4 Activities to Embrace Kindness in Elementary School

Strategies for PreK-5 Educators to Participate in the Great Kindness Challenge

Children are an intuitively kind, empathetic, and compassionate group of people. But they don’t always know what to do with that compassion — how to hone in on it and how to make it a tangible, productive action — and how to articulate it. If your school is participating in The Great Kindness Challenge this coming January, (if you’re not, what are you waiting for? Go sign up!) then you might be looking for some activities to help your elementary school kids focus on being kind, and to make purposeful, deliberate decisions to act on kindness throughout the week — maybe even by going beyond the activity list that is provided when you sign up for the challenge. The challenge is also about understanding kindness: thinking and talking about why acts of kindness are important, like how they affect other people, and how they have the potential to change the world. That’s a lot for a six or eight-year-old to consider. But with such good hearts and open minds, kids are truly the most receptive (and maybe the most insightful!) people when it comes to talking about compassion. When you frame these discussions and random acts of kindness in their language — crafts, games, picture books, and more — you’re sure to have an impactful and memorable experience. Check out these activities to get your school’s Great Kindness Challenge off to a great start!

  1. Read!

Integrate kindness into your literacy curriculum. Whether it’s picture books for a group read aloud or individual silent reading with chapter books, reading is one of the most effective ways to reinforce and expand upon children’s natural tendency for compassion. Reading can open their hearts to new perspectives and experiences, and serve as an excellent practice in empathy. As our world becomes more globally connected, young learners will have moments in their lives where they will be forced to consider an individual’s position — a stranger’s identity, experiences, and even pain — that stands completely different from that of their own. It’s never too early to practice empathy and perspective taking, and reading is an excellent way to engage in and discuss the importance of compassion. You could try selecting books about friendship and bullying, or about oppression and hardship. Whatever your selection, group discussion or writing reflection about how the characters in the stories either displayed or received kindness is key to fully understanding the weight behind the reading.

2. Arts, Crafts, and Decorations

A huge part of The Great Kindness Challenge is the celebration factor: this has the potential to be a full-blown event in your district, and to really give a solid boost to your school climate and morale. Involving kids in crafts gives them the opportunity to deck the halls with their kindness, and celebrate the movement. From ‘acts of kindness’ paper chains to postcards, any craft that can be displayed or shared (think door decorating!) is a great way to celebrate the importance of compassion. Check out our Pinterest Board for more crafty kindness inspiration!

3. Community Service

If you have the opportunity to send your students out into the world to spread their compassion, then go for it! But this can be hard with little ones. So if that’s not an option, then focus on community service practice within the school as a mini-community. Remind kids to pick up trash, hold the door for each other, and share resources in classroom and toys at recess. The Great Kindness Challenge can really serve as an opportunity to establish your school as a supportive community of learners rather than just a building: use the challenge to teach and practice communal responsibility, and what it means to be a part of a group.

4. Group Events and Assemblies

For schools that want to go all-out with The Great Kindness Challenge, either using a school-wide event as a kickoff or as a wrap-up can be a great way to get kids excited about kindness and boost participation. If you place the event at the end, it can be used as an incentive for participating: offer your students a pizza party or movie-on-the-projector day if they reach a certain objective with the Great Kindness Challenge checklist. And if you truly want to go all-out, make it a community event! Invite parents to an assembly where kids can present the changes that they’ve made and the kinds of activities they’ve participated in over the course of the challenge.

Tip from an Educator:

“One of the things we did last year was get the community involved. We set up buckets, and colored strips of paper, at some local businesses. Customers wrote an act of kindness they performed, or promised to do, on a strip of paper. After 30 days, the buckets were collected, and we made a giant kindness chain that is now hanging in our room.”

— Linda Bryant, BCIU Hamburg School Age Learning Center, Hamburg, PA

Don’t forget to download the official Great Kindness Challenge FREE app to provide your students with easy access to the kindness activity checklist, and to take advantage of a great opportunity to use technology in the classroom:

For more ideas to make the most of your schools’ experience with The Great Kindness Challenge, check out our Pinterest Board, Kindness in the Classroom.

And if you STILL haven’t signed up for the Great Kindness Challenge, you can do so here! Remember: participating in the Challenge doesn’t have to mean doing all of the above. It can be as simple as downloading, distributing, and completing the checklist: whatever your school time and resources allow!

Last week, we hosted a Great Kindness Challenge webinar with Jill McManigal, the Co-founder and Executive Director of Kids for Peace, and Karina Y. Vega, a K-12 counselor with the Office of Child Welfare & Attendance with Coachella Valley Unified, who has implemented a district-wide Great Kindness Challenge with 21 K-12 schools. Find the full recorded webinar here:

BONUS! New free resources from the Great Kindness Challenge team below!