Naturally, we all want our children to be perfect human beings. We want to raise them so they grow up to one day be described as respectful, well-mannered, funny, attentive, compassionate and encouraging folks. We aim for greatness, we hope for all the right things to fall into place, but we’re practical, us parents. We know that perfection simply doesn’t exist and that sometimes life’s hardest setbacks and lessons are what help shape little personalities, minds and hearts for the better.
So when attitudes, whining, rudeness, silliness or just plain oddball kid behavior strikes, it’s time get back to good stuff that makes the world go round: KINDNESS. And here are some stellar places to go when you’re seeking to learn more of it:
Be kind to the Earth
Participate in Family Drop-In at the Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe, IL 60022
Considered one of the greatest centers of conservation science, the Chicago Botanic Garden is spread across 385 acres, 26 gardens, four natural areas, nine islands and approximately six miles of lake shoreline. Become one with the Earth while learning about delicate preservation, conservation care and aquatic attentiveness through Family Drop-In Activities at the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden Center and Native Plant Garden.
Bring that kindness home by … picking up a few packets of seeds and planting them in your yard or a small flower pot. Daily care of watering, sunlight, and pruning will reinforce to kids the importance of tending to nature in a nurturing way.
Be kind to those who are hungry
Start your own food drive via the Greater Chicago Food Depository
4100 W Ann Lurie Pl, Chicago, IL 60632
Each year 812,000 (1 in 6 in Cook County) seek assistance through the GCFD’s network. In the words of the GCFD, “Food drives don’t just help us feed those who are struggling … they help us spread awareness and bring attention to hunger and hunger-related issues.” Volunteers are invited to tour the facility, meet the team, learn about the food warehouse and discover programming that helps neighbors in need. If running a food drive feels daunting, start small by chatting with your kids about that loose piggy bank change: a mere $1 donation can help the GCFD provide three meals due to their ability to buy in bulk.
Bring that kindness home by … encouraging kids to raid your pantry and cupboards for a good cause. Fill up a grocery bag and then use the GCFD’s Agency Locator to find the nearest pantry, soup kitchen or shelter in need of your donations.
Be kind to animals
1997 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
The Kid Action Guide is specifically geared towards young ones who wish to make a difference with animals. The guide talks about the definition of philanthropy, fostering animals, Day of Service Learning with the PAWS team and easy to follow tips on fundraising for those furry, four-legged friends. PAWS encourages kids to be philanthropically active by hosting movie nights and charging admission, holding bake sales for dogs (recipe for dog bones included!) and even donating one’s ‘day’ (birthday, Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah) while suggesting charity donations in lieu of gifts.
Bring the kindness home by … printing out 49 Ways To Help Animals Every Day and discussing these ideas as a family.
Be kind to children in need
Contribute new and gently used children’s items (ages 0-4) at Share Our Spare
935 W. Chestnut Street, LL13 in Chicago, Illinois
A startling statistic: nearly half of all children living in greater Chicago live below the federal poverty level. Share Our Spare’s mission is to provide families living in low-income or homeless situations with the essentials they need to thrive (think diapers, underwear, wash cloths, laundry detergent, strollers, etc.). They distribute age-appropriate kits through a network of social service agencies. Check out their list of needed items for kids ages 0-4 and then traverse your home together with your kids to see what you may ‘spare’ to help another family.
Bring that kindness home by … setting seasonal donation drop-off reminders in your calendar/schedule. Spring, summer, fall and winter mark excellent times to clean out and pack up items to be put to good use. If dropping off donations isn’t feasible, consider shopping via Share Our Spare’s Amazon Wish List.
Be kind to neighbors
Lend a helping hand on your very own street by showing kindness in 10 quick-and-easy ways:
1. Clear sidewalks and driveway of branches, leaves, and rocks.
2. Seasonally offer to mow the lawn, shovel snow or weed a garden.
3. Write a chalk message on the sidewalk such as “I like your smile!” or “Have a brilliant day!”
4. Wave hello, call someone by name and pair it with a compliment.
5. Bring over muffins, doughnuts or a pineapple just because.
6. Offer to walk a dog.
7. Bring homemade thank you cards to the fire station.
8. Invite someone to play at a park.
9. Take in garbage or recycling cans.
10. Give bottled water to those working outside on a warm day.
Bring the kindness home by … recognizing that goodwill in one’s neighborhood can overflow into the community, around the state and circle the country. Small acts of kindness lead to greater positive influence, especially when done on a consistent basis.