The Family Kindness Challenge

Kindness Chart (4)

As with every holiday this year, coronavirus means that Thanksgiving is going to look a little different. We stoked the excitement for a socially distant Halloween with a full month of activities, and while we’re not being quite that ambitious before Thanksgiving, we did set a goal of performing kindness activities as a family this month. Here’s a round-up of 9 ways to say thanks and be kind!

Thanks 1: Start a Kind Chart

Kindness starts at home, so the first project was to make a chart all together that would help us track our progress over the next month. We decided this could mean both actions the kids took on their own, or the activities we intended to check off as a family.

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Veronika especially loved helping add stickers for decoration! Travis, meanwhile, was proud when he helped his sister find a missing toy, earning himself the first sticker on the chart.

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Thanks 2: Character Feelings

Talking about what the characters in favorite stories are feeling has been shown to correlate with a greater sense of empathy. So raid your bookshelf and get started!

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We chose an old favorite (Corduroy) and Travis loved pointing out the bear’s emotions on each page. “He’s sad here,” he said, or, “He’s feeling surprised!”  when he noticed his lost button. Veronika parroted back each emotion we mentioned, so it was great social-emotional learning tool for a toddler, too.

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Thanks 3: Send Snail Mail

On a beautiful sunny afternoon, we headed to our town’s tourist center and stocked up on town postcards.

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The kids loved filling these out for all their cousins. Travis was in charge of writing words, and Veronika added scribbles. Silly Bugs Bunny stamps added to the joy we hope  the recipients would feel upon receipt.

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This was a great way to make the kids feel connected to cousins around the country, especially knowing we won’t see them this holiday season!

Thanks 4: Try a Meditation Exercise

Mindfulness is so key for kids. Not only does it count as kindness to yourself but it extends to others, too. So one night this month we took a pause first to think about what mindfulness was. Both kids loved taking big calming breaths in!

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Next, have everyone sit and imagine offering kindness to themselves. Then imagine offering kindness toward some one else, whether a friend or pet or family member.

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I was proud when Travis said he was picturing a classmate! It helped him understand the lesson when we followed along with a 3-minute Kindness session from the free app MyLife.

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Thanks 5: Leave an Anonymous Message

Here was a fun idea! After giggling our way through a silly library book, we made hand-written notes about how much we had loved it, then slipped it into the pages.

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We loved imagining the next family who would be snuggling up to read together, and their double-delight at finding our note inside.

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Thanks 6: Learn a New Language Together

Since research has shown that bilingual children can better grasp other’s perspectives, we decided to sit down and study one together! I avoided languages I already know so that Travis and I really could start from scratch through the DuoLingo app.

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Who knows how far we’ll get, but if nothing else we got some laughs out of a little learning together!

Thanks 7: Help a Selfie

Even as we all keep to our socially distanced bubbles, now more than ever is a time for those little kindnesses. To wit, while we were on a local walk with selfie stops along the way, we realized two friends might want help with their photo so they could be in it together. Their huge smiles were such a warming reward! They even asked us to take a quick video clip.

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And then it was time for our selfie!

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Thanks 8: Set up a Free Snack Table

‘Tis the season for holiday deliveries, and this year is sure to be even busier than usual. Help those everyday heroes with this kindness idea, which takes only a moment of extra thought on your next grocery trip.

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I stocked up on individually-packaged goodies like mini cereal boxes, chip bags, and pretzel packs, and then we decorated an old box. First, line the sides with colorful construction paper (or even wrapping paper!).

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Kids can add scribble or write notes of thanks, depending on their age. Our message on top said: “USPS, UPS, Amazon, FedEx, please take one!”

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Thanks 9: Talk about Extras

It’s hard for kids to grasp sometimes just how much they have to be thankful for. So after receiving new books, I sat down with Travis to discuss how some households didn’t have any books. Could he think of extras to donate, now that he had new ones?

This activity works equally well with children’s old toys, especially as the holidays approach. I was so proud of Travis selecting two books to send to our library’s donation bin.

kind extras

That was nine kindnesses, but there’s even more we want to do in the future! Once people are congregating in common spaces again, we plan to leave spare change in the money slot of a vending machine, for example. We also brainstormed assembling care packages for children in the hospital or heroes of the COVID-era like first responders and teachers.

One thing is for sure, kindness keeps on giving!

Three Sisters Stew

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With Thanksgiving on the horizon, Travis is learning about the Native Americans and traditional foods eaten at the first Thanksgiving meal. This stew is a nice way to honor the “three sisters” trio of corn, squash, and beans.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 cups frozen butternut squash cubes
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 (15-ounce) drained can black beans
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, cumin, and salt; cook for 5 minutes, until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the tomatoes, broth, squash, corn, and black beans. Bring to a simmer, then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for a final 15 minutes.

Three Sisters Stew (1)

Cardboard Box Ramps

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Here’s a great use for the box from your latest package delivery, before you send it the way of the recycle bin!

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We received a large box in the mail and I knew it would be perfect for this activity. I cut off the side flaps, and then used duct tape to attach them to the insides of the box at angles. I had originally thought I might hot glue them, but duct tape seemed to work better to achieve the right angle. Veronika loved “helping” by adding some extra duct tape on top.

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Before taping on, cut a hole into each “ramp” so objects can fall from one ramp to the next. I also cut a hole in the top of the box as the starting point.

Time to see if the ramps worked! Veronika loved dropping a golf ball through the hole on top. Sometimes it rolled perfectly from one ramp to the next!

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Other times it rolled off the sides, but this didn’t dampen Veronika’s fun. You might consider some sort of buffer, though, (perhaps made from additional duct tape) to prevent this from happening. You could also place little jars at the bottom to catch the ball at the end of its run, if your child would enjoy that!

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After playing with the balls for a while, we decided to test toy cars.

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These didn’t work quite as well on the ramps, but it did turn the box into a fun little “garage” for a while.

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Chock-Full of Blocks

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Here’s a fun spin on block play if your toddler is growing tired of simply building towers up and knocking them down.

I gave Veronika a small box and challenged her to fill the bottom of it completely with blocks so that none of the bottom showed. She didn’t understand at first, but I modeled the behavior and she soon joined in the fun.

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She did also try to build up a little once our bottom was covered!

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The box was quite small so we decided that we needed a bigger space to work with. Mark out a square or rectangle on your floor with painter’s tape and show your toddler how to fill that space with the blocks.

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This was a great way for Veronika to see how some shapes fit together to form others, too! Two triangles made squares in some of our corners, and two squares could make a rectangle. Obviously she needed a lot of my help for this activity, but it was a fun project to tackle together.

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As a bonus, she also loved the clean-up, throwing all the blocks back into the bin one-by-one until the tape square was empty once more.

Dancing Turkeys

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If you’re starting to get in the mood for all things turkey in advance of Thanksgiving, these silly turkey puppets will kick things off on a lighthearted note.

To make the turkeys was quite complicated, and truth be told ours looked a  bit more like a chicken since I had white yarn, not brown, for the steps that follow.

For the body, wrap a ping-pong ball or golf ball in double-sided tape and then wrap with yarn. Tuck the final strand under to secure.

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Next, you’ll need to make three pompoms, two for feet and one for the turkey’s head. For an easy at-home pompom, wind yarn around the tines of a fork, then tie a string tightly around the middle in the other direction. Slip off the fork and snip the loops to make pompom fringe. Make sure to leave one long strand on each pompom foot.

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Cut a beak from felt and hot glue onto the head pompom, along with 2 wiggle eyes.

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Now put it all together! I hot glued a length of craft boa onto the back of the body, then curved a half-length of pipe cleaner into an S shape. Hot glue the top of the S to the head, and curve the bottom of the S around the body, securing with a little extra hot glue.

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Tie the long strands from each pompom foot onto the body. Finally, hot glue feathers along the boa in back for the turkey’s tail feathers.

Now to make it dance! Cross two Popsicle or craft sticks into an X and secure with yarn around the middle.

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Cut three lengths of stretchy jewelry cord; you’ll need two 12-inch pieces and one 6-inch piece. Tie the long ones to the legs, and the short one to the head, and then secure them all to the Popsicle sticks.

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Break out the Thanksgiving tunes and make it dance! We loved kicking off this holiday in celebration of these beautiful birds.

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