“Being kind” is one of the core values of our society. But, as every parent knows, kindness is something that must be actively taught and fostered starting at a young age.
While kindness isn’t a time-specific concept, parents and caregivers can certainly use Random Acts of Kindness Day as a jumping-off point to talk to children about what it means to be kind.
Founder of parenting blog Tenderhearted Teacher
“Kindness is a critical aspect of social-emotional development,” notes Sally Macaluso, early childhood educator and founder of the parenting resource blog Tenderhearted Teacher. “Teaching a child kindness, compassion, empathy, mindfulness, and other social-emotional learning (SEL) skills in early childhood can help them continue these practices in adulthood.”
While there are many formal ways to teach these skills, setting a good example, Macaluso says, is among the best. “Ultimately, one of the most effective ways to teach a little one — about any topic, really — is through modeling. Kindness is no different,” she says.
In other words, children look to adults to learn what kindness is and how to express it. This means that grown-ups, as caregivers and community members, have the power to show them that kindness lives in the little moments that happen every day and that these little moments can add up to a lifetime of positive experiences and healthy connections. Choosing to smile at a stranger, take a deep breath before losing our temper, or offer the last piece of cake to a friend are small ways we can show kindness in our daily lives.
A day dedicated to kindness
National Random Acts of Kindness Day, celebrated every year on Feb. 17, was started in 1995 by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation in Colorado with the goal to “make kindness the norm.” Macaluso notes, “While kindness isn’t a time-specific concept, parents and caregivers can certainly use Random Acts of Kindness Day as a jumping-off point to talk to children about what it means to be kind.” Setting aside time to celebrate with kids highlights how important the topic is and supports the organization’s mission of connecting all people through kindness.
5 ways to celebrate National Random Acts of Kindness Day
When it comes to modeling kindness, no act is too small. The ideas below are meant to spark valuable conversations about the many ways kindness positively affects both the giver and receiver. They encourage children to be themselves and celebrate the day in ways inspired by their unique personalities. And, hopefully, they motivate kids to take the lessons they learned and carry them with them throughout their lives.
1. Help our four-legged friends (and their owners)
A great way to show kindness is by volunteering at or donating to a local animal shelter. Macaluso mentioned that one year her students visited a local shelter to donate pet supplies and drop off a homemade poster thanking the staff and volunteers. Another idea is asking around the neighborhood or on social media if any pet owners in your community need their animals walked or fed while they’re home alone during the day. You can also consider buying a gift for the pet lover in your life.
2. Give the gift of nourishment
Cooking and delivering meals or home-baked cookies to a friend or loved one is a thoughtful act. “The way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, so what better way to show someone you’re thinking of them than with a yummy gift?” Macaluso jokes. “I can say with certainty that it always brings a smile to my face whenever a student surprises me with a sweet treat made with care.” She adds that you could also bring a prepared meal or baked goods to a local fire department, hospital, or senior citizens center. Random acts of kindness don’t have to be extravagant — they just have to come from the heart.
3. Clean up their community
Consider having them collect and dispose of trash at a local park or public greenway. You can also have them help older folks tidy up their yard or shovel their driveway, if it’s recently snowed. If weather permits, Macaluso also suggests leaving positive messages in sidewalk chalk for frontline workers and first responders in public places. “These thoughtful acts are appropriate any time of year, to spread kindness and joy throughout our communities,” she notes.
4. Express their feelings through words, pictures, or presents
Little ones crave personal connection. Help them reach out to a person they miss by crafting a handwritten letter, creating an original piece of art, or sending flowers. “We live in a time when staying connected to others is easier than ever,” Macaluso says. “No matter the distance, your child can share a heartfelt message or send a handmade gift to let someone know they’re thinking of them.”
5. Thank a favorite helper
Educators play a large role in modeling behavior, too. Encouraging your child to thank the people who make their day great is an easy gesture that goes a long way. Have them write or decorate a thank-you card to their favorite teacher, staff member, or athletic coach to show their appreciation. Macaluso says, “This simple gesture explaining how this person has made a positive impact on their life can instantly lift someone’s spirits.”