Young children can sometimes be so sweet that they bring a tear to your eye. But we also know they are emotionally immature and, for the most part, focused on their own needs. That's why it's so hard to get toddlers and preschoolers to collaborate on an art project, keep track of their things, and consider another kid's feelings. But that doesn't mean you should hold off on introducing good values, like honesty and generosity. In fact, experts say it's a smart move to start instilling positive character traits by the time a child is 2 or 3.
"Children who learn values at a young age are capable of handling anything life throws at them," says Wiley Rasbury, PhD, a pediatric psychologist based in Detroit. "The earlier you start, the more ingrained these qualities will become."
For toddlers and preschoolers, the key is to make the process of learning values into a fun game. A lecture about sharing and caring is bound to go in one ear and out the other. "But when you introduce teamwork and compassion in a playful, hands-on way, even little kids can take them to heart," says Jamie Miller, author of 10-Minute Life Lessons for Kids.
Don't expect your child to pick up these traits overnight. Teaching her to be compassionate and generous takes patience, positive reinforcement, and lots of practice. Wondering how to get started? We've broken down nine key virtues into little projects you can work on together.