Summer break is a wonderful opportunity to foster kindness in our kids and demonstrate to them how we can share God’s love with others. In this article, Kristin Demery shares 30 acts of kindness to do with your kids this summer and shows us how, with a bit of intention and planning, acts of kindness can become a natural part of our routine.
Standing by the refrigerator, my youngest daughter peered up at the list tacked to the front.
Reading the items aloud, she ticked off the items one by one. “First, visit Minnesota’s largest candy store. Second, eat ice cream for breakfast. Next, have a sleepover with cousins. Then visit a pizza farm. Also, go to an amusement park. Participate in the library’s summer reading program. Have a backwards day….”
Then, toward the end of the list, she paused. “Do an act of kindness for someone else.”
Making my way to the kitchen, I leaned down and hugged her from behind.
“Hmm…what should we do for that one?” I mused.
Thinking for a minute, her face brightened. “Let’s do the cooler again!”
Happy with that decision, we decided to do it that day.
CULTIVATING SUMMER KINDNESS
We love creating a summer bucket list full of rainy day PJ parties and outdoor picnics. But, summer is also the perfect time to encourage acts of kindness. Often, the shift from the structure of the school year to the freedom of summer means there is more margin in our schedule. In turn, this means more opportunities to foster kindness.
However, that doesn’t mean cluttering the schedule with more obligations. Because the truth is that many acts of kindness can be done in places we already go to each day. In fact, they can even be done in our neighborhood or with the family members in our home. With a bit of intention, acts of kindness can become a natural part of our routine.
So, on the day we decided to “do the cooler again”—by which my daughter meant creating a cooler full of snacks and treats for delivery and postal workers—we began to carry it out after breakfast. First, we made a quick trip to the local dollar store. We loaded up our cart with salty snacks, sweet treats, bottles of water, and soda. Then, once home, we grabbed a small, square cooler and placed some of the items inside, along with ice packs. Finally, the girls made a sign to tape on the cooler’s lid that read, “USPS, Amazon, UPS, FedEx: Please take what you’d like. Thank you!”
The Joy of Giving
Afterwards, we placed the cooler outside the door. Then, we watched and waited. All day long, my children not-so-secretly looked for reasons to be near the door. They read books on the couch to watch out the window, ate lunch on the front porch, and played with chalk on the driveway.
Finally, when a postal worker arrived, they ran over, small faces pressed against the screen door.
“Make sure you take something! The Takis are good, but spicy,” one child said. Another nodded in agreement, even as she offered her own opinion. “I like the Charleston Chews the best.”
Later, as I served up tacos, we talked about the day’s events. When the doorbell rang yet again during dinner, my kids leaped out of their chairs to remind the newly-arrived delivery person that they should take something from the cooler. As they slid back into their seats, flushed with success, I couldn’t help but smile.
BRAINSTORMING ACTS OF KINDNESS
There’s no magical formula to deciding what’s best for your family. Maybe it’s picking up an extra pot of flowers at the greenhouse to share with someone else. Perhaps it’s pulling out art supplies so children can write letters to mail to grandparents. Maybe it’s inviting a new-to-town family over for dinner. Regardless, here are a few things to consider as you begin:
1. Brainstorm with your children
Often, when given a chance, our kids will often come up with surprising acts of kindness for others. For instance, my kids love walking the neighbor’s dog, painting rocks with kind messages to leave at the park or in unexpected places, or stashing a treat in the mailbox for the mail person.
2. Choose the acts of kindness that will work for your family
Maybe your children are small, or it’s hard to leave the house. If that’s the case, work on cultivating sibling kindness amongst your children or reaching out to neighbors. For example, if money is tight, choose to focus on free or inexpensive acts of kindness. Or, if your schedule is packed, be strategic in choosing only to do an act of kindness once a week or once a month.
3. Make a plan
Sure, random acts of kindness—such as paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru—are fun. But, just because you’ve planned something doesn’t diminish its value. In fact, you’re much more likely to accomplish acts of kindness when you write them down and schedule them into your calendar.
4. Post your list where everyone can see it and add their own ideas
If kids are a little older, it may even be helpful to assign a person to take the lead on one of the kind acts. Another idea would be to take turns being the one who chooses which act of kindness will be accomplished that day.
5. Invite others to join in on the fun
Sometimes, we can feel nervous about trying something new. So, asking a friend to help us host a gathering or meet us at a location to carry out a kind act can take the pressure off. And it can help keep us accountable to carry it out! Plus, if things don’t go as planned, a friend will encourage us to keep trying.
6. Remember that cultivating kindness takes time
Over the years, I’ve experienced plenty of tantrums and meltdowns from kids who didn’t feel like participating or were overtaken by the exhaustion of a missed nap. That’s okay—we’re in this for the long haul. Rest and recover, then try again another day.
REMEMBER THE WHY
Acts of kindness are meaningful for the recipients. But they’re also meaningful for our families. Over time, it’s possible to see a change in our children’s faith, empathy, and love for others as their self-centered, me-first attitude diminishes.
Best of all, acts of kindness make our faith tangible to children. As a matter of fact, each time we put our faith into action by choosing to be kind to someone else, our actions demonstrate how we are called and equipped to love God and love others.
This summer, let’s make it our goal to reach out to others in love through acts of kindness.
30 ACTS OF KINDNESS FOR KIDS
- Host a lemonade stand and donate the earnings.
- Offer to mow the lawn or wash the car for someone who may need a little extra help.
- Do a chore for a sibling or parent without being asked.
- Give cold bottles of water to homeless people or those working outside.
- Volunteer to clean up a local park or your neighborhood.
- Go berry picking and share the berries with someone else.
- Gather stray shopping carts in the parking lot and put them in the cart corral.
- As a family, pack meals for an organization like Feed My Starving Children (typically, those places have fewer volunteers during the summer).
- Host a garage sale for charity.
- Volunteer at a nursing home—play games or do activities with residents.
- Invite someone new to the area to a free outside concert, art fair, or community event.
- Pay for someone else’s treat from the ice cream truck.
- Volunteer to pet-sit for someone taking a vacation.
- Put change in parking meters.
- Walk in a parade on behalf of a non-profit and hand out candy or flyers.
- Give a compliment to a stranger.
- Buy or plant a pretty flower for someone who needs a little extra joy.
- Use sidewalk chalk to write nice messages around the neighborhood.
- Cut fresh flowers or vegetables from the garden and share them with neighbors, nursing homes, or food shelves.
- Leave a homemade bookmark in a library book.
- Bake cookies and share them with a neighbor.
- Sort through toys and donate unused ones to a church or younger friends.
- Thank construction workers.
- Be a volunteer reader at your library’s summer reading program.
- Drop off treats or thank you cards for police officers or hospital workers.
- Volunteer to walk animals at a local humane society.
- Hand out freezies at a splash pad.
- Invite someone over to your house for dinner.
- Write an encouraging note to a friend.
- Share books you no longer read with others via a Little Free Library.
What are your favorite acts of kindness to do with your kids? Is there anything you would add to Kristin’s list? Share them with us in the comments!
30 ACTS OF KINDNESS FOR KIDS PRINTABLE
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