Family, Kids & Relationships

How Performing Acts of Kindness Can Benefit Our Kids—Plus 11 Great Ideas To Get Them Started

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Teaching kids about the importance of being kind is one thing, reaping the benefits of performing acts of kindness long after they’re done is another. Research has shown us there are multiple perks our children can get when they perform, or even just witness, altruistic acts, and that some of those positive influences continue long after the moment has passed.

Kindness boosts mood

Plenty of research has found that showing kindness—whether to ourselves, a loved one, or a stranger—can boost happiness, and the more random acts of kindness you perform, the happier you are, according to at least one study. In fact, even simply witnessing kindness around us has been shown to enhance mood. Now even more recent research has found that it’s not just the act of being kind that has benefits, simply recalling the past acts later is enough to boost well-being, too. 

Kindness builds health

The benefits go beyond mental health—kindness is good for our physical health, too. Kind acts, such as spending money on others, are proven to reduce blood pressure. Those who volunteer report having fewer aches and pains (perhaps thanks to the so-called “helper’s high,” when our brains release endorphins in response to performing a kind act, which results in a pleasant feeling of euphoria), experience less depression, and even live longer.

Kindness helps social/emotional development

Altruism makes kids feel connected to others, and reinforces concepts like empathy and compassion. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside and the University of British Columbia, Vancouver discovered that performing three kind acts per week over four weeks was enough to boost popularity in classrooms of 9- to 11-year olds. As the study authors point out, at this age “Increasing peer acceptance is a critical goal, as it is related to a variety of important academic and social outcomes, including reduced likelihood of being bullied.”

Kindness improves academic performance

According to the Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley, “High-quality service learning programs, where students complement their classroom learning with real-world community service, improve academic performance and make students feel more connected to their school.” Furthermore, promoting cooperative learning at school, where students must work together in groups, helps foster positive student relationships and a happier learning environment.

In honor of Random Acts of Kindness Week, which starts on February 16th this year, and in pursuit of raising good, thoughtful human beings—not to mention taking advantage of the benefits listed above—there’s never been a better time to encourage kindness, and create more memories of kindness to draw on later.

Here’s a look at 11 simple acts of kindness appropriate for kids of all ages—because there’s never a better time to start than right now.

  1. Hold the door open for someone.
  2. Volunteer to clear the table after dinner, pick up toys—any chore completed without being asked is a win.
  3. Leave a few coins behind in a vending machine for the next person.
  4. Corral the grocery carts scattered throughout the parking lot of your favorite grocer.
  5. Rake a neighbor’s leaves or shovel their driveway.
  6. Make a get well card for a sick friend or family member.
  7. Write a thank-you note to the teacher who stayed after school a few extra minutes.
  8. Compliment a stranger’s hairstyle or smile. 
  9. Ask for donations to a favorite charity instead of birthday gifts.
  10. Invite someone sitting alone to have lunch with you.
  11. Let someone go ahead of you in line.

The former Content Director at Parenting, and several other brands, Ana Connery is a writer and content strategist whose work appears in USA Today, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, Cafe Mom/The Stir, Momtastic, and others.