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How to raise kind kids: 9 daily habits that teach kids kindness

3. Celebrate acts of kindness in a concrete way.

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Family life can thrive or falter depending on the strength of our routines. As any parent will tell you, we face fewer missed buses, fewer hangry tantrums and more happy kid smiles when critical parts of the day unfold predictably. Too often, we forget that the same routine that makes family life manageable—the rituals and phrases we repeat day after day (after day, after day)—create the framework for who our children will become. Our kids will remember these little moments as the general feel and flare of their childhood.

Over the years, I've watched for ways to work kindness and compassion into my family's daily routines. These small, day-to-day changes have helped me live my values even during the hectic weeks when we're too busy to volunteer and too tired to get creative with little acts of kindness.

Here are nine daily habits that help raise kinder kids:


1. Make room for an early morning pause.

The scientific foundation for a daily moment of mindfulness is as expansive as it is overly-cited. According to the Scientific American, the one thing nearly all studies on mindfulness can agree upon is that "tuning into the world around you may provide a sense of well-being."

Even those of us who are night owls can recognize the difference a good morning makes. The world feels less hostile when our family builds in a few moments to pause together. You don't need to mediate for ages or share a three-course breakfast each morning. Some families I know simply wake their kids up a half hour earlier than necessary to allow for a slower pace and a few sleepy-eyed snuggles before the normal morning routine unfolds. At my house, we make it a point to arrive a little early at the bus stop, early enough to take a few deep breathes together and share our goals for the day.

2. Adopt empowering refrains.

The way we speak to our children shapes the way they understand themselves and ultimately the way they live in the world. Research demonstrates that teaching children to speak and think positively about themselves improves their self-compassion and pro-social behavior.

Here are our favorite phrases to empower kind kids. Remember to use them as specifically and honestly as possible. Kids are incredible at detecting insincerity!

Empower kind kids with these big-hearted phrases

  • You are such a helpful kid.
  • Your kindness (or your big heart) makes me proud.
  • Your kindness takes a lot of courage.
  • Your kindness makes a real difference.
  • I'm proud that you are the kind of person who treats others with compassion and respect.
  • I love how curious you are.
  • That's interesting. Tell me more about that.
  • Fixing your mistakes means you are learning.
  • Every problem has a solution. Let's try again.
  • You're a good problem solver. How do you think we should do this?
  • I'm impressed with how hard you have worked.

3. Celebrate acts of kindness in a concrete way.

Research confirms that accountability is a key way to foster new habits and reach difficult goals. By letting your family know that kindness and helping others is a priority, you're setting high expectations for follow through.

Try making a visual display with this Kindness Quilt printable from Doing Good Together, a national nonprofit that features many creative ways to share kindness as a family. Or simply make time each day to ask, "Who did you help today?" and "Who helped you?" By sharing your acts of kindness each day, your kids will begin to watch for ways they can be helpful, partly so they have a story to share.

4. Move together daily.

We all know the physical and psychological benefits of exercise. By reserving a half hour or so after dinner to move together, playfully, you give your family a chance to shed the day's stress and reset your minds and bodies for tomorrow.

At my house, this looks different every day. Last week, we took a flashlight walk through the trees behind our house. Last night, we played a raucous game of stuffed animal tag. Whether you're walking through the park, playing soccer, or dancing wildly, this moment of joyful movement will make it easier to share compassion tomorrow.

5. Add a recurring volunteer effort to the calendar.

Of course, making small daily changes doesn't replace the benefits of regular volunteering with your child in your community. Regular volunteering gives kids a strong sense of empowerment, as they see themselves as helpers. When they notice a problem, they tend not to wait for someone else to step in with a solution. This self-reliance and empowerment translate into the courage to stand up for others when social conflict arises.

6. Cut down on unsupervised weekday screen time.

The science behind screen time is still evolving, but a growing body of research is declaring play to be the most essential and most diminishing learning tool of childhood.

If you think about how much time kids spend at school, in transit, and in extracurricular activities, they only have a couple of hours a night to be kids.

Outside climbing trees.
Inside building epic Lego towers.
On the swings arguing with siblings and neighbors over what to do next.

It's incredible how much energy it takes to say no to screen time, but watching the creativity and camaraderie (more or less) my children develop away from their gadgets has been worth it. Plus, I've stuck to this rule often enough that I'm basically the family hero when I agree to break my own rule from time to time.

7. Seek out one good news story to share each day.

As more people feel emotionally depleted by alarming news stories, they begin to feel a greater sense of apathy and cynicism. The Guardian recently reported, "Research by Dr. Denise Baden, an associate professor at Southampton Business School, the University of Southampton, has found that the more negatively people feel after consuming bad news, the less likely they are to voice an opinion or take action to improve the world around them."

Thankfully, solutions-based journalism is becoming more and more common. Visit the magazine Positive News or the Washington Post's Inspired Life for some beautiful examples. Make it a habit to track down and share a newsworthy story of hope and courage. Your whole family will feel more inspired to become change makers when you make time to notice the important, world-improving work happening right now.

8. Lean into your evening routine.

Research has found that the way an event or experience ends determines the way we feel about that experience. Let's show our children the compassion of a soothing bedtime routine. It's too easy to rush through the bedtime transition with your mental focus already collapsed on the couch in a heap of parental exhaustion. We all do it. We all have had those long days that drive us to just want to be done. When possible, let's resist the urge to rush.

Instead, if we allow ourselves to enjoy the last part of the day, we may all feel more connected, more grateful, and more prepared for the day to come.

I discovered the power of this last year when my daughter asked for "snuggle tickets" for Christmas, so she wouldn't have to beg me to stay a few extra minutes. Ouch, and awwww.

9. Reach for great reads.

Emerging research is demonstrating what book lovers have always known instinctively: reading is an incredible tool for developing empathy, compassion, and insight into the world of others.

One study found that literary fiction, as opposed to popular genre fiction, develops empathy in readers of all ages. So we do need to stretch ourselves and our young readers to read extraordinary books. Not exclusively, but regularly. Up your reading game by seeking out great reads to enjoy as a family.

With persistence, these solid roots of kindness will help our little ones grow into compassionate, helpful, curious, and empowered adults who we'll delight in knowing.

This article originally appeared on Doing Good Together.

Check out some of our tried-and-true kindness inspiring tools in the Motherly Shop!

Slumberkins yeti snuggler

Slumberkins yeti snuggler

Perfect for introducing little ones to the foundational elements of mindfulness, Yeti the snuggler and their story reminds children to slow down and be mindful of the world around them. With practice, the valuable skill of mindfulness can help regulate emotions and reduce anxiety.

$44

Sontakey kindness is my power kids' bracelet 

Sontakey kindness is my power child bracelet

Subtle superpowers are just as important as big loud ones. This stunning, simple bracelet is a gentle reminder that kindness is a power in and of itself. Perhaps the most important one of all.

$35

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Detective set

Plan Toys detective set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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This post is brought to you by Staples. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

One of the biggest changes in my household once my daughter started homeschooling was that, suddenly, everything and everyone in our home had to start pulling double duty. While I was used to wearing a lot of hats (mom, wife and WFH employee, to name a few), suddenly our dining room was also pulling shifts as a classroom. My laptop was also a virtual teacher. Our living room hutch was also a school supply closet.

If I didn't want my home to be overrun with an abundance of clutter, I had to find products that could multitask. Here are 10 products that are saving this WFH + homeschooling mama right now.

Stylish storage cabinet

Whether I need a place to keep the printer or just want to keep crayons and colored pencils organized, this pretty cabinet provides a mixture of exposed and hidden storage without clashing with my living room decor.

White board calendar + bulletin board

With so much on our plates these days, I need a visual reminder of our daily schedule or I'll forget everything. This dry erase version makes it easy to keep track of Zoom meetings and virtual classes—and I also love using the corkboard to display my daughter's latest work from art class.

Natural Recycled 3-Ring Binder

From tracking our curriculum progress to organizing my family's paperwork, I can never have enough binders. Even better, this neutral version is pretty enough that I can display them on the bookshelf.

Bamboo storage drawers

The instant you start homeschooling, it can feel like you're suddenly drowning in papers, craft supplies and more. Fortunately, these simple bamboo drawers can be tucked into the cabinet or even displayed on top (seriously, they're that cute!) to keep what we need organized and close at hand.

Laminated world map

I love this dry-erase map for our geography lessons, but the real secret? It also makes a cute piece of wall decor for my work space.

Rolling 7-drawer cabinet

When you're doing it all from home, you sometimes have to roll with the punches—I strongly recommend getting an organizational system that rolls with you. On days when both my husband and I are working from home and I need to move my daughter's classes to another room, this 7-drawer cabinet makes it easy to bring the classroom with us.

Letterboard

From our first day of school photo to displaying favorite quotes to keep myself motivated, this 12"x18" letterboard is my favorite thing to display in our home.

Expandable tablet stand

Word to the wise: Get a pretty tablet stand you won't mind seeing out every day. (Because between virtual playdates, my daughter's screen time and my own personal use, this thing never gets put away.)

Neutral pocket chart

Between organizing my daughter's chore chart, displaying our weekly sight words and providing a fits-anywhere place to keep supplies on hand, this handy little pocket chart is a must-have for homeschooling families.

Totable fabric bins

My ultimate hack for getting my family to clean up after themselves? These fabric bins. I can use them to organize my desk, store my oldest's books and even keep a bin of toys on hand for the baby to play with while we do school. And when playtime is over, it's easy for everyone to simply put everything back in the bin and pop it in the cabinet.

Looking for study solutions for older children? Hop over to Grown & Flown for their top picks for Back to School.

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