7 Random Acts of Kindness for Kids

Make kindness a habit in your house.

It’s easy to get so caught up teaching your child how to identify his letters and how to cut his food with a knife that you forget to focus on teaching your child to be kind. And some parents worry teaching kindness could actually cause a child to lose his edge in today’s competitive world.

But teaching kindness is very valuable. Research says teaching kindness has a positive influence on a range of academic, health, and social outcomes for kids.

Studies also show kids who engage in random acts of kindness are more likely to be accepted by their peers. Their good deeds improve their well-being and help them develop positive perceptions of their world. When kindness is taught in school, children experience increased self-esteem, increased motivation to learn, improved attendance, and decreased bullying and violence.

But, research also suggests children today are more self-absorbed and less empathetic than they were a decade ago. So don’t expect your child to learn kindness by observing his peers. Practice random acts of kindness with your child as a way to role model how to be generous, compassionate, and giving.

Of course, your child’s acts of kindness may not be able to be all that ‘random’ since she’ll most likely need some assistance from you. But, teaching her to do nice things for other people now could be the key to helping her recognize opportunities to show kindness later in life.

Donate Items to People in Need

Teach your child to perform random acts of kindness.
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It’s nice to get kids involved in fundraising, but sometimes they don’t fully grasp the concept of who they are raising money for or how the money is being used. It’s better to get them directly involved in donating items. Here are a few ways you can encourage your child to donate items to people in need:

  • Plant a vegetable garden and assign regular duties to your child, such as watering the plants, pulling weeds, and harvesting the vegetables. Then, give the vegetables to other people.
  • Gather gently used toys and donate them to an orphanage, homeless shelter, or domestic violence shelter. Talk to your child about where the toys are going and let him pick out which toys he’s willing to donate.
  • Help your child identify clothes that he can donate to other children. Give him some say over which items he wants to donate.
  • Make a meal and deliver it to an elderly neighbor, a relative, or a friend.
  • Donate gently used books to the library.

Write Thank You Notes

​Thank you notes don’t have to be those somewhat forced notes kids sign after they’ve opened gifts. Instead, teach your child there are always people you can thank.

Consider thanking people who serve you or your community. Point out all the people who work behind the scenes to make life better. Here are a few ways to thank people:

  • Help your child write thank you notes to people he appreciates. He can draw pictures for Grandma or give a special card to a daycare provider, Sunday School teacher, or family friend.
  • Create special notes for other people who assist your family—such as the mail carrier, the person who cuts your child’s hair, or a doctor.

Do Chores for Someone

Provide acts of service for people who may need a helping hand. When you make it a regular habit to do so, your child will learn to recognize people in need and opportunities when he can pitch in. Here are some ways you can perform chores for others with your child:

  • Identify a neighbor who could use some help with yardwork. As a family, rake the leaves, cut the grass, or weed the garden.
  • Regularly donate time to help Grandma and Grandpa around the house.
  • Encourage your child to surprise a sibling by doing one of her chores for her.

Care for Animals

Children often love doing acts of kindness that involve animals. Here are a few ways you can care for animals:

  • Ask to volunteer at a local animal shelter. Some shelters may allow kids to assist with simple chores, such as putting away donations or getting food ready for the animals.
  • Some animal shelters allow kids to read to dogs. Inquire about an opportunity for your child to share stories or read books to animals who may feel lonely at the shelter.
  • Volunteer to walk someone’s dog or care for a pet whose owner will be out of town.
  • Help your child pick out a special treat for your pet.

Make a Gift for Someone

Encourage your child to create small gifts he can give away to others. Gifts could be simple crafts that she makes or pictures that she draws. If she earns an allowance, you can encourage her to spend her money to buy her own craft items as well. Here are a few ways your child can make gifts for someone else:

  • Provide your child with art supplies so she can create gifts. A homemade card, a simple bird feeder, or a painting can brighten someone’s day.
  • Rather than encouraging him to write out lengthy wish lists for the holidays, help your child create a list of kind acts and homemade gifts he can give away.
  • Write down the names of several friends, family members, and neighbors on slips of paper. Put the papers in a jar. Once a week, draw a name and work with your child to identify a gift you can make for that person.

Give Compliments

Random acts of kindness can be as simple as saying something nice to someone. Teach your child to make it a habit to offer compliments and praise other people’s efforts. Here are a few ways to get your child involved in giving compliments:

  • Set a goal at the beginning of the day to give away kind words and compliments. Whether your child says, “I like your sneakers,” to another child at the playground, or she says, “Your hair looks good today,” to her sister, talk about giving compliments to people.
  • Carry around colored note cards. And let your child write small compliments on them to leave for other people. Leave one behind on the table at a restaurant to compliment your server or leave a card for the company who takes care of your yard to compliment them on the job they do.

Spread Some Cheer

Random acts of kindness can include any simple gesture that brightens someone else’s day. If you purposely spread cheer on a regular basis, kindness will become like second nature to your child. Here are a few easy ways to get your child involved in showing kindness to others:

  • Cut some flowers from your garden (or buy some flowers at the store) and give them to someone.
  • Visit someone who could use some company, such as an elderly neighbor or someone who may not get out of the house often.
  • Volunteer at a nursing home. Some nursing homes may welcome children visiting with the residents. Or you may be able to deliver homemade items to the residents, like pictures your child has colored.
  • Pack extra drinks and snacks when you go to the playground and offer to share with the other children.
  • Choose a different person to give special surprises to each month. Then, work with your child to identify kind deeds you can do for that person. See how long you can keep it a secret.
  • Start a lemonade stand and give away lemonade for free.
  • Say, "Let's see if we can identify some people to help today." Then go through your day looking for opportunities to hold the door for someone or to let someone go in front of you in line at the store.

Sources

Exline JJ, Lisan AM, Lisan ER. Reflecting on acts of kindness toward the self: Emotions, generosity, and the role of social norms. The Journal of Positive Psychology. 2011;7(1):45-56.

Kaplan DM, Deblois M, Dominguez V, Walsh ME. Studying the teaching of kindness: A conceptual model for evaluating kindness education programs in schools. Evaluation and Program Planning. 2016;58:160-170.

Layous K, Nelson SK, Oberle E, Schonert-Reichl KA, Lyubomirsky S. Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents Boosts Peer Acceptance and Well-Being. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(12).

Schreier HMC, Schonert-Reichl KA, Chen E. Effect of Volunteering on Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease in Adolescents. JAMA Pediatrics. 2013;167(4):327.

Thapa A, Cohen J, Guffey S, Higgins-D'alessandro A. A Review of School Climate Research. Review of Educational Research. 2013;83(3):357-385.

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