Random acts of kindness may be small moments in the school day, but they can make a major difference in students’ lives. And yet, as teachers we know that working this concept into a busy school year can be complicated. With 180 days and countless directives, how do you manage to encourage your students to be generous and gracious and sprinkle these random acts of kindness into the day? For that matter, what are some random acts of kindness ideas for kids that you can use in your classroom?
Whether you’re looking to celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day on February 17 (just after Valentine’s Day) or just looking for some random acts of kindness ideas for kids to add to your social-emotional lessons, the teachers on the Teach Starter team have put together this how-to guide for teachers to make this concept both easier to teach and truly inspiring to kids. Read on for the origin of the Random Acts of Kindness concept plus ideas for students to use in your classroom this school year!
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What Is a Random Act of Kindness?
The name may give it all away. Then again, maybe not.
By definition, a random act of kindness is a selfless action performed by an individual to help or benefit someone else, without any expectation of recognition or reward. These acts can be small or large and can have a significant impact on the person or people receiving them, as well as the person performing the act.
Some of the more common examples of random acts of kindness include paying for someone’s coffee in line behind you, leaving a note of encouragement, or helping a neighbor with a task — and of course there are hundreds upon hundreds of examples that we see students do every day from offering a pencil to a classmate when they don’t have one to carrying a buddy’s lunch tray in the cafeteria.
What Is the Origin of Random Acts of Kindness?
The concept of doing kind things for other people has been around for as long as there have been people, but the origin of the phrase Random Acts of Kindness is a bit murky — there’s no way to know who said it first.
Most credit the phrase’s popularity to a California woman named Anne Herbert who wrote an article titled “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” in a 1985 issue of the countercultural journal “Whole Earth Review.” Herbert went on to co-write a children’s book of the same name in 1993, securing the term’s place in the zeitgeist.
Republished 20 years later with a foreword by Bishop Desmond Tutu, the book is a good start for elementary school teachers looking to implement random acts of kindness in the classroom.
In addition to Herbert, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation in Colorado has played a crucial role in establishing “Random Acts of Kindness” as a worldwide phenomenon. The non-profit was formed in the early 1990s and has been the driving force behind making February 17 the official Random Acts of Kindness Day, focused on a mission to “Make Kindness the Norm.”
The non-profit offers teachers, students, and other individuals a chance to sign on as RAKtivists, short for Random Act of Kindness activist. Apply for your class, and you’ll get free monthly missions to spread more kindness plus access to the RAKtivist Facebook group!
Random Acts of Kindness Ideas for Kids
Looking for immediate random acts of kindness ideas for kids to do in the classroom? Start with small, manageable tasks that kids can do to show them random acts of kindness are for everyone, no matter their age.
Some ideas perfect for school include:
- Holding the classroom door open for classmates
- Allowing a friend to go first in a recess game
- Asking another student if they need help with their homework
- Throwing out a friend’s trash at lunchtime
- Waving to a classmate on the school bus
- Picking up another student’s pencil when it falls
- Offering to help a classmate with a project
- Leaving a note of appreciation for a janitor or custodian
- Baking cookies for their bus driver
- Carrying a friend’s tray at lunch when they are on crutches
- Sharing crayons, colored pencils, and other classroom resources
- Offering a student a hug when they are sad
Print this fun Kindness Tracker for kids to color each time they do something kind for a friend or family member!
And here are dozens of Random Acts of Kindness ideas for kids to do outside of school!
- Leave a note of encouragement for a friend or family member
- Make a card for a nursing home resident
- Help a neighbor with a task, such as raking leaves or shoveling snow
- Donate toys or clothes to a children’s charity
- Bake cookies or cupcakes for a local fire station or police department
- Leave coins in a vending machine for the next person
- Make flowers for a grandparent and deliver a bunch just because (use this fun printable flower template they can add their photos to!)
- Leave a kind note on a park bench for a stranger to find it
- Help a younger sibling with their homework
- Pick up trash when they spot it in a parking lot or at the park
- Leave a kind note in a library book for the next person who checks out the book to read it
- Help an older person with their groceries
- Leave extra quarters at a laundromat
- Give a compliment to someone in the grocery store
- Leave a note of encouragement in a public bathroom
- Offer to babysit for a single parent (best for older students)
- Help a homeless person by buying them a meal
- Leave a note of appreciation for a store clerk or fast food worker
- Offer to walk a neighbor’s dog
- Leave a fun drawing on a stranger’s car to brighten their day
Explore our teacher resource collection full of printable greeting card templates your students can use to write kind notes to make someone smile!
- Donate food to a local food bank
- Leave a small gift for the mail carrier
- Make a homemade thank you card for essential workers
- Leave a kind note for the housekeeping staff at a hotel
- Offer to help an elderly person with yard work
- Leave a small gift for a librarian
- Make a homemade card for a soldier or veteran
- Leave a kind note for someone who works in a public space such as your local community center
- Volunteer to walk dogs at a local animal shelter
- Leave a note for a museum guide
- Offer to help a friend or family member with a task they have been struggling with
- Offer to run an errand for someone who is sick or unable to leave their house
- Leave a kind note for a coach or team leader
- Donate their gently used toys to a local domestic violence shelter
- Leave a note of appreciation for a park ranger or lifeguard
- Offer to pet sit for a friend or family member
- Leave a small gift for a nurse or doctor
- Offer to help a friend or family member with a personal goal
- Leave a kind note for a hair stylist or barber
- Bake cookies for their delivery driver
- Help a friend or family member move
- Leave a small gift for a hospital worker
- Offer to help a friend or family member clean their house or apartment
- Donate gently used books they’ve already read to a local library
- Teach a friend or family member a new skill
- Read to a neighbor or friend’s dog (this is also a great way for young readers to practice their skills!)
More Ways to Promote Random Acts of Kindness at School
Some random acts of kindness ideas you can kick off as a teacher:
- Use our Random Acts of Kindness calendar with your students for the month. It includes 16 different kindness tasks for your students to do for others.
- Set up a “kindness” board in your classroom with sticky notes where students can write kind things about their classmates and post them.
- Sign your class up for the Great Kindness Challenge for a week of challenges.
- Brainstorm random acts of kindness ideas and make kindness fortune tellers with your class.
- A simple hello could lead to a million smiles. Have your students use our Hello Greeting Cards template to write a nice compliment inside for a class member.
- Create a kindness chain for the classroom. Give students paper slips to write down ideas for random acts of kindness, and link them together to display on your bulletin board or even out in the hallway. Kindness might be catching!
- Post a “sprinkle kindness” banner in the classroom as a visual reminder to practice random acts of kindness.
Looking for more ways to encourage kindness? Try these kindness teacher resources!
Banner image via shutterstock/Darrin Henry