Kindness is a very important concept to teach and practice with your students. Before looking at three great activities to practice kindness, you should discuss what kindness looks and sounds like and why it is actually important. You can use the demonstrations below to help students of any age to visualize kindness in a concrete way.
Teach About Why Kindness Matters:
Toothpaste Out of the Tube Experiment:
Take a tube of toothpaste and have students take turns squeezing some of the toothpaste out into a bowl. After a bit, ask them to put the toothpaste from the bowl back into the tube. Students will look at you like you’re crazy! They will say it is impossible. Tell them the toothpaste is like our words, once they leave our mouths they can’t be put back. That’s why we need to be careful what kind of words we say to others.
Speaking to Apples:
This activity might seem crazy but I promise I have done it multiple times and it actually does work!
Take an apple and cut it in half. Place half the apple in an airtight, clear container like a mason jar. Place the other half of the apple in another airtight, clear container. Label the first jar “kind words” and label the second jar “Negative words”. Everyday the students will speak kind or unkind words to each apple. I usually will take one apple and pass it around the classroom. Students will take turns each saying one or two kind words to the kind word apple like: beautiful, sweet, lovely. Then we will pass around the negative words apple and students will speak a negative word to that apple like: stupid, ugly, dumb. After I pass the apple around then I place them on a high shelf. That way students can still see the apples but they can’t come up and mess the experiment up by speaking negative words to the kind word apple (You know you have a student or two who would try to do that!). After a few days you’ll start noticing that the negative word apple is turning more brown that the other apple. After about 2-3 weeks the difference will be amazing! The negative word apple actually rots and turns darker faster than the kind word apple. Discuss with students that if only words can cause this much change to an apple, what apple to a person?
Cotton balls or Sandpaper?
This is a great activity to do with younger students to model how kindness makes us feel. Show them some cotton balls and have them describe them. They might describe them as fluffy, soft, light. Cotton ball words are kind words. They make us feel good. Now, give the students some sandpaper and have them describe it. They might say it feel rough, pokey, hard, itchy. Sandpaper words don’t make us feel good. They are negative or unkind words. Next time a student is speaking negatively ask them if they are using cotton ball words or sandpaper words.
Now that students understand what kindness looks and sounds like and why it matters, you can get them practicing! Here are three activities to practice kindness in the classroom:
Kindness Countdown Chains
I originally used this idea to countdown the number of days until Christmas with my students. However, you can use a countdown chain to countdown to other event such as Spring break or the end of the year.
Print or write examples of kindness on a piece of paper. Leave several lines between each kindness example. Print or copy the piece of paper onto bright colored construction paper. When we did this at Christmas time I used red and green paper. Cut apart each kindness example so there is one kindness example on each strip of paper. Glue one strip of paper so it forms a circle. Stick another strip of paper inside the circle and glue that strip. Now you have two circles linked together. Continue adding however many strips you need to countdown to your event. If you are counting down to Christmas and begin Dec. 1 you will need 24 strips.
Fill A Bucket
Print off a paper bucket and have each student decorate one. They should write their name on the front of the bucket clearly. Talk about how kind words add drops into our inner buckets. They make us feel good, full, satisfied. When people say negative words to us they take drops out of our bucket. If we hear more negative words than we hear kind words in a day, eventually our bucket will be empty. We will feel sad, empty and negative. Have students practice filling up other peoples bucket by gluing notes onto a friends bucket. Some teachers even use real buckets and have students drop paper notes into real buckets in their classroom. There are several books you can read to help students understand the bucket concept.
Here’s another adorable way to incorporate kindness into your holiday celebrations. This example was shared on Instagram by polka.dots.please.
How to use a kindness tree: Set up an empty tree somewhere in your home or classroom. Place a box of some kind of decoration for the tree next to it. You could use ornaments at Christmas, hearts around Valentine’s day or apples if you’re doing a unit on apples in the Fall. Use it for any theme! Each time a student is caught doing something nice for someone else, they get to go put an ornament/decoration on the tree. I suggest not having them write their names on the decoration because that only creates competition and may make some students feel frustrated if they haven’t gotten any ornament yet.
Here’s another example from Kristina that could be used any time of year!
Check out these other posts for more classroom fun!