By Noelle Woytko of Children’s Village
Possessing the qualities of being friendly, generous, and considerate defines kindness. How do we teach this to our young learners?
Young children learn through a variety of teaching practices. Modeling with our young learners provides an explicit view of how we want them to behave and what we expect from them. For example, if you want them to be kind to one another, demonstrate it in your own actions. Show your students what it means to be kind by treating your colleagues, families, and them with kindness. Say something nice. Model “please” and “thank you”. When someone is upset, comfort them by offering a hug, pat on the back, or a simple, “Are you okay?” We know that our young learners love to emulate adults through pretend play, so let’s provide them with positive and kind interactions of our own.
It is our job as educators to reinforce kindness. When observing children being kind to one another, make a big deal out of it! Stop everything and talk about how wonderful the moment was, even if it may be something as simple as a child opening up a door for someone. Give “Kindness Stickers” when you notice children giving one another a helping hand. Teachers could create a “Kindness Chart” and add stickers to the chart when they observe kind moments from the students. Once you get to 20 stickers, maybe every child could receive a sticker, or teachers could read a special book to the entire group or lead a favorite activity (like a dance party!) When children feel safe and loved in their group, odds are, they’ll be kinder to one another.
Use Children’s Literature
Book readings provide examples and opportunities for discussions about kindness and empathy. When reading a story to children, stop and identify a kind act that a character may have done. For example, “Wasn’t that so kind of Bear to pour more tea for Mouse?”
Some great children’s books that display kind behavior:
- A Visitor for Bear – Bonny Becker
- A Sick Day for Amos McGee – Philip C. Stead
- Albert the Fix-It Man – Janet Lord
- What Does It Mean to Be Kind? – Rana DiOrio
Students can practice being kind to one another daily. Partner two students up together each day and have them share something nice or kind about the other, then students can come to the whole group and share to everyone. When a student has a birthday party in the classroom, go around the room and encourage students to say something nice to this child on their birthday.
Learning through play provides opportunities for children’s developmental growth in all areas. They love to play! Encourage kindness scenarios during play.
Some example scenarios and materials:
- Baby Dolls –
- Pretend Food
- Make a meal for your playmates
- Have a birthday party! Make and eat cake.
Noelle Woytko is a Lead Preschool Teacher at Children’s Village, a large culturally and linguistically diverse childcare center in Center City, Philadelphia. A graduate of Temple University (B.S. in ECE and Elementary Education) and Cabrini College (M.S.Ed. in Education), Noelle has been in the field for 10 years, beginning her career as a substitute and then an eventual lead teacher. Noelle holds a Level 2 teaching certification in Pennsylvania and is a member of NAEYC and DVAEYC. Noelle has also been featured on the cover and in an article of NAEYC’s TYC (Teaching Young Children) magazine.
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