We all can think back to elementary school and remember a time when a classmate or friend was unkind. Times like this often stick with us—and they can negatively impact young learners. Fostering and encouraging kindness at a young age is key to building compassionate, happy, and positive kids. Instilling these behaviors at a young age will also help build future generations that are respectful, embrace diversity, and stand up for justice. This list of kindness activities for kids provides easy ideas to help foster this important characteristic in your pre-K or elementary classroom. You’re sure to find an activity your students will love while having a positive impact on their actions.
Our friends at HEART have even more kindness activities for kids, including activities that draw on their love for animals as a foundation for building empathy. Their free Kindness for All lessons provide ready-to-go ideas and printable activities.
1. Talk openly about feelings.
Developing emotional vocabulary is essential to young learners. Having this understanding will get kids on their way to expressing and feeling their emotions in a healthy way. Help kids understand different types of emotions by asking them to use facial expressions and body language that describe different feelings. Get the full activity on page 5 of Kindness for All.
2. Give examples of kind actions to take.
As you work through the Kindness for All lessons, note some kind actions to take that can be on display as examples. What kind actions can you take in the classroom? At home? When interacting with pets? When interacting with wildlife and nature? Then, hang up the poster in your classroom. Download this FREE poster to fill out with your class!
3. Spread kindness using clothespins.
Brainstorm kind words and compliments as a class. Then, they can be written on clothespins and placed throughout the school, on backpacks, on teachers’ desks, and anywhere to spread kind words! It’ll be such a sweet surprise.
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4. Use scenarios to talk about feelings.
Using example scenarios is a great way to invite students into the conversation. With “How Would You Feel?” scenario cards, students will better understand the emotions of others, encouraging them to interact with kindness. Get these scenario cards on page 12 of Kindness for All.
5. Send home “Caught Being Kind” notes.
Promote kindness in the classroom by acknowledging when it happens! This note can be filled out quickly and has such a big impact on students. They’ll be proud to take the note home and encouraged to continue kind behavior.
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6. Teach the difference between helpful and unhelpful actions explicitly.
Read through scenarios to decide if the action that was chosen was a positive, kind choice. Then, map out the helpful vs. unhelpful actions on an anchor chart. Help define these behaviors and get sample scenarios of helpful and unhelpful actions on page 67 of Kindness for All.
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7. Employ tactics for keeping calm.
Sometimes the most unkind behaviors surface when kids struggle to stay calm. Bring in easy ways that students can respectfully and kindly manage their emotions. Get a full set of calmness choice cards for your students on page 13 of Kindness for All.
8. Recognize and respect our differences.
As students grow, recognizing and respecting the differences of others is a key to kindness. Talk about similarities and differences by asking students to look at one another’s hands. They may note different lines or shapes, different games or activities they like to play with their hands, or use this as an opportunity to talk about skin color. Get questions and activities to guide this conversation on page 16 of Kindness for All.
9. Make a kindness paper chain.
Hand out strips of paper to students where they can write down ideas on how to be kind to others, the environment, or animals. The class can share why they chose these ideas and then form them into a paper chain to display as a reminder. This is one of our favorite kindness activities for kids to use in the classroom! Get full instructions on this activity on page 71 of Kindness for All.
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10. Use the power of stories.
Sharing stories has such an impact on young students. Ask them to talk about a time they felt left out or when someone was being unkind, or use a read-aloud book. Then, discuss ways the situation could have gone differently using kind actions. Additionally, use the ready-to-go stories on page 20 of Kindness for All to learn about being kind and respectful to different individuals.
11. Take a kindness oath.
Students can independently create an oath for themselves by writing out things they will strive to do in order to be kind. The class can also create a kindness pledge, listing out items each student will do to have a kind classroom.
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12. Sing about different emotions.
Normalize feelings at home or in the classroom with songs! Songs that openly discuss different emotions show kids that everyone goes through waves of feelings. Take this opportunity to discuss ways that these feelings can be displayed while remaining kind. Get this song on page 11 of Kindness for All.
13. Think about what makes each of us unique.
Having students recognize their own uniqueness will make them more understanding of others’ differences. Recognizing how they may be different will lead to treating others with kindness as they see each individual’s unique characteristics. Get a take-home worksheet where students can work with their loved ones to talk about their unique cultures and traditions on page 22 of Kindness for All.
14. Brainstorm ideas for being kind.
Give students stories or scenarios and allow them to decide what type of action they should take to be kind to that person. Letting students give their own answers and make their own decisions in these scenarios is a great way to check for understanding. Then, make these ideas into a bulletin board for the classroom. Get “Kindness in Action” scenarios on page 81 of Kindness for All.
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15. Understand positive behavior through the feelings of animals.
Help students understand prosocial behaviors—behaviors that are voluntary actions intended to help others. Using students’ connections to and passion for animals as an example, discuss safe ways to approach animals and positive behavior around them to promote kind actions. Guide this discussion using the lesson beginning on page 24 of Kindness for All, which includes animal photos and discussion questions.
16. Learn about needs.
Grasping needs is important to being compassionate. Use the needs of animals as a simple way to talk about what is necessary to be happy, healthy, and safe. Students can use provided cards to compare the needs of animals and humans, recognizing that both need our compassion and care. Get the “Understanding Needs” matching cards on page 44 of Kindness for All.
17. Make a collage to represent helpful behavior.
Place pictures or papers with actions written on them around the room for students to collect and put into two piles—one representing kind and helpful actions and the other representing unkind actions. As a class, discuss why each was put into that pile and use the kind behaviors to make a classroom display. Download “Helpful” and “Not Helpful” photo cards to print on page 72 of Kindness for All.
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18. Learn to respect wildlife.
Help students show respect for the natural world while keeping in mind ways to be kind through actions that benefit the environment. Use the animal and environment images on the Respecting Wildlife Cards on page 59 of Kindness for All to start a discussion.
19. Create kindness challenges to work toward.
As a class, decide on ways you can be kind to classmates, teachers, friends, and more as a daily or weekly challenge. By choosing one action to focus on, students can really notice the difference being kind to others can truly make. Read more on page 71 of Kindness for All.
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Looking for more kindness activities for kids? Get even more free resources and tool kits from HEART to bring kindness into your classroom.