book, one part that bothers me is that the bucket is invisible, a fairly abstract concept for a 3-6 year old! Here is how I mitigated that concern. We pulled out our own REAL bucket. Then, together, we brainstormed words to describe the ways to fill and to empty our buckets. On small pieces of paper, we wrote words like, ‘smile’, ‘hugs,’ ‘helpful’, ‘gratitude’, ‘listen’ and on the other end, ‘rude’, ‘impolite’, ‘using our bodies when we’re angry’, ‘raising our voices,’ ‘ignoring’, ‘throwing our things’, etc. You get the point. Doing the activity together is key. That time gives us the opportunity to have a discussion with our children about big words like ‘gratitude’. Chances are as you begin to list things which define ‘gratitude’ in your family’s life your child will act likes faucet and begin to the think of endless things for which to be grateful and ways to be kind.
Kids and KindnessThis book has significantly impacted my son’s behavior (and self regulation of that behavior). If he is not treating his brother well, he’ll stop, look at me and ask, ‘Is my bucket emptying, mom?’ Before nodding, I always make sure to ask him, ‘What do you think?’ He will immediately shift his behavior. I also make a point to ask, “How did that make our body feel?’ Inevitably he says, ‘Not good.’ Followed by, ‘How could you have dealt with the problem differently?” More Kids Activities Learning life skills is as important for our children as academic knowledge. Teach kindness for kids when they are young and they will grow up to be better and happier adults. Here are a few more kids activities for teaching these important life skills:
- Pay It Forward: Kindness for Kids
- Teaching Life Skills: Generosity
- (Kids and Kindness) Make Bags of Joy