By Sarah Aadland.
Through The Kids Cook Monday, kids are empowered to take ownership of family meal time, experiment with new dishes, and develop a life-long habit of thoughtful dining. This holiday season, feed your little food lover’s spirit and create another life-long tradition: a habit of giving.
For the past four years, I’ve worked with a group committed to making giving and kindness a regular part of family time. At Big-Hearted Families we’ve created simple tools that help families practice empathy and make a difference, all while creating wonderful family memories!
Plus, I’ve seen amazing changes in my kids, my big-hearted guinea pigs. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the adorable anecdotes. The research is pretty clear: kids who develop a strong sense of empathy are more likely to be cooperative, are more apt to have higher quality social relationships and are better at resolving conflict. A high degree of empathy also motivates helping behavior and reduces bullying. Plus, you’re actually making a difference as a family, which helps others and feels great!
Here are 5 of our favorite, incredibly simple ways to get started. Follow the links below to find book suggestions, conversation starters, and detailed instructions for each project.
- Table Talk: Print these simple placemats and use them to inspire big-hearted dinner conversations, perfect for Thanksgiving day! Keep a stack of extras on hand for all of your Monday night creations.
- Adopt a Food Shelf: This project has made a huge difference in my own family. Simply pick up a few extra groceries (especially good staples when they go on sale) each time you go. Decorate a dedicated box, and add to it whenever you can. Once a month, take time as a family to deliver your box of donations and start a conversation with your kids about who you are helping… and why.
- Sandwich Making Party: Turn a holiday gathering into a force for good. A few friends, loaves of bread, meat and cheese are all you need. Add a little holiday music, and in no time you’ll have a stack – or several -of sandwiches to donate to the nearest homeless shelter. They are always in need of an extra meal to pass out to residents who are on their own for lunch.
- Make Room for the Hungry: This one is truly unique! Set an extra place setting at your family table, possibly with extra information about hunger in your community. Then set aside 5 minutes each day for the next week – or month – to count something of abundance in your home (shoes, drawers, forks, items in the pantry). Commit to adding that number of coins to your empty bowl, and donate the funds you raise to the local food shelf or other hunger relief organization.
- Big-Hearted Families Book Club: We’ve made it even easier to transform family time into a fun, book-centered kindness practice. Each month, we send our subscribers a wonderful picture book, carefully crafted discussion questions, a kindness activity, and a recipe from The Kids Cook Monday. Subscriptions make wonderful gifts and a wonderful family tradition.
While occasional volunteer projects in the community are wonderfully rewarding, every day habits of kindness will empower our kids to become lifelong volunteers and will impact our communities for generations to come.
Sarah Aadland is the voice of the Big-Hearted Families blog,Twitter and Facebook feeds, and the Pinterest boards. She’s also the project director for the BHF Book Club in partnership with The Kids Cook Monday Her own family of five provides sample inspiration and field-testing for the ideas, stories, and links she shares. While they may be covered in glue, glitter, and grass clippings most of the time, she keeps her grade-schooler, preschooler, and toddler steeped in lessons of kindness and empathy amid the dizzying pace of family life.