Cultivating Kindness with Toddlers

Kindness is innate in each one of us. Yet, kindness is also something that must be practiced in order for it to become a reflexive response. What a better time to perform acts of kindness than the month of January! This January at PSA, we challenged our families and community to generate 500 acts of kindness in 14 days.

In the Purple Room, the teachers used this school-wide initiative to reinforce the work they are already doing in their classroom. As preschool teachers, and especially teachers of toddlers, one of our constant focuses is teaching and modeling kindness and empathy. Children have innate kindness but empathy is a hard concept to grasp at this age.

To build empathy skills in our classroom and with our students, we talk often about how our actions make other people feel, point out children’s facial expressions and interpret and name the feelings they are experiencing. We focus a lot on praising desired behaviors like comforting a friend, sharing a toy, and taking turns.

Inspired by the 14 days of kindness challenge, we set up some situations for our children to share kindness with others, and also watched for the ways that their natural kindness comes out in our daily routine and free play.

As teachers, we watch for acts positive interactions of kindness, verbally labeling them with the word kindness, such as when a child acknowledged that a fellow student was having a hard time walking to the door. She gave him a hand and assisted him!

We also introduce kindness through books, like Kindness Makes Us Strong by Sophie Beer, which was gifted to our room by a student for his birthday. We read it frequently and talk about the images and how they are showing kindness.

We talk about being kind to ourselves, like taking breaks, drinking water, eating healthy foods.

Teachers might intervene with kindness, saying, “I won’t let you take her toy” or “I’m going to stop you because he doesn’t like that”. We model to children how to advocate for themselves and others. 

We focus on positive behaviors we see, by singing songs of thanks for the friends who help to clean up. Noticing and calling out when we see someone giving a gentle touch, sharing or helping a friend, helps us reinforce these behaviors in the classroom.

At morning meeting, we show kindness by passing around a heart shaped bell that we are using to mark clean up time. Encouraging the children to all help in putting away toys shows a lot of kindness to the teachers and the classroom!

The children greet our classroom rabbit, Cookie, every day with great kindness. Sometimes even before they say hello to the teachers they will find Cookie! They also insist on including her in our daily hello song. 

Our kindness can be spread beyond our classroom! We talked about how we can make someone feel special by surprising them with beautiful paintings. We created artworks to share with various people who are a part of our wider school community – administrators, float teachers, neighbor teachers, and even some siblings in other rooms! We could feel the excitement and happiness radiating as we went around the school handing out our paintings.

Our kindness can spread to our planet as well! In after school, we PSA’s bird feeders every other day. The children been great at taking turns and practicing patience, all while sharing treats for our feathered friends.

Every day, we see our Purple room children’s natural kindness and love for each other shine!

Reflection by Emma Sams and Pam Staley-Ace, Purple Room Co-Teachers

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