Now, more than ever, the world could use some empathy and kindness. And like most skills, empathy is best learned during childhood.
Social emotional learning (SEL) is often part of the curriculum in classrooms from a young age, but instilling empathy and kindness in children can be practiced at home, too. So even if your children are learning remotely this fall, there are plenty of easy, free ways to build empathy and practice kindness activities and compassion right at home.
Check out these kindness activities for kids to help build empathy and compassion with your family:
1. Set an example of kindness
It may seem straightforward, but this simple act can set a great foundation for a lifelong kindness. According to the early childhood development non-profit Zero to Three, babies as young as six months old use social referencing to gauge a situation, meaning they look to their parents to read their reaction. This means that parents play a pivotal role in helping their kids develop empathy and learn about their feelings.
Mirror the behaviors you want your children to pick up, like doing something kind for a neighbor, showing compassion with others. Encourage family-wide conversations about feelings, and create an open environment for your children to share.
2. Read books about feelings
If you caught our post about free reading websites for early literacy, you know that reading with your children can be incredibly beneficial for them. So why not get two benefits in one?
Reading stories together can help instill empathy in children. It also gives parents an opportunity to discuss what it means to be empathetic and compassionate, using the story you just read as the example.
If you’re looking for recommendations, Brightly has a list of 12 books that model empathy and compassion in young readers. You can also check out Scholastic’s list of books on feelings and emotions.
3. Practice gratitude
Practicing gratitude could be another way to foster empathy and kindness in the home. According to the University of California at Berkeley, adolescents who practice gratitude are “happier and more optimistic, have better social support, are more satisfied with their school, family, community, friends, and themselves, and give more emotional support to others.”
Parents can teach children how to become grateful through words, writing, and small gifts or acts of reciprocity. You can also spend mindful time together, help others, and learn about what matters most to your kids and your family, according to UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine.
However you choose to practice at home, we hope these kindness activities for kids are helpful in building empathy together. To explore more, head over to Red Nose Day in School to see our teaching empathy activities.