Today while walking through a local shopping center, a complete stranger stopped me. “Your girls are beautiful. And you. You look so tired, but you’re doing a great job.”
“Oh, I am very tired,” I exhaled as I thought about how two kids in the store while pregnant was about to do me in. For 5 to 10 minutes, we chatted about everything from pregnancy to our local community. And in that time my girls picked apart the basket of flowers I had sitting in the back of the cart.
But before leaving, these sweet little souls that have such a small circle of trust and won’t say hi to an-y-one gave her a flower from the destroyed plant I was buying and said bye-bye with waves… and even started blowing kisses.
They learned from the situation whether it be the woman stopping to talk to me or me responding to her that kindness is even in the small details of life.
And those moments filled my parenting cup, it made her day, and my kids learned a valuable lesson from a stranger. But most of all it was just small gestures and bits of intentional parenting that made all the difference for all of us.
5 Simple ways to inspire kindness and gratitude toward others in our children
Giving to others can be so rewarding and fulfilling for your child and is actually a great way to show gratitude. Once they start helping others and surprising them with little treats, they develop more of a heart of thanksgiving for the things they have and the opportunities they can take to make someone’s day even just a bit better.
Find 25 great random acts of kindness toddlers can participate in.
It can be as simple as having a friend over to play who might be experiencing a difficult family situation like divorce or a sick parent. What makes it even better is when it’s unexpected and the recipient is completely surprised. And hopefully, by doing these kind deeds, it will inspire their friends to do them as well.
It’s a chain of good deeds. The desire to pay it forward is so innate in us and when we involve our kids, there is such a powerful effect.
Draw a picture and send it to someone in the mail.
What a wonderful surprise to receive in your mailbox! Is there someone in your neighborhood, church or at your child’s school who could use a little cheering up? Get your child to draw a special picture for them and write a kind note to go with it. Then drop it in the mail. Your child will feel great knowing that their special gift is on its way.
Find more ways to inspire kindness and selflessness in kids in this post & podcast episode.
Bury treasure at the playground.
A small plastic storage container filled with little toys or goodies is sure to light up a child’s eyes sometime in the future when they discover it. Take your child to a discount store to find inexpensive toys and trinkets that they can bury.
Your child will love thinking about who will discover the buried treasure they left behind and you can talk about how thankful they would be to find such an awesome gift from a stranger!
Offer to help tend to the needs of an elderly neighbor
If you see a tree full of fruit and know your neighbor can’t attend to it, let your child pick it for them. Or if they’re gardeners, have your child offer to help tend their garden alongside them. It’s time well spent for both. It could be indoors as well, but anything that allows your child to get hands-on experience with elderly neighbors is a blessing.
There is so much to be learned across generations and so much our kids can do to truly pour into the cups of those around them just by being present.
In fact, our kids have so much knowledge that can be shared with the elderly in terms of technology, and the stories from decades and years before provide so much wisdom and value to enrich our kids’ lives.
Read more from my friend Rachel about how kids and the elderly are good for one another.
Visit a retirement home.
Similar to the previous point, take your kids for a day visit to a retirement or nursing home.
The residents usually don’t get many visitors and spending time with kids cheers them up. Let your kids read stories or play games with the residents.
They may even like to do simple craft projects with them. On your way, stop by and pick up some supplies, a puzzle, and even some crossword-style books.
Sponsor a child, especially an orphan.
Your monthly contribution can cover much needed medical attention, healthy food, and more. You can also send and receive letters from the child you sponsor, which makes the experience much more real for children and adults alike.
Find out how you can sponsor an orphan.
After my husband visited an orphanage in Eastern India, it opened our eyes even more to the kids that literally don’t have anything, even family. And this is a great conversation starter to have with your kids as a family.
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!