Kindness is similar to a muscle. For some it may be innately stronger, but every person can develop their kindness muscle with practice. And similar to empathy, practicing kindness can be simple if we build it into our routine. If you are tired of nagging your child to do the right thing, try something new. As with most things, the best way to teach kids is to make the lesson fun. So, skip the lecture! Instead, add these super-fun ways to teach honesty, compassion, patience, and more to your parenting playbook. You’ll notice that some of these games are ones you probably grew up playing, with a little kindness twist.
Instructions to play: Draw a series of unhappy emoji-style faces on large squares of paper. Choose expressions such as sad, angry, scared, sick and so on (you can also write the emotion on the paper – if your child is a reader). Fold the papers and place them in a basket or tub. Each child will take turns choosing a face and then acting out the feeling shown on the paper. It will be the job of the other players to help them “feel better.” As an example, an “angry” child might stomp on the ground. The other players should ask questions like “Why are you angry? How can I help?” The “angry child can then give an explanation and the other players can offer a role-played solution. Perhaps give them a hug or fix them a pretend snack. It is best to have a variety of props on hand for this imagination game. Things like pretend food, dolls, bandages, and other things that might be used to cheer up an upset friend.
The kindness link: This game encourages empathy. Children need to know how it feels to have their feelings hurt. Then they will understand why it’s important to treat others with respect and kindness.
Hot and Cold Game
Instructions to play: This is similar to the game that you probably grew up playing. One child will act as the “seeker.” The seeker will go out of the room while the rest of the players hide an object somewhere in the room. The seeker will return and look for the ball, while the other players provide hints like “you’re getting hotter” or “you’re getting colder.” Play continues until the object is found and then another child will play the role as the seeker. Be sure the players understand that the goal is to help the seeker find the object.
The kindness link: This game teaches cooperation and puts the importance on helping the other players, rather than competing against them.
Instructions to play: The fallback road trip game can also teach kindness! In this game players take turns spotting nearby objects and describing them: “I spy with my little eye something that is green….” The other players try to guess what the object is: “A tree!” “Dad’s shirt!” Whoever guesses right gets to be the next “spy.”
The kindness link: This game teaches preschoolers to be patient with one another. Kids must listen politely while other players have their turn, which helps to drive emphasizes this lesson.
“Mother, May I?”
Instructions to play: This playground classic is perfect for encouraging respectfulness. Players will line up facing an adult. The grown-up will give commands to each of the children, one at a time: “Kevin, take three steps forward.” If Kevin responds, “Mother, may I?” the adult can say either “Yes, you may” or “No, you may not.” If the reply is “yes,” make sure that Kevin says “Thank you” before he goes. Anyone who forgets their manners or makes a move without permission is sent back to the starting line. Keep playing until one child reaches “Mother”. Give each player a chance to be Mother. Be sure to explain the rules clearly before play begins.
The kindness link: Children need to be taught how to be respectful. This game reinforces courtesy, a big potion of respect.
Tell the Truth
Instructions to play: This game is best played together as a family. Everyone can gather in a favorite spot, like the living room floor. Each player will take turns finishing the sentence: “I was scared when…” Mommy and Daddy can start by telling their own stories. After everyone’s had a turn, repeat this using another emotion like “happy” or “sad”. Use your children’s stories as a catalyst for further discussions: “Do you still think thunder is scary? What helps you feel brave?”
The kindness link: When you give kids the permission to talk about their feelings (positive or negative) you help them feel safe to tell the truth. Honesty is a value best learned from watching and listening to your parents.
Going on a roadtrip? Need a little “me” time? There are also a multitude of downloadable video games that were made with the intent of instilling kindness and compassion in kids. Common Sense Media has a great list of such games, sorted by age group.
Encouraging kindness is just one of the many ways we at Tender Years, prepare your child for, not only school, but life. Our ACE Customized Curriculum focuses on five essential areas for present and future success: Social, Emotional, Creative, Cognitive, and Physical.