A Simple Random Act of Kindness: Teaching Children To Think Of Others

thinkofothersTeaching anyone to think of others before themselves is, I believe, a life-long endeavor.  For me right now, it might mean not buying that extra shirt or a cup of coffee and instead saving the money to help someone in need.  For my kids, it might mean sharing toys, happily taking turns at the playground, or considering a sibling’s feelings when they fall down.  I like to describe thinking of others and finding a way to help them as “kindness.”

Of course there are a million acts of kindness we can do daily… and none have to be complicated or expensive.  We can simply smile at others, take a meal to a family in distress, or send a message of appreciation to someone who has touched our lives in some way.  At the end of this post I have listed some great articles to refer to if you are looking for more ideas.

Although I try to incorporate acts of kindness into our regular routine (like picking up rubbish around the neighborhood, baking muffins for friends, and donating old toys), once in a while I like to prepare a slightly special opportunity for my children to do some *random* acts of kindness that they would have a lot of fun with and that would also be more memorable.

On this particular day, instead of splurging on a lunch out at the mall, we purchased some cute little rubber figurines to give to strangers.  I knew these adorable smiley face bendy toys would be so much fun for kids (and they appeared to be quite durable, too!), so here’s what we did with them…

 

Preparing For The Project

I asked the boys if they would like to give these toys to other children, and at first they were disappointed because they wanted to keep them.  This wasn’t surprising – I knew if my mom bought a whole lot of great shirts which I thought were for me, then said she wanted to give them away, I might at first be a bit disappointed, too.  So we counted them and talked about how many there were, and my oldest suggested we could keep one and give the others away to make others happy.  We agreed this was a good idea and then they started to get excited about the prospect of giving them away, asking me who they could give them to and how.

So we printed out slips of paper that said: “You have been chosen to receive a Random Act of Kindness!  We hope this brightens your day :-)” with a link to this website.  I felt funny just giving something to children we did not know without a contact to fall back on… just in case the parents wondered if the toys were safe (immediately the thought of poisoning comes to mind… I don’t know, I would wonder about the motives if a random person came up and gave something to my child… sad but true… so wanted to dissolve any suspicions).

We cut the slips of paper, punched a hole, tied them to the little doll, and then headed out to the local mall.

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The boys were very excited to be on their way to deliver the toys… and I admit I was a bit nervous.  What would the parents think as we gave their child a toy?  Would they be offended, or not like the gift?  But I took some deep breaths and realized if we are doing something out of love, we can only give with open hearts and accept whatever is to come.

 

Engaging With Others

We walked along the halls and in several stores of the mall with a baggie of figures in hand, and my oldest quickly pointed out kids he wanted to give them to as we would see families down the aisles.

Once he asked me and I gave the okay, he would run to the family, hand the figure to the child, and run back to me.  I would then smile at the mom (if she looked back, which she often did) and then we would be on our way.  Sometimes the child asked what the toy was or tried to hand it back, and in that case my son or I would give a simple, “This is for you, as an act of kindness.”  We didn’t have any in depth conversations with these strangers – some would smile and others would seem a tad embarrassed.  But all in all, it went well :-)

 

Reflecting On Our Experience

My four-year-old had a great time handing the toys out (my two-year-old was a bit oblivious of what was happening) and we had a lovely conversation that night about how we can be generous and find ways to make others happy.  Next time we may try some homemade cards with inspirational quotes, or balloons…

I think giving children hands-on ways to serve others and show special acts of kindness will go a long way in teaching them to think of others and derive joy from generosity.  I’m going to be on the lookout for many more opportunities to offer an act of kindness – there are so many fun things to try!

 

Inspired to offer an act of kindness?

Here is a post I put together with 52 acts of kindness:

52 acts of kindness 250

You may also enjoy my family scapbook ebook for recording acts of kindness:

52 Acts of Kindness white background

For more ideas about what you can do as acts of kindness with kids, check out these links:

  • Becky from Kid World Citizen published a fabulous list of 35 service projects for kids.  Check it out here.
  • This post from Inner Child Giving shares 50 ways kids can make a difference.
  • Pennies of Time is the blog of Sheila who shares some of the acts of kindness she and her two sons do every day.. there are hundreds of ideas and stories for you to browse.  Visit the blog here.
  • Leanna from All Done Monkey runs a monthly series on Random Acts of Kindness featuring acts of kindness done by families (many with young children!).  Find the series here.

 

If you liked this idea, I would love you to share it!

 


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Thanks for visiting my blog!  I hope you take a look around and find some other inspiring ideas to do with your kids!  To browse through all the activities I have posted about so far click here.

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Comments

  1. says

    I so so so so love this. I will definitely have to do this. I’ve been thinking about a post (in my head) for a while about how we teach the girls giving, gratitude and kindness, and this has been great inspiration. I’ll be sure to link back to you! Just tonight we saw a mother and her child sitting outside of a restaurant we were about to go into. Her sign read, “Lost my job, we cannot pay rent and we cannot afford food. Anything helps.” Living in Berkeley, CA I rarely give out $$ anymore, because I don’t know who really needs help and who really is just scamming me, but this really struck me and brought tears to my eyes. I fished out $10 from my purse and told my 5 year old daughter what we were doing and why and had her go give it to the mother. She was so grateful and I had to wipe my tears away before I could enter the restaurant… Sorry- I just meant to comment, boy that got long! Anyway- love your post!

    • says

      Oh goodness this brought tears to my eyes too!!! It is so moving to help people who we know are in need, truly… and what a gift to pass on to our children, giving them small ways to be of service. Thanks so much for the comment :-)

    • Toni says

      I have not been in big cities enough to interact with people on the street like this but a friend of mine said what he does is goes into a near by restaurant and buys a meal and offers it to the person. Unfortunately many times they will refuse it and say they just want money. The one time I was in a city and saw a person with a sign they were smoking a cigarette; sorry but if you can somehow afford them I will not be able to offer you money to fuel your addiction…

      Anyway, I love the idea from your post! It is fun to do little things for any one who could use a smile :)

    • says

      Yes they were pretty cute! And quite unusual too – a lot of fun to wrap around things and put in funny positions :-) Thanks for the *kind* comment!

  2. says

    I absolutely loved reading this. What a great way to get children to consider others. It can also be particularly hard for children to show that kindness to random children! Well done on a great post and I look forward to sharing this with my own audience.

    • says

      Thanks Kate! That is a great point – depending on the personality of the child, this may or may not be a difficult act to complete! My kids are far from shy so was not hard at all… but it’s great to think about the special ways our children can be kind depending on what comes naturally to them, and gently pushing their boundaries when appropriate. Thanks for the comment :-)

  3. says

    What a beautiful idea. I think we’ll try this one day too! My daughter and I often bake yummy treats and give them to our neighbours and she also is involved in sending out meals to new mums, families or elderly people around us frequently. It’s so nice to be able to share that with young hearts. Thanks for your encouraging post. You’re teaching your boys amazing things x

    • says

      Bek I just love the idea of regularly sending out food baskets/meals to people… we have done it a few times and it is always so uplifting. I want to find more opportunities though… I know every time I have received food it has been soooo helpful and really touched me. Thanks for the comment and sharing your ideas!

  4. says

    Awww bought a tear to my eye.
    This is so thoughtful & I bet it meant the world to the kids. M
    Something we should all take lesson from :)

  5. says

    Random acts of kindness are wonderful. We have had strangers buy our meals four different times which brought tears to my eyes each time. It is so nice to brighten someone’s day and I think it has a domino effect which encourages people to share joy with others.

    • says

      Thanks Theresa that is so true… the more kindness we are shown, the more we want to share with others, and vice versa. And we never forget those times people are kind to us, do we?! Thanks for the comment!

  6. says

    What a lovely, ‘real’ way to teach your kids about giving for the pure joy of giving. I admit, I would be nervous too… I am really anxious about dealing with people I don’t know, so this would be good for me as well as my kids!

    • says

      Thanks for the comment Kate… I never actually processed any nervous feelings until we were about to get in the car when I started envisioning how it would go, and by then couldn’t turn back lol :-) I’m glad we did it though, is always good to get out of your comfort zone for a while! Hopefully we can channel the courage into bigger ways to help others.

  7. says

    What fortunate boys to have a mother who will do something like this with them. I personally struggle with giving . Not because I don’t want to but because I think people wont be interested in what I have to give. I think I could benefit from this activity!

    • says

      Hannah I can totally relate to that feeling. I guess the more we give the more confident we feel in at least offering. Sometimes people don’t want help, and we can’t change that. But I find sometimes I want to help and am not sure how (thinking back to a time I was next to a mom with a toddler having a tantrum in the grocery store)… so hopefully putting myself out there more often will help me get better at giving :-)

  8. Emily Marsland says

    I just love these things, & after receiving a post-it note attached to my shopping trolley last week with an inspirational quote on it, I’m currently thinking what I can do to “pay it forward”. I’m on a very tight budget myself, but sometimes do little things like pay for someone else’s parking meter, or buy a friends coffee & cake (when I can afford it) just to get that feel-good feeling kindness gets.

    • says

      Those are such lovely ideas Emily, and there are so many ways to give good feelings without spending money! Even giving a massage (obviously has to be close family for this one LOL) or packing up a one-size meal portion for dinner/lunch? I’m sure there is a list of free feel-good ideas out there… will have to do a search! Thanks so much for the comment.

  9. says

    My JJ is almost 3.5 years old and I think she is ready for this sort of thing. I’d love to start incorporating some of your character building activities into our daily (or perhaps weekly) lives. xx

  10. Erin says

    Great idea! Where did you find the smiley guys. I know it was a party supply, but want to get them.

    I am a teacher and would love to do this as a staff thing because we all could use a pick me up! I also want to try it with my families as well.

    • says

      Hi Erin! I found those smiley dolls at a dollar type store where we live in Australia… sorry I’m not sure where they would be available but they usually have lots of little things in those types of shops, sometimes you can get lucky with something special :-) Good luck and thanks for commenting!

  11. D.J. says

    Thank you for posting this. I work at an out of school club where recently our Junior Leaders, (the 9-12 year kids) went around town handing out flowers and gift cards to people and hid kind notes in trees and flower beds. Although there was some complaining about not getting the gifts, these kids made my day by how enthusiastic they were when it came to actually giving the gifts to others!
    Well done on giving your kids opportunities to do great things! I thank God for kind people like you.

  12. Marissa says

    This is such a great idea! I have been trying to teach my children (4 and 5) about being grateful and had my children help me make a bunch of bagged lunches before we went into the city one day. The kids colored the bags, drew pictures and helped make the sandwiches and stuff the bags. Whenever we saw a homeless person we offered them a lunch and told them they were filled with lots of love. I was nervous too, but 99% of the people were so grateful. My kids felt so good about themselves and we have had so many conversations about gratitude. I love that you are teaching your children to spread love. If we all do these random acts of kindness we will make the world a better place! Next time I go to the mall we will be handing out random acts of kindness, too!

    • says

      Oh what a lovely story! Thanks for sharing :-) It is a bit intimidating but hopefully with time it will get easier and feel more natural! And how lovely if the kids get into this pattern early on.

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