31 Activities to Teach Children Kindness
Math. Writing. Kindness. What do these three things have in common?
They're all skills to be taught, practised and reinforced. Of course, we also mess up and learn from our mistakes with all three. And they're all things we can get better at, no matter our age.
Today, we're rounding up one month's worth of kindness activities for children.
Make sure you stay on-track by downloading and printing our complete calendar of kindness activities listed below.
A Note Before We Start
Kindness must be intrinsically motivated.
According to Psychology Today, several studies have shown "providing children with a reward for a behaviour is almost like telling them that the behaviour itself is not much fun. So if you want to promote intrinsic motivation—if you want to teach your children that learning in school or helping others are enjoyable in and of themselves—using rewards might be the wrong strategy."
Furthermore, those studies found that when the rewards stop, the positive behaviours often stop; however, when rewards weren't offered in the first place, the behaviour often continue.
Even praise should be used sparingly, as too much can create external motivation—though it shouldn't go unused. Instead, reserve your feedback and encouragement for when it's most beneficial.
(These studies were primarily done with neurotypical children; speak to an expert about your child's individual needs.)
Keep this in mind when going through each activity. Now, let's get started!
Day 1: Teach the Difference Between Kind and Nice
On day one of your month of kindness activities for children, teach them the difference between "nice" and "kind."
- Nice: doing what is expected to please those around you
- Kind: showing empathy and being willing to stand up for what is right
Create a poster with a column for "kind" and a column for "nice." Have the children write suggestions on sticky notes (or offer pre-written options) and put them in the column where they think the options belong.
Discuss each note to agree if they are in the correct columns. It's okay to put a few in the middle—context can matter.
Once you've agreed upon which notes go in which column, hang the poster on the wall.
Day 2: Teach T.H.I.N.K.
"T.H.I.N.K." means before you say anything, you should ask yourself if what you're about to say is:
Consider showing your children an actual social media post (or a made-up one for younger children). Look at the post and comments and have the children determine how much the person used T.H.I.N.K before they posted—how many letters did they get?
Day 3: Write a Letter to Someone
Many grown-ups don't realize how impactful they are in a child's life. This next child-friendly kindness activity teaches children gratitude while making someone’s day.
Ask your children, "Name an adult (other than me) who is important to you.? Why?" When they decide—and this does need to be their decision so their gratitude is genuine—have them write a note or draw a picture that tells the adult specifically why they appreciate them.
Letters can be mailed or hand-delivered depending on the parameters you set. If you are a teacher, consider asking your children to write a letter to another staff member at school.
Day 4: Teach About Empathy
You can teach your child empathy from day one by modeling it for them. As your children get older, you can help them identify emotions, embrace diversity and understand current events through the lens of kindness.
Spend this day focusing on teaching empathy skills—and keep this up as time goes on.
Day 5: Volunteer
Rather than saying your children must volunteer at a specific location, talk to them about what matters to them. Animals? Older adults? The environment?
Once they've decided who to help, research locations where you can volunteer together.
After you've finished your day of volunteerism, discuss the experience with your children. If the volunteer spot was a good fit, consider going back regularly. If it wasn't, try somewhere new!
Day 6: Show Kindness to Workers
Turn an average day of errands into a kindness activity for your children by making them aware of their surroundings and behaviour.
If you go to a store and see items on the floor or tables that customers should have picked up or left tidy, your children could pick them up. If they don’t know where items go, they can place them in a neat pile.
Have your child take the lead at checkout. (Be sure you've already practised things you say to a store worker.) Positive interactions can make a worker's day!
If your child is older, fill them in on what a day in customer service can involve. Ask how they'd want to be treated if this was their job and remind them to think about that when they're out.
Day 7: Help Other Children
On this day, teach your children how to help other children.
You can create a “partner project” where each child reads a story or learns a skill, which they then need to teach their partner. You can also encourage older children to help younger children with schoolwork.
When children help other children meet their goals and learn new skills, they learn patience, kindness, and responsibility.
Day 8: See a Play or Musical
Keep an eye out for performances in your area. Read their synopses and determine if kindness could be a theme. If the play has a relevant online study guide available, even better!
A few live theatre options to help teach kindness (and frequently performed) are:
- A Christmas Carol (Note: there are versions for younger audiences, which are far shorter than the original.)
- High School Musical
- Puffs! (Note: there's a version for younger audiences and a version for older ones. Make sure you know which one you're seeing.)
Day 9: Plant Something
People who grow plants are involved in their entire life cycles. For children, this kindness activity may be the first time they've ever done something like it and they learn how everything needs love and attention.
Try to choose a hardy plant (e.g. succulents), particularly for younger or more forgetful children. Make the plant their full responsibility, supervising only as necessary.
If the plant dies? This is a time for a growth mindset, not shame. Even the best gardeners' plants die from time to time. Talk about what may have gone wrong (and whether or not it was in the child's control) and try again with a new plant.
Day 10: Create a Compliment Board
Truly effective kindness activities for children will challenge children to dig deep and really think about what they appreciate about others. A compliment board can be a great avenue for generating kind thinking patterns.
Create a spot in your house or classroom where children can put notes saying something positive about, or giving thanks to, someone else. If you're in a classroom, you could use envelopes for individual students.
Leave this up for the rest of the month or longer if you like.
These notes should be sincere and never forced; they should be written when someone wants to say something kind.
Try to keep it from becoming a competition. Perhaps make the notes anonymous or decide ahead of time who will receive compliments from the rest of the group that day or week.
Note to teachers: Is there someone who'll never get these notes? Get to the root of the issue and make sure it's fixed before starting this activity.
Day 11: Create Growth Mindset Rocks
Growth mindset rocks are stones children paint and write messages on. The message could be something as simple as "You rock!" or something more profound.
Place the painted rocks in a public location (with permission) or your yard with a sign telling people they can take one.
Day 12: Play a Cooperative Game
What better activity for teaching children kindness than a good old fashioned game?
A cooperative game is a game or puzzle where you must work as a team. Winning only happens through active listening and group decision-making. Some of these games are:
- For younger children: Outfoxed!, Friends and Neighbors: The Helping Game, Gnomes at Night
- For older children: Mysterium, Forbidden Island
Day 13: Read a Book Focusing on Kindness
There are books about kindness for every age group and they don't have to be totally on the nose to be effective. Find books children can relate to and be prepared to discuss kindness using the book.
Some books may take longer to read. Treat these like you're in a book club and space the reading out over the month.
You can find the theme of kindness in a variety of books, including:
- For young children: The Rabbit Listened, Last Stop on Market Street, The World Needs More Purple People
- For tweens or teens: To Kill a Mockingbird, Wonder, A Wrinkle in Time
Day 14: Talk About Differences
One of the most effective kindness activities for children is discussing diversity and more importantly inclusivity in an open and honest manner. While you should focus on similarities, it's essential to acknowledge differences exist.
Explain what you can. If a question stumps you, research it in real-time. Admitting you don't know everything models a growth mindset.
Discuss what we should do or say if we notice someone different than us and give children the opportunity to ask you questions in a safe space or do their own research.
Day 15: Discuss Misguided Kindness
Sometimes an act of kindness may not be as kind as we think.
For instance, someone may assume a person with a visible disability needs help. Author Rebekah Taussig discusses this topic in an article for Time. You could summarize the article for younger children and have older ones read it themselves.
Other acts of "misguided kindness" can be based on assumptions about race. For example, complimenting someone's English or touching someone's hair to say how much you like it can be unkind.
Even giving someone a hug they don't want can be an act of misguided kindness as it invades their personal space.
Day 16: It's Science Time!
While kindness is about being selfless, there is a selfish aspect to it: When you do something kind, you feel good. This is because your brain releases the "happy chemicals" of serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine.
On this day, focus on teaching your children or students about how the brain works. We have a lesson plan on neuroplasticity to get you started.
Day 17: Learn About Bullying
For something to be classified as bullying, it must be repeated, intentional, and have a power imbalance of some kind.
children should learn the signs of bullying, when and how to intervene, and the causes of bullying behaviour.
Learning about the root causes of bullying behaviour can help children choose the kindest routes. Knowing and understanding people, who exhibit these behaviours, are most likely in pain may help stop negative reactions and, instead, find productive ways to use that energy.
Day 18: Watch a Movie About Overcoming Obstacles
Inspiring children's movies like Inside Out, Finding Nemo, and even The Karate Kid show characters overcoming obstacles and often those obstacles include unkind people or the desire to be unkind.
After watching your chosen film together, talk about the kindness (and lack thereof) shown in the film. Let the children guide the conversation.
Day 19: Hang Out With Friends
There are few better times for children to practise kindness than when they have to make decisions about activities and solve problems as a team.
If you're a teacher, this could be letting the children run around outside for a while or giving free play time—teenagers even secretly love being allowed to play! If you're a parent, arrange a playdate or sleepover for your child and a friend or two.
Day 20: Understand What You Can and Cannot Control
It's difficult to be kind when you see unkindness around you.
Have an open discussion about times you were unkind because of what was happening around you and talk about what you could have done differently. Discuss the importance of acting on what’s in your control and accepting what is not.
Then, have the children fill out a Circle of Control Poster and hang it somewhere they can see.
Day 21: Play a Competitive Game
Find a competitive board game, card game, or video game your whole family enjoys and play it together. Before starting, discuss how to be a good winner—as well as a good "loser".
Don't let your child win, at least not every time. Instead, allow them to navigate the waters of both winning and losing at a game.
Day 22: Attend a Cultural Event
Attend a public event organized by people of a different background than your child or family.
This doesn't necessarily have to be an education-focused event—you can attend a parade, a festival, etc. But, if there is an educational booth available, visiting it can improve this kindness activity for your children.
Striving to understand people who are different from oneself is an important step toward kindness as it goes deeper than "tolerance" and "acceptance."
Day 23: Find a Pen Pal
There's a ton of ways to find pen pals for your children.
Meeting a new person, without the immediacy of conversation or texting, gives children time to think about what they want to say before saying it, which can help them internalize this skill.
Day 24: Love Yourself
Talk to your children about why loving yourself is important.
After all, it is much easier to be kind to others when you are kind to yourself. You can discuss the science of this with older children and teens or keep it to the basics with younger ones.
We also have a guide with activities for teaching children self-love.
Day 25: Practise Mindfulness
Mindfulness helps you reconnect with yourself in a meaningful way. In addition, this activity helps children with kindness because feeling overwhelmed or disconnected can make you lose focus on what matters.
This activity looks different for every person, so you should investigate different mindfulness resources to decide what works best for your children.
Day 26: Know When to Stand Up for Yourself
This next exercise aims to help children understand when kindness must be overruled for safety.
There are times when being kind is unsafe and standing up for yourself is more important.
Helping a stranger "look for their dog" in a park? Kind, but unsafe. Letting someone hug you when you're not comfortable with them doing so? Kind to them, unkind to yourself.
This is the day when children learn to say "no" and leave a situation where something doesn't feel right. Empowering children to set boundaries allows them to be kind to themselves.
Day 27: Learn First Aid
You never know when you may need to help someone—or yourself—when injured. Therefore, learning first aid is a great kindness activity for children.
If possible, arrange for a professional (such as someone from the Australian Red Cross) to run this lesson.
Day 28: Find Gratitude
When you feel grateful for the world around you, you're more likely to take care of yourself and others. There are a lot of ways to show gratitude for things big and small.
Even something as simple as a gratitude journal can go far. Have your children write one to three things they are grateful for at the end of each day.
Alternatively, you can create a gratitude jar, where children write what they’re grateful for on slips of paper to place in the jar. Watch as the jar—and their kindness—fills up!
Day 29: Teach Grit and Resilience
If we're honest, choosing kindness every day is difficult. We don't always want to take the high road—in fact, that low road looks great sometimes.
Grit and resilience are how we push through those times and steer ourselves back to the higher and kinder road.
Explore our nine activities for building grit and resilience with your child when you’re ready to tackle this kindness exercise.
Day 30: Practise Conflict Resolution
No matter how many kindness activities children practise, no one is kind all the time. Even when they are, someone else may not reciprocate. These conflicts can be difficult to navigate.
Spend some time going over "I feel" statements, model conflict resolution skills, and then have the children roleplay these new abilities.
Day 31: Reflect
Today, summarize the childrens' kindness activities over the past month. Then, work out what your children or students have learned and which types of activities they have preferred.
Afterwards, keep it going with more acts of kindness, both modeled and practised, as time goes on.
As a reminder, Big Life Journal encourages you to read, watch, or play anything you plan to engage children in before involving them so you can ensure appropriateness and be prepared to discuss.
Additionally, we recommend vetting individuals or locations for anything involving other people, e.g., pen pals, store workers, and volunteer positions. We cannot be responsible for any challenges arising from interactions with people involved in these suggestions.