Can we talk about seeds for a second?
(Non-green thumbs, you are welcome here too.)
I mean, have you ever looked at one of those tiny pods and thought about how incredible they really are? About how much power and potential is packed within its shell?
Have you ever pondered the fact that with the right amount of water, sunlight, and care, a seed can become something far greater than how it begins?
- A tulip turned toward the sun.
- A peony glossed with dew.
- A cucumber vine reaching across a garden.
- A carrot rooted deep in the earth.
- Kindness in the heart of a child.
It Starts With a Seed
As far as I can tell, kindness starts out much like any other flower or vegetable seed. And just like those physical seeds, it can’t do much growing unless it is planted somewhere.
That’s where you come in.
Because what good is a seed without a good gardener to nurture and care for it. Luckily, you don’t have to have a green thumb to help with this kind of seed. You just have to have some initiative and a keen eye.
So let’s talk about how you can both plant and nurture the seed of kindness in your child’s life.
Planting a Kindness Seed
Not to be all dramatic or anything, but I firmly believe that kindness has the power to change lives.
So, the first thing you need to do is plant that seed. Get the conversations started.
Here are a few ideas to get you going.
Teaching Kindness #1: Model It!
Everything always starts with us, doesn’t it? Kindness is no different. If you want your kids to be kind, show them what kindness looks like through your own words and actions.
Your kids watch everything you do from the way you respond to your husband at the end of a long day to the way you speak to the cashier at the end of a long shopping trip.
Making an effort to be more kind yourself will go a long way when teaching your kids to do the same.
Teaching Kindness #2: Use the Word “Kindness” in Your General Conversations
In our family, sowing the seed of kindness meant changing some of our verbiage. We replaced the phrase, “Be nice!” with reminders to “Be kind,” and try often to bring the word kindness into general conversation.
A simple definition for kids? Kindness means we care about the feelings of others.
Teaching Kindness #3: Use Your Manners (Say Please and Thank You)
Basic manners are, even if kids don’t realize it, foundational to kindness. That baby who is signing, “More, please,” is learning to be kind already! Bravo!
Teaching Kindness #4: Make the Correlation Between Chores and Kindness
When your daughter asks why she has to take her plate to the sink after dinner, try to avoid, “Because I said so.” Instead, teach her that it helps mom and dad and that when we help others, we’re being kind.
Teaching Kindness #5: Show the Power of Random Acts of Kindness
One of the best parts about kindness is that it can be done in secret. Help your kids know that kindness can still go a long way even if the recipient doesn’t know where the kind act came from.
Teaching Kindness #6: Read a Book Demonstrating Kindness
Like any conceptual idea, books will help you put some concrete examples to your conversations about kindness.
Here are a few options to get you started:
- Kindness to Share: From A to Z
- You, Me, and Empathy
- The Berenstain Bears: Kindness Counts
- Kindness Counts: A Story for Teaching Random Acts of Kindness
- The Invisible Boy
The best part about using books to jump start this conversation, though, is there are probably conversations about kindness waiting in most of the books already on your shelf.
It’s just up to you to start pointing them out.
Teaching Kindness #7: Observe Kindness in a Show or Movie
Television shows or movies can also be helpful in driving this concept home.
And all the Daniel Tiger fans sang together:
It’s great to be kind
Makes everyone feel happy
It’s great to be kind
Makes the world a better place
Just like books, though, you can point out kindness in anything you watch with your kids.
Teaching Kindness #8: Sing Songs
Now that you’ve got that Daniel Tiger jingle in your head, go ahead and pull out those musical instruments. Your movers and shakers can have a kindness jam session with some of these songs:
- Kindness is a Muscle by Sprout
- Fill your Bucket by The Learning Station (there’s even a book to go along with this one!)
- Try a Little Kindness by Sesame Street (with a little help from Tori Kelly)
Teaching Kindness #9: Memorize Bible Verses
The Ultimate Source of kindness is, really, one of your best teaching tools.
Teaching Kindness #10: Draw Pictures of Acts of Kindness
Once the conversations have started, let your daughter’s creativity take over. Give her a piece of paper and some crayons and ask her to draw pictures of acts of kindness.
It doesn’t matter if you can make out the picture; it matters if you can understand the story (and heart) behind it.
Teaching Kindness #11: Write a Book Together
Take a picture one step further: Give your preschooler a blank board book and a few markers, and ask him to write you a book about an act of kindness.
Teaching Kindness #12: Play a Game
Teaching Kindness #13: Decorate with Reminders
Teaching Kindness #14: Buy Clothes That Encourage Kindness
Teaching Kindness #15: Role Play Acts of Kindness
Kids don’t always innately know how to react to situations with kindness.
When a sibling is hurt or there’s a fight over a toy, you can help encourage your kids to respond with compassion by asking them to try again. Help them role play the right words or actions, and hopefully kindness will start to become a knee-jerk reaction.
Teaching Kindness #16: Practice Giving Compliments
You’re likely already doing this one. The more specific compliments you give out a day, the more you will start to hear your children give out as well.
Teaching Kindness #17: Notice the Feelings of Others
Acts of kindness often begin by noticing that someone is sad or in need of something. Teach your child to pick up on those cues.
Teaching Kindness #18: Point Out Public Acts of Kindness
Continue to help them notice the feelings of others by observing people in public places. When she asks you why that little boy is crying, engage in the conversation. Make guesses about what could be wrong and how you could help him.
When she notices that the cashier has a “mad face,” brainstorm some acts of kindness that might have made her smile. Maybe even go back and practice one!
Teaching Kindness #19: Use Show-and-Tell
Once your kids have a foundational understanding of kindness, talk to them about what acts of kindness they see when they’re away from you. As you’re sitting around the table for dinner, talk about what he noticed at school that day.
Were any of his friends especially kind? Did a teacher extend kindness?
Teaching Kindness #20: Encourage Follow-up Questions
Part of being kind is learning how to communicate with others. Teach your kids to make eye contact and to ask questions back.
Your three-year-old probably won’t naturally ask grandma how she’s doing unless you teach her to.
Watering Seeds of Kindness
with Your Friends and Family
Now, here’s the thing about seeds. It’s not enough to plant them and then leave them alone. They needs nurturing in order to grow and thrive. Similarly, it’s not enough to just teach your kids what kindness is. Now it’s time to practice it together.
And what better place to start than with family and friends?
Teaching Kindness #21: Write Some Snail Mail
Who doesn’t love getting a card in the mail? Give your daughter a piece of paper and a pencil, and let her craft a note or picture. Talk about how happy it will make her cousin feel when she opens up her letter!
Teaching Kindness #22: Share Your Abundance
Too many apples from the apple orchard? An abundance of flowers from the garden? An extra dozen cookies that your family
can’t shouldn’t possibly eat?
Ask your son who you should share with. And then share!
Teaching Kindness #23: Celebrate “May Day” Any Day
I’m not the only one who loved secretly leaving treats on front porches as a kid, am I?
Fill small goodie bags with treats and then drive around town delivering them to your friends. The trick is to ring the doorbell and run away before anyone catches you!
Teaching Kindness #24: Record Videos for Family Members
Do you have family members who live far away? Talk to your son about how much his cousins and aunts and uncles will love hearing his voice. Record short messages, and, if you’re lucky, you just might get one back.
Teaching Kindness #25: Help a Friend (Even If It’s Inconvenient)
It’s not always convenient to help people when you’ve got three tiny people constantly at your ankles. You can model an others-first mindset by explaining to your kids that sometimes it’s important to help even if there are other things you’d rather be doing (within reason, of course).
This could sound something like, “I know you’d rather not drive in the car any longer. I just think this Diet Coke would really make my friend happy. Would you mind sacrificing a few more minutes for her?”
Teaching Kindness #26: Color Pictures for Grandma and Grandpa
I am convinced that grandparents are bottomless pits for colored pages from coloring books. Let your son know what will really make grandpa’s day was knowing that his grandson thought to color him a picture.
Teaching Kindness #27: Sneak Notes into Dad’s Lunchbox
Write a quick note or draw a few pictures and then let your kids be a little sneaky: See if they can sneak it into his lunchbox or coat pocket without him noticing!
Teaching Kindness #28: Host a Playdate
Show your kids that bringing people into your home and sharing your things with them is an easy way to extend kindness. Praise the kind interactions you see between little friends and offer encouragement when sharing feels hard.
Even better, pick out someone you KNOW is a little light on the friendship side of life!
Teaching Kindness #29: Clean Up the Toys at Someone Else’s House
On the other side of the playdate, teach your son that it’s kind to pick up after himself at a friend’s house.
Teaching Kindness #30: Cheer Up Others Going Through Hard Things
Was one of her friends home sick? Did her cousin break an arm? Talk about ways you could make those friends smile and then follow through together! Not only will it teach your child empathy, it will encourage bonding and friendships at a deeper level.
Teaching Kindness #31: Let the Kids Pick Out Presents
For Christmas or birthdays, take your kids to The Dollar Store and let them pick out gifts for each other. Teach them to think of what the other person would want (and then laugh when you see what they come up with).
Teaching Kindness #32: Pray for Friends and Family Together
Do you pray before meals or bedtime? Bring the needs of friends and family members into those conversations.
Teaching Kindness #33: Bring Meals to Those in Need
New babies. Surgery. A move to a new house. You’ll see the need; recruit your kids to help you cook and deliver a meal.
Teaching Kindness #34: Make a “I Love You Because…” Lists
It doesn’t matter that it’s not Father’s Day. Make a list of everything you love about dad and present it to him at dinner!
Nurturing Seeds of Kindness
in Your Neighborhood
Now that you’ve thoroughly loved on your family and friends, you can let your garden spread into your neighborhood as you show those neighbors some love!
Teaching Kindness #35: Bake Treats for a Neighbor
Your next door neighbor’s day will be made when she receives a hand-delivered loaf of chocolate chip banana bread. Especially when it comes from the hands of a smiling three-year-old.
Teaching Kindness #36: Paint Rocks with Kind Messages
Tell your neighbors they rock by leaving encouraging rocks all around. Then, go on a walk a few days later to see how many of them have been found.
Teaching Kindness #37: Write Chalk Messages on Sidewalks
Swap the rocks for chalk and draw pictures and/or messages all over the sidewalks of your neighborhood.
Teaching Kindness #38: Pick Up Community Trash
If you notice stray papers or bottles while you’re out for your afternoon walk, talk to your child about how cleaning up after ourselves is kind both to the earth and to our neighborhoods.
Then (if it’s not too gross) pick up the paper and find a trash can to put it in.
Teaching Kindness #39: Hang Out in Your Front Yard
That’s it. Spread a picnic blanket and talk to passersby while you’re all enjoying your afternoon snack together.
Teaching Kindness #40: Help Neighbors with Yard Work
Pay attention to neighbors who might need a little help raking leaves or shoveling snow. Let your kids help you meet these needs if the weather allows.
Teaching Kindness #41: Invite Neighbor Kids to Play in Your Yard
If you feed them, they will come.
Teaching Kindness #42: Give out Free Snacks
Sit in your front yard with a cooler of popsicles in the summer or cups of hot chocolate in the fall and offer them to people walking by.
Tending Seeds of Kindness
in Your Community
Now, let those vines continue to reach into your community!
Teaching Kindness #43: Volunteer Together
You don’t have to wait until your kids are teenagers to start volunteering together. There are ways to serve those in need even with small children.
- Visit a nursing home.
- Walk in a 5k together (stroller included).
- Serve at your local animal shelter.
- Deliver meals through local charity organizations.
Teaching Kindness #44: Donate Together
Don’t wait until naptime to decide which toys or books to donate. Involve your kids in the process. Then, if possible, bring your daughter along to help you deliver books to your local children’s hospital or canned goods to the local food pantry.
Teaching Kindness #45: Thank City Helpers
Write your mail carrier a thank you note or bring your local police officers some home baked cookies to let them know you appreciate all the hard work they do for you.
Teaching Kindness #46: Give School Supplies to Teachers
Or tissue boxes. Or baked goods. Or Starbucks gift cards.
Teaching Kindness #47: Let Someone Ahead of You in a Line
A little modeling goes a long way. Teach your kids wordlessly that it’s okay to let others go first.
Teaching Kindness #48: Hold Open a Door
Is someone coming behind you as you walk in the door to preschool? Ask your daughter to hold the door.
Teaching Kindness #49: Leave a Pleasant Surprise for Your Waitress
Write a short message on a napkin, and then have your four-year-old trace it. Let him stick it in the folder with your receipt before you leave.
Teaching Kindness #50: Send a Dessert to a Random Family at a Restaurant
Let your kids pick out the lucky recipient!
Teaching Kindness #51: Share the Swing at the Park
See also: slide, climbing wall, seesaw, etc.
Teaching Kindness #52: Keep Supplies in Your Car for Homeless or Needy
Keep a box of granola bars and a few extra blankets in your car. If you pass someone on the side of the road who is in need, give them away.
Teaching Kindness #53: Bring Extra Toys/Snacks to the Park
Let your daughter share packs of fruit snacks with other kids in the park, and you’ll help her experience firsthand how fun it is to give unexpected gifts.
Teaching Kindness #54: Leave Quarters in Gumball Machines
Give your son a handful of quarters to put in the machines and then grab a bench nearby and see if you can catch anyone’s excitement at finding the free gift.
Teaching Kindness #55: Leave a Kind Note in a Library Book
You never know how far a quick, “I hope you’re having a great day!” could go.
Growing Gardens of Kindness Every Day
Now that your roots of kindness are deeply sown, let kindness permeate into every day and on any occasion!
Teaching Kindness #56: Devote an Entire Day to Kindness
See how many acts of kindness your kids can come up with and how many people you can reach in a single day!
Teaching Kindness #57: Give Your Kids the Reins
Give your kids a person and let them come up with their own ways to show kindness.
Teaching Kindness #58: Collect Change in a Jar and Then Give it Away
Anytime you find a stray coin, let your daughter throw it in a jar. Once the jar is full, talk about people or organizations you know who could use the money, and then give it all away!
Teaching Kindness #59: Sponsor a Child in Need
Help your child understand that there is a world of great needs outside our borders. With the help of organizations like Compassion International, you could help your child see how far an act of kindness can reach.
Teaching Kindness #60: Smile!
I saved the easiest one for last. Teach your kids that sometimes all it takes to extend kindness is a genuine smile. Then, practice together when you hold that door or share those swings.
Time to Put on Your Gardening Gloves
The seed is in your hands. The next question is, what are you going to do with it?
You now have sixty ideas of how you can both teach and practice kindness with your kids (most of which don’t even involve supplies!).
And to help you get started, we put all sixty things into a single page checklist that you can work through together with your child. It’s even free! You just have to tell us where to send it.
So, put those gardening gloves on, friend. The soil is ripe.
When you start working your way through this list and commit to teaching your child the value and importance of being kind, chances are, you will see a beautiful bloom burst forth in her life.
You will see kindness extended without reminders or prompting.
And when that kind of growth takes place, you will see that you have helped nurture something that has the potential to change the world.
Have You Read These Yet?
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- Boy Mom Alert: 7 Potty Training Mistakes to Avoid
- How to Make the Preschool Age Your Best One Yet
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Molly is the mom of three kids under the age of four and the wife of a busy (and extremely handsome) resident doctor. Mostly though, she’s a particularly average person just trying to live each day well. She spends most of her days perfecting the messy bun, drinking all the coffee, and observing every piece of beauty she can find in the mundane. Read more about Molly in her full bio here.