15 Ways to Teach Kids Kindness and Gratitude

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Sponsored By St. Jude Children's Research Hospital®
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It doesn’t matter what grade you teach, students are never too young (or too old) to volunteer or help out. Here are some ideas that help you teach your students compassion and kindness.

1. Create a compliment chain.

Each day when you open class, start a tradition of giving a student in your class a natural, genuine compliment. It’s then that student’s turn to, at some point in the day, bestow a compliment on a fellow student. Keep track of who receives your morning compliment each day so that everyone gets a chance to be part of the chain.

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2. Solve problems with a St. Jude Math-A-Thon.

Two students working together on a worksheet

You can hold a St. Jude Math-A-Thon any week of the school year. By solving math problems that are already part of your curriculum, your students will raise money for kids battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Your kids will also learn how math plays an important role in the lifesaving work happening every day at St. Jude. Visit stjude.org/math to get your class involved.

3. Make Kindness Rocks.

Read about The Kindness Rocks Project as a class and then have each student bring a rock to school. Paint your rocks with bright colors and encouraging messages. Leave them around campus or in your community to brighten the days of people who come across them. They may receive an inspiring word just when they need it most.

4. Mix it up at recess.

Kids often play with the same schoolmates day after day. Once a week, encourage your students to play with at least two kids they haven’t yet played with very much or to sit with someone new at lunch. Your students will make new friends and connections.

5. Teach the art of the thank-you note.

handwritten "thank you" with a heart on a piece of paper

Thank-you notes are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Help your kids learn how to write a proper thank-you. Ask them to think of a family member they can thank for a recent act of kindness. Put the notes in envelopes and send them home for parents to mail. (See if the school office can even donate stamps!) You’ll have taught your students a skill they’ll use for years to come.

6. Wear pajamas to school.

This is one of the easiest items on the list. Designate a special Pajama Day in your school where students can wear PJs to school in exchange for a small donation to St. Jude. When you register online, St. Jude will even provide downloadable posters and flyers to help you promote your event. You can register your event via their online signup, that is easy-peasy .

7. Make a kindness mailbox.

Put up a mailbox and notepad, and invite your students to “mail” kindness reports about their classmates. Students can either write something kind about a fellow student or report on a student they caught being kind. At your class meeting, read the compliments. Both the giver and recipient will be happy to be acknowledged and encourage more kindness for all.

8. Have a 10-Day Thankful Challenge.

Kids holding up their paper drawings St. Jude

How it works: Every student has their own poster, and every day for 10 days students write down on colorful paper something they are thankful for. Or they can glue on an image or item that represents something they’re thankful for, gradually decorating their posters. At the end of the Thankful Challenge, display the posters in your school hallway and challenge another classroom to take the 10-Day Thankful Challenge, too!

9. Raffle something super special (that’s totally free).

At one of your school’s already-planned school events with families, raffle off a special experience that doesn’t cost a thing: lunch with the librarian, principal for the day, participation in a PE party in the gym, etc. Donate the proceeds from the raffle to a cause like St. Jude.

10. Clean up around your school’s neighborhood.

Encourage students to take pride in their surroundings. Put on some plastic gloves (kids will love this part) and go around picking up garbage to beautify the area.

11. Organize a Trike-A-Thon.

St. Jude trike-a-thon with kids riding their bikes in a line

Even the youngest St. Jude supporters can get involved when you hold a St. Jude Trike-A-Thon. This bike- and riding-toy safety program teaches kids valuable safety lessons while they also learn how they can help others. The event will be one of your most popular events of the year and a great reason to invite parents to the school to watch their children show off their new riding skills.

12. Put together a care package for a senior center.

Connect with a local senior center and ask them if they have any current needs. Then send a note home with students, asking families to send in an item to help out. Once you have everything together, put it in a big box and fill it with cheerful notes from the kids. The seniors will love it.

13. Donate books to your library.

books lined on a shelf

Hold a book drive with your students, then take the donations to either your school or local library. You could also donate to a local community center or shelter.

14. Hold a coat, hat and mitten drive.

You can’t underestimate the importance of kids having warm winter gear. While it’s standard for a lot of students, this is something that many kids can’t count on. Hold a drive to help them out.

15. Create your own fundraiser for St. Jude.

Feeling inspired? You and your students can showcase your unique kindness activity by designing your own fundraiser for St. Jude. When it comes to creating your own event, the sky’s the limit!

Talent shows, bake sales, and walk-a-thons are just a few of the many ways schools nationwide are already raising funds for St. Jude. Access free online fundraising resources and support by visiting stjude.org/yourway.