Small children have an innate sense of fairness. They know intimately what it’s like when something doesn’t feel fair to them, and they can clearly see when something isn’t fair for somebody else.
Use these ideas to help them turn their need for fairness into action that supports and helps others with acts of kindness.
Listen to Your Child
It’s likely your child is going to notice unsettling things in the world. They will see sick people, people experiencing homelessness, and even violence or hatred directed at other people. When they do, don’t try and change the subject. Listen to what they have to say, what they’re confused about, and what they wish was different.
Have the Conversations
Don’t shy away from discussing these hard things your child is noticing. Keep your conversations appropriate for your child’s age, but be willing to answer questions. Be willing to say you don’t know the answer, and be willing to search for more information.
Hear Your Child’s Solutions
Your child is full of compassion. They’ll come up with ideas for fixing the world’s problems. Not every solution will work — Maybe we should use a magic wand! — but some will. When your child offers a solution to help someone, hear their solution and keep the conversation going.
“A magic wand would be so great. When you wave the wand, what would change?” Let your child think through the helping process, and when a real solution is found, see if you can help facilitate it in some way.
Model Kind Behavior
It’s obvious, but we don’t always think about it. Our behavior has a direct impact on how our children will behave in similar situations.
If you are unkind online, mock strangers, or gossip, your children will pick up on it. On the other hand, if you thank a cashier, help your neighbor look for their lost dog, or donate to the food pantry, your child will want to do good too.
Pay Attention to Emotions
Help your child develop empathy for others, so they will want to help others. One way to do this is to teach them to put themselves in another person’s shoes. You can do this by paying attention to the emotions of others.
In a book or magazine, find a picture of a person and ask your child what emotion they’re feeling. Ask them to make up a story of why they’re feeling that way. It doesn’t matter if the story is wrong. The point is, you’re teaching your child to notice emotions and consider what might lead to those emotions. This will help your child be empathetic to others.
Be Kind to Your Child
This is an obvious tip, but parenting can be so tiring that it’s worth mentioning. If you’re overwhelmed, you’re not alone, and you’re not a bad parent. You just need a reminder that even when children are behaving in difficult ways, they need kindness.
Maria Montessori said, “Let us treat them [children], therefore, with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them.”
If we want our children to be kind and make a difference in the world, our kind treatment of them will go a long way.
12 Acts of Kindness to Do with Your Preschooler
When it comes to teaching your preschooler about kindness and making a difference in the world, think: short and quick! Your preschooler’s attention span is short, so don’t plan elaborate acts of kindness. Keep them simple and short, and your preschooler will get the satisfaction of helping others without losing interest.
As they get older, you can expand.
- Pick up Trash. This simple activity can be done anywhere at any time of year. Just glove up and keep an eye on what your child picks up.
- Shovel Snow. Be prepared to take over after your child tires out. Or better yet, bring a shovel for each of you. When your child loses interest, it’s okay if they play in the snow.
- Be a Friend. A simple way to make a huge difference in someone’s world is to be their friend. Practice sentences your child can say at preschool when they see someone who is lonely. “Want to play with me?” “Want to be my friend?”
- Show Gratitude. Point out community helpers, like the mail carrier, firefighters, and the librarian. Draw a picture or write a positive note to deliver.
- Feed the birds. Animals need love and support too!
- Visit an animal shelter. Many shelters let families spend time holding different animals.
- Donate food to the food pantry.
- Call, or safely visit, someone who is lonely. Faraway grandparents, and homebound seniors close at hand, love to hear from children.
- Make a sibling’s bed, set the table, take out the trash, etc.
- Participate in a walk for charity.
- Organize a donation drive among your neighbors and friends. Have your child help design and pass out flyers, assist with organizing donations when they come in, and go with you to drop off the donations.
- Make a crying baby smile, or play a game with a younger child. Know someone with a new baby? Offer to take the other kids off their hands, and have your preschooler come up with activities they can all play together.
At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we teach kindness, empathy, and service throughout our thematic units. To learn more about how we teach, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.