Yesterday, the toy catalogue hit the front steps of our house and my kids lept with joy. They feverishly went through each page circling virtually every single toy. By every single toy, I mean they skipped over a handful of baby toys. Otherwise, there are circles on everything. While I love to get in on their excitement, I don’t like the idea of the holiday season centering on consumerism. We already have so many toys and already donate so many toys. On top of it, one of the main goals of my parenting is to raise children who want to make the world a better place. Because of this, I don’t want my kids to be solely focused on getting more stuff.
So this morning as I sat down to my coffee, I decided to brainstorm with my kids. I prompted them to think of random acts of kindness we can do in the 24 days leading up to Christmas. (This list, of course, can be adapted to lead up to Kwanzaa, Hannukah, Omisoka, or any Holiday you and your loved ones observe. This list is also applicable any time of the year.)
Some of the random acts of kindness my five-year-old came up with included sharing toys, hugging a friend, and saying nice things. Using his sweet ideas, we came up with 24 prompts you can adapt. These random acts of kindness act as a reverse advent calendar where you and your family give instead of receive.
How to Promote Gratitude in Your Kids
In order to promote gratitude, it is important to have regular dialogue around why we want to be generous towards others. We can start this conversation by talking about why we want to show kindness to others. For example, we don’t just want to say we love our family, it’s also good to show our family how much we love them. It also helps to talk about the less fortunate. For instance, we are going to donate food to people who don’t have enough money to always have the meals they need. You can find tips on age-appropriate ways to explain homelessness here. Then, brainstorm your own ideas together. This helps children feel invested in the random acts of kindness. When children see first hand that there are people who need our support, it helps them feel a greater sense of appreciation for what they have.
[P]eople who practice gratitude feel considerably happier (25 per cent) than those in a control group; they are more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, and determined.
– Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley
24 Prompts Random Acts of Kindness For Kids
- Brainstorm a way to show you’re thankful to a loved one.
- Donate toys to a charity.
- Sponsor a family. It’s best to do an online search to find out how to do this in your area.
- Find out what your local homeless shelter needs the most and do a drive for that item. For instance, a family friend went to our local shelter and found out that most of the homeless needed socks. She posted on social media, put a sign up at our church, and spoke to family and friends. She was able to donate garbage bags full of socks!
- Spend the day opening doors for strangers, students, or people at school.
- Donate food. Clear out your pantry or buy extra non-perishables at the grocery store.
- Write letters or draw pictures to send to family that live out of town.
- Donate time. Children over the age of 10 can work at soup kitchens, younger children can clean up litter in their neighborhood, rake a neighbor’s leaves or shovel snow.
- Make thank you pictures and give them to people they encounter throughout the day. Kids can draw pictures and write (or have an adult write ‘Thank you’). Then, when someone helps them when they’re out throughout the day, they can hand out their thank yous.
- Buy snacks and hand them out to homeless people you encounter from now on.
- Clean a sibling or parents’ room.
- Do something nice for a grandparent.
- Make healthy snacks for the class at school. Just check with dietary restrictions and school policy ahead of time.
- Make a gift for your teacher.
- Phone up a friend and tell them you’re making them dinner. During the day, make a meal with your kids that will be easy to reheat. Then drop it off at their house!
- Donate gently used books to a school, neighborhood library box or doctor’s office.
- Write/draw a thank you note for a loved one.
- Make everyone’s bed.
- Use some of your saved money to take a loved one out for hot chocolate or another treat.
- Make Healthy Holiday Fudge and hand it out to neighbors with homemade Holiday cards.
- Do something nice for a sibling or parent.
- Paint rocks with kind words and hide them around your neighborhood for others to find.
- Donate gently used clothing.
- Make a point of smiling at everyone you see today and wish them, “Happy Holidays” as you pass them.
This list is intended as a guideline only. Feel free to make adaptations as you see fit.
Wishing you and yours a joyous and happy holiday season filled with gratitude!