Earlier this week, I posted a photo on Instagram and my Facebook page with our Acts of Kindness Christmas Countdown Jar, and WOW, the response has been tremendous! So much so that I decided to share more about it here for those who may be interested in doing a similar activity with their kids.
Each holiday season, I try really hard to find ways to not just teach my kids that the holidays are about more than just presents and the almighty Toys ‘R Us toy catalog, but also to have them actively participate in the spirit of the season by giving back.
Even though it’s soooo much easier to run to Target by myself at lunch to pick up gifts, I always have the kids come with me to select the presents that we buy for other children through various toy collections coordinated by the school, daycare, and afterschool program. I feel strongly that they need to put themselves in the shoes of someone less fortunate.
I remembered this post on my friend Jessica’s blog about her holiday giving tree, which I love, but I don’t really have the wall space to hang a big paper tree. And then the idea of the jar came to me.
We have a Christmas countdown calendar display that we usually hang up each year, but inevitably, we forget to update it…which kind of renders it useless, no? But what if I combined the holiday giving tree idea with a Christmas countdown calendar concept? One act of kindness for each day in December leading up to Christmas?
And so our Acts of Kindness Christmas Countdown Jar was born.
It’s not a terribly unique idea (I suspect other more crafty/DIY bloggers have done it much better), but it was quick and easy and, most importantly, I had all the materials on hand. And it took all of 15 minutes.
So I sat down on Tuesday night with my scrapbooking paper and an old Mason jar and started listing out acts of kindness (and not household chores that they should be expected to do) that both Buddy and Mimi could feasibly do on a given day. I admit this was a little tricky, given their age difference, their personalities (Mimi is a born helper), and the fact that Buddy is in third grade and Mimi in daycare.
In the end, here are our 24 acts of kindness:
- Give Raven lots of extra hugs and cuddles.
- Pay someone a compliment.
- Make someone smile.
- Hold the door open for someone.
- Sit next to someone new at lunch.
- Tell the principal that you like your teacher.
- Say thank you to your teachers.
- Help out your sibling with a chore or task.
- Clean your room without being asked.
- Tell a funny joke.
- Help make dinner.
- For one whole day, try to pick up three pieces of trash wherever you are.
- Say “Good morning!” to your teacher, principal, school workers and classmates.
- Read a book to someone.
- Let someone skip ahead of you in line.
- Call your grandparents just to say hi.
- Compliment a friend at school.
- Smile at every person you see for one whole day.
- Tell someone how much you love them.
- Make someone giggle.
- Help out a classmate.
- Draw a picture for someone.
- Say “hello” to someone you’ve never spoken to before.
- Give a hug to someone who looks sad or upset.
I wrote each one on a little piece of paper and put them in the jar, and each morning the kids take turns selecting one.
I realize some of these may not necessarily be appropriate for Mimi, like the ones involving school or reading, so I told her we’ll come up with alternate one for her on those days (like help a friend clean up at daycare). And if they select a school-related act of kindness on the weekend, then they can put it back and pick another.
I admit I was a little worried they’d rebel against the idea, but those kiddos have surprised me. In fact, after they search for our Elf on the Shelf, the next thing they do in the morning is race over to the Acts of Kindness jar.
Of course, since I’m not with them all day, I can’t bear witness to all their acts of kindness, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re telling the truth when they say they completed their act for the day.
And, either way, I hope the process will help my kids feel grateful for – rather than entitled to – what they have, while also thinking about the needs of others.
How do you teach your children the spirit of the season?