We’re always looking for fun activities to do with the kids. We take them to the park, we go to indoor playgrounds, we browse toy stores. Sometimes we splurge and go to the zoo, an amusement park, or another big activity.
Entertaining kids is exhausting and sometimes costly; and while it’s worth it for their enjoyment and the experience, the satisfaction is usually short-lived.
One way to combat this is to shift the focus of your activities with your children. Instead of self-focused activities, get them involved in helping others with acts of kindness. I’ve learned over my years as a parent and a child-care professional that there are few things kids love more than making others happy.
Here are some ideas on easy and thoughtful acts of kindness for kids (and for you!) to help get you started.
Distribute Gift Cards
This is our favourite one. Sometimes when we go to our favourite coffee shop, we pick up a five-dollar gift card, and then I let the kids choose someone in the shop to give it to. I’m not a huge fan of paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru, because then it tends to create a chain of people who feel the pressure to pay for the person behind them. By giving a gift card, the pressure is removed, and the kids get to see the person they are giving it to.
Treat Retail Workers
On one of our coffee shop excursions, my son did not want to give the card to anyone in the shop. He held on to it until we reached the dollar store. He chose one of the customer service representatives at the dollar store and handed her the card as she was restocking a shelf. She was thrilled by the surprise.
Go On a Compliments Walk
Walk down the street with your kids, and give compliments to people as they pass by. Make sure your kids know this is an activity to do with an adult so you can run interference and ensure safety.
Write Thank-You Letters
Whether it is to businesses who have offered you great services, community helpers like police officers, firefighters, and crossing guards, or special people in your lives, writing letters of appreciation is always a fun activity. If your child writes clearly, let them write their own. If they aren’t there yet, let them dictate and decorate the back of the letter with a drawing. Take them on an adventure to the post office to send them.
Make Happy Thought Boxes
Get a simple box with a lid from the dollar store, either patterned or one they can decorate themselves. Write little notes of encouragement and put them one by one in the box. If you know the recipient, make the notes personal by listing things you like about that person. If you are gifting them to strangers, like residents of a retirement home, make them general affirmations, and positive quotes. If your child is old enough and has clear printing, they can help with the notes, or if they are too little, they can help fold them and put them in the box. You can include some candy in the box for an extra treat. When you gift the box, give instructions to take a note on days the recipient is feeling low and could use a boost.
Take Them Trick-or-Eating
When I was in university, too old to go door to door for candy, there was an organization called Trick-or-Eat that had students out in costumes collecting non-perishable foods door to door on Halloween night. Flyers were put out ahead of time to let the neighbourhood know we were coming. If your kids are older, have them do this instead of regular Trick-or-Treating on Halloween night. All the fun of Trick-or-Treating, but with a good cause (and psst, most houses will give them candy too.) If they are little, rather than substituting their Trick-or-Treating for candy, you can let your street or your neighbourhood know a different date you will be coming around, and then go door to door collecting for your local food bank in costume. Remember to bring a cart or stroller, those cans get heavy!
Make Care Packs for the Homeless
Contact your local organization that helps the homeless to find out the most needed items. Fill Ziploc bags with the items requested (usually hygiene products, snack bars, mitts, hats, etc.) and give them to the organization to distribute, or if you’re comfortable, hand them out yourselves.
Hand Out Single Flowers
This is a fun one to do with very small children especially. One afternoon, I took the toddlers in my care to buy a bouquet of flowers. We walked down our street and they went up to any neighbours who were outside, handing them each a single flower until we ran out of flowers.
Visit a Retirement Home
Arrange your visit ahead of time to make sure they are taking visitors, bring some games or just your listening ears, and go chat with some seniors.
Write Encouraging Notes and Put Them in Books
Write some positive affirmations on small notes and tuck them into books at the library or your local bookstore. Look for titles that suggest the reader could use a lift.
No matter what activity you choose, if it is done with kindness, it will be worthwhile and fun for you and your kids.