Teaching Kids to Be Kind

Our readers' best ideas for encouraging their children to be kind

Black cat under yellow umbrella, colorful rain drops Illustration by Orlando Hoetzel
Make a Day of It

Every so often, our family has a day of kindness: we leave coloring books and crayons at the pediatric ER waiting room, take drawings to an assisted-living facility, hand out bubble jars at the playground, take cookies to the police and fire stations, and leave dollars taped to shelves at the dollar store.

Jennifer Drzik
Bel Air, MD

    Pay It Forward

    After school on Fridays, the kids and I go to a drive-through restaurant and pay for the car behind us.

    Lisa Shadyac Afshar
    Palm City, FL

      Study the Subject

      We read books that teach compassion, such as The Kindness Quilt, by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. They're a great way to open up a conversation on the subject.

      Patricia McIntyre
      Abington, MA

        Give as You Grow

        My 12-year-old daughter and I raise vegetables -- turnips, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and corn -- and take the extras to the local food bank. (I had hoped it would also make her more willing to eat her veggies, but now she's prone to ask if we can just deliver them to the food bank!)

        Lilli Leong
        New Braunfels, TX

          Support Kids' Kind Efforts

          My boys have a baby cousin with cystic fibrosis. Each year we set up a lemonade stand to raise money for cystic fibrosis research. The boys make the signs, bake the cookies, and serve the guests. By doing the work themselves, they learn that little kids can do big things.

          Gina Bell
          Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

            Pencil in Family Service Time

            We do a service project every month. The projects range from reading to hospice patients to handing out flowers to strangers. My children come up with many of the ideas on their own. Last Valentine's Day, for example, my son wanted to make a valentine for every resident of the local nursing home! It took forever, but he was worried that some residents would be sad if they didn't get one. We're still finding leftover glitter.

            Lauralynn McEndree
            Argyle, MN

              Practice on Pets

              I use our dogs to teach my young daughter, Evie, about kindness. She helps feed them, and we talk about how important it is to take care of pets -- and people -- who need us.

              Danielle Bupp-Petersheim
              Mount Wolf, PA

                Wrap it Up

                We assemble kindness packages that we keep in our car to share with people who are homeless. Some of the items included are: water, granola bars, crackers, fruit snacks, and a McDonald's gift card.

                Suzy Martyn
                Cypress, CA

                  Show Others You Care

                  During the holidays, my daughter and I take roses to a nearby nursing home and give them to patients who don't have visitors, so they know someone is thinking of them.

                  Nadja Cruz
                  Cape Coral, FL

                    Share Positive Examples

                    As the Cub Scout leader for my son's den, I start our meetings by having every kid tell the group what he did for someone that week. Then we all applaud each act of kindness.

                    Hillary Yarmowich
                    Atlanta, GA

                      Teach Them How to Donate

                      As a family, we've always participated in Operation Christmas Child, shopping for toys and gifts to fill shoe boxes for kids in need. After Hurricane Katrina, my daughter (who was 5 at the time) decided to fill a box -- her own idea -- with clothes and toys for the kids in New Orleans. I knew right then that our involvement with the charity had taught her about kindness and giving to others.

                      Alana Hudson Greene
                      Buford, GA