Whether you have a few minutes or a few hours, you can start becoming a kinder family with these ideas for helping strangers, practicing mindfulness, and supporting your community.

By Megan Braden-Perry
October 07, 2020
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Priscilla Gragg

Move over TikTok, and enter the Family Kindness Challenge. The name of the game? Make your crew more caring today by tackling these 15 easy things as a family.

1. Make a chart. 

Research shows that tracking kindness helps you keep it up. FYI, your “chart” needn’t be fancy. Hang a piece of paper on the fridge, then have your kids put a sticker beside their name for every good deed they do. 

2. Talk about what Corduroy the bear might be feeling. 

In one study, kids were asked to discuss the emotions of characters in books, while another group just illustrated the story. Two months later, the former group had a stronger sense of empathy. 

3. Give secret mini donations. 

Have your child put quarters in a vending machine’s coin return or come with you to a store’s layaway counter to put money toward someone’s bill. Research has shown that seeing others give can be contagious. 

4. Ask your kid to go the extra mile (or a few extra feet). 

Have your kid trek to the end of the driveway to spare the mail carrier the hike. 

5. While you’re at it, send a little snail mail. 

Give your kid some postcards, stamps, pens, spelling advice, and free rein to make a few peoples’ days with a card. 

6. Try a meditation exercise. 

“Compassion meditation” boosts empathy. Ask your family to think, eyes closed, about times they’ve struggled and imagine offering themselves kindness. Have them repeat the visualization imagining people in their lives and what they might be feeling, and offering them kindness too. This helps us relate our troubles to those of others. Or try the three-minute loving-kindness session on the meditation app MyLife.

7. Leave an anonymous nice message. 

Next time you return a library book, tuck a note between the pages. What should it say, you ask? Anything from “Have a great day” to “I hope you’re loving this book as much as I did.” 

8. Study a new language together.

Research shows that kids exposed to multiple languages can better grasp others’ perspectives. So say bonjour, konnichiwa, or hujambo to your Duolingo app. 

9. Step in mid-meltdown.

If you see a kid having a public freak-out, offer them a wave or a joke—any distraction—and ask the frazzled mom if you can shop for her while she sees to her child. 

10. Spot someone taking a selfie in front of a local attraction? Ask if you can snap it for them. 

Or if someone looks lost, offer directions. They may seem small, but these tiny kindnesses are rarer than you might think. 

11. Take in a pet. 

Studies show that having a pet increases empathy. 

12. Assemble a care package. 

During the pandemic, Girl Scout Troop 3743, of Ladera Ranch, California, made self-care bags of bath bombs, candles, and more for health professionals. Perhaps your troop could create a soothing bundle for your local heroes, like teachers or your neighborhood delivery drivers. 

13. Set up a free-lunch table. 

In April, a woman in Severna Park, Maryland, began leaving bagged lunches on a folding table at a busy intersection anonymously, with a sign saying the free meals would arrive each day at 11 a.m. If you can make a few peanut-butter sandwiches and drag a card table out of the attic, you’re well on your way. 

14. Ask your child about “extras.” 

Do they own unread books or forgotten toys? Explain that some kids don’t have enough of either, and see if your child will help by parting with a few of theirs. Studies show that kids are likelier to help those in need if they understand what others are experiencing. “This challenge is best for kids over age 5, who better grasp that not everyone has as much as they do,” says psychologist Dawn Huebner, Ph.D., author of What to Do When You Worry Too Much

15. Explore the wide world of wish lists. 

You likely know that Amazon lets you make lists of must-haves for your next birthday or a baby shower, but one of our favorite ways to use the feature is to donate to children’s hospitals and animal shelters all over the country. Many maintain lists of needed items, from loveys and educational toys for hospitals to kibble and chew toys for rescues. Make deciding how to divvy funds a fun family activity. (Just google “Amazon wish list children’s hospitals” or “Amazon wish list animal shelter” to find places in need.) 

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's November 2020 issue as “The Family Kindness Challenge.” Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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