Promoting Gratitude in Kids: Random Acts of Kindness

Rachel Burt Photography

By Sarah Moore

Here in the northern hemisphere, many of us are hunkering down on colder days, upping the comfort food, and tentatively peeking out our windows for the first signs of winter. Hibernating sounds like a perfectly reasonable plan. (Good thinkin’, bears.) And with stores everywhere commercialising the upcoming holidays, many of our kiddos are starting to anticipate the fun things they hope to receive. We don’t blame them; shiny new gift ideas and not-so-subtle advertising are everywhere. The stores aren’t telling kids to feel gratitude for what they already have; they’re telling them to want more

It’s tricky for a parent who, for ethical, moral, or financial reasons just doesn’t want to dive headfirst into commercialism. We’re all just doing our part to protect the earth, right? Of course, many of us are fine with gifts, and that’s great. 

But I don’t know any parents who want their love to be measured by the number of boxes they deliver. 

Fortunately, there are some ways to counter the commercialism and bring the holidays back to a place of gratitude and a spirit of giving. The more we can participate in and model these things for our kids, the more they’ll internalise what’s really important to our families. Plus, genuine gratitude is scientifically proven to be good for people

Here are 27 gratitude-promoting random acts of kindness that work well during the holiday season and all year ’round. 

You can use an advent calendar or multi-compartment storage box and pick a random act of kindness each day. (Even a regular old shoebox or a cookie jar can work!) Every day, let your child pull a pre-written note from the container and see what good you get to do together. Here’s the thing, though: together is the key word. This isn’t a trick to get your kid to do chores (“Make your bed” won’t fly.) This should be beneficial and positive for both of you. 

27 Random Acts of Kindness to Promote Gratitude in Kids (and in Families!): 

  1. Leave a “just because” or holiday card for someone you don’t know – put it right in their mailbox! Make it an adventure. 
  2. Rake someone else’s yard together. 
  3. Use chalk to write a positive message or draw something festive on someone’s sidewalk. 
  4. Leave a penny next to a fountain for someone else’s wish. 
  5. Call or visit someone your child has been missing, or someone who’s been missing your child. 
  6. Take a can of cat or dog food, or a toy, to an animal shelter. 
  7. Give your child money to give to a cashier, to contribute to the purchase for the next person in line. (Or better, several people back to keep it anonymous). 
  8. Leave a chocolate on someone’s pillow in your home (it’s fine if you have one, too). 
  9. Make cards to deliver to a retirement home, then hand deliver them (can be two separate days). 
  10. Leave a note of joy and good cheer on someone’s car.  
  11. Find someone whose newspaper or package has been delivered to their sidewalk. Move it up to their doorstep. 
  12. Find some trash outside and throw it away. 
  13. Go somewhere and smile at everyone you see: count the smiles you get back! 
  14. Find or purchase a toy to donate.  
  15. Give a warm meal to someone who needs it. 
  16. Pick up sticks, leaves, or rocks from the sidewalk and move them somewhere safer. 
  17. Ask a stranger how his or her day is going. Listen sincerely to the answer. 
  18. Research charities together and let your child decide how he wants to support one. 
  19. Host a meal, snack, or tea time for a friend or neighbour. 
  20. Pay someone a sincere compliment. 
  21. Hold a door open for 10 people in a public place. 
  22. Buy an apple for someone at the grocery store. 
  23. Write a letter to your mail carrier and leave it in your mailbox.  
  24. Give away 10 hugs today. 
  25. Choose non-perishable food items to donate. 
  26. Tell someone you don’t normally tell that you love or really like them. 
  27. Sweep or shovel a neighbour’s driveway. 
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