Child giving a teddy a present

Teaching children kindness

This weekend (Saturday 17 Feb) people around the world marked Random Acts of Kindness Day (RAKD).

This annual event began in New Zealand several years ago and has been growing in popularity around world over ever since.

The idea is that you offer something of yourself spontaneously, whether it’s merely smiling at a passer-by in the street, giving a stranger a flower or paying for the coffee of an older person sitting alone at the next table — a kind act to make someone's day.

And many people like to extend the challenge by carrying out a random of act of kindness every day for a year or indeed, for their entire lives.

So what can it teach your child?

It’s a great opportunity to teach your child about politeness, courtesy, empathy and selflessness because you don’t expect anything in return.

The RAKF has commissioned several surveys into the impact of kindness and found that teaching it in early years and school settings can make a difference to children’s attitudes and approaches to others.

The research found that children were better behaved and more disciplined when they considered the feelings of others and were more inclusive in their play and interactions.

Relationships between them and their minders and teachers were also better. This is because how they felt about themselves influenced their feelings towards others.

Free and fun family time

Talking about kindness and thinking of ways to be kind to others is a great opportunity to do something together with your child.

It might be checking in on a neighbour you haven’t seen for a while, making something for a friend — or even doing something nice for a sibling for no reason!

It doesn’t have to cost anything or take up a lot of time, either. It can mean giving a hug to someone who needs cheering up, giving up your seat on the bus or train, or letting someone in front of you in the supermarket queue.

Being pleasant and kind to others not only puts a smile on their face, but makes you feel good about yourself — all good lessons to teach your child!

Creative ways for kindness

Here are a few tips on how RAKD can give you and your little one that lovely warm feeling:

  • At the park or soft play area, ask the child who is on their own if they would like to play with you
  • Chat to the parent who is with the child. They might welcome someone to talk to and the distraction of their everyday problems
  • Smile at passers-by in the street and greet them with a ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’
  • Hold open doors for people, especially if they’re struggling with buggies or heavy shopping
  • Surprise a friend or relative with a hand-written card or letter asking how they are
  • When heading to the shops, ask a neighbour if they need anything to save them having to go out
  • Make more effort with the child who finds it hard to make friends. A play-date or invitation to the park will brighten theirs and their parents’ day
  • Talk to your child about RAKD. Praise them for the kind things they did and explain how they made someone else’s day a little bit better. See if they can think of ways others were kind to them and ask how it made them feel.

Get more inspiring ideas for kindness

Follow the Random Act of Kindness Facebook page

Written by Dorothy Lepkowsa for the Pre-school Learning Alliance

Where next?

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6 ways to help your child develop a 'growth mindset'.

10 ways to turn your child onto learning

Raising a 'green' family