Happy New Year!
My name is Ashley, and I'm a mom of two boys (5 and 2) and blogger at Look for Little Helpers where I share resources on kindness, gratitude, and community service with kids. I am incredibly excited to have been asked by Miriam and Mandi to join the Little Hands Can blogging team. Thank you for having me! For my first post, I am summarizing my family's experience doing a 31-day kindness challenge for the month of December.
Over the holidays, it is easy to get wrapped up in the "materialism" of Christmas, especially with young children. The excitement of gifts, Santa, treats, and decorations can sometimes overshadow the true meaning of the holiday season. This year we wanted to make the spirit of the season the most prominent thought we had each day. We wanted to bring kindness, giving, gratitude, and love to the forefront of our minds.
Beyond that, we also wanted to create a true practice, similar to meditating or practicing mindfulness. We wanted to purposefully act with a kind gesture every day for an extended period of time. All of this was done with the hope that over time it would become a habit.
Thus began the 31-Day Purposeful Acts of Kindness Challenge
On my blog, Instagram, and Facebook pages, each day I released a new act of kindness. They were all very simple and quick activities which were possible to do with a toddler. Some of the ideas were acts most of us do regularly. However, stopping to think about them consciously, teaching my children how meaningful these kind acts are, and reinforcing the behavior had a powerful effect.
The most remarkable part of the challenge was this: It showed us that, no matter how large or small the gestures were, each and every one made an impact.
Highlights of our 31-Day Kindness Challenge:
1. Spend time with residents of a retirement/nursing facility. Spending time at the Waterford Grand is always a highlight of our week. During December, we made Christmas Cards for the Eugene Mission with the Happy Helpers group on Tuesday mornings. During one of these events, one of the lovely ladies working at our table serenaded us multiple times. Everything we talked about reminded her of music, and she'd spontaneously break into song while we were working on our Christmas cards. Her joy was contagious.
2. Thank our mailman, UPS Driver, and FedEd Driver. My kids made cards, and we put together little goodie bags with chocolates and an ornament. After making these gifts my boys couldn't WAIT to open the door to hand them to these hard workers. This simple act opened up a conversation about the people who make our lives easier on a daily basis and how important it is to not take them for granted. It is paramount to remember and thank them, too! My kids have a much better appreciation for our delivery people and garbage and recycling services now.
3. Make a donation. Our family did the Giving Tree at Valley River Center. Each of my boys chose an ornament for a child and we did some shopping for the wishes and needs on their lists. It was heartwarming to see the kids excited about shopping for others. It is nice to be able to share the part of Christmas I love most with my kids: giving and making someone's day a bit brighter. My five-year-old was upset when he realized he wouldn't get to meet the little boy in person.
4. Cheer on a friend. My five-year-old and I went to see a good friend perform in the Nutcracker Remixed by All That Dance (which was amazing). Those of you in Eugene should go next year! It's fantastic. He decided he wanted to take her flowers for after the show. When he and I walked into the flower shop, I fully anticipated needing to order the flowers myself. Instead, I watched as he walked right up to the florist and asked for pink and purple flowers and ribbons. He could not wait to hand them to his friend. It was honestly one of the sweetest moments I've experienced as a mom so far.
5. One of the simplest activities we did was choosing to smile at five strangers one day. No preparation was necessary, no money was spent, and we didn't have to carry anything extra with us. But, WOW, what an amazing scene unfolded everywhere we went! The faces that lit up when my two boys flashed huge smiles at people at the store, at school, walking the dog through the neighborhood, and even just within our home were evidence of how very simple kindnesses can make a difference in someone's day.
6. Do something kind for a neighbor. We went door-to-door dropping of Christmas goodies to our neighbors. My kids were so enthusiastic about it, despite the pouring rain. When you spend time with your neighbors and show them you care, it really helps to build a sense of community and an environment of love and support.
7. Do a chore without being asked. My kids did this a lot this month. They vacuumed, helped make dinner, helped me walk the dog, and fed the dog. All of these were unprompted. They truly just wanted to be helpful. Kids have an innate desire to help others, and we can support and reward that!
My kids and I are not perfect and are still learning, practicing, and growing. However, I am noticing kindness and helpfulness every day (completely unprompted) from my kids, all since we started this challenge. It could be that kindness is at the forefront of my mind, which makes me notice more of what was already there. Or, perhaps the amount of kindness in our home has truly grown. Either way, the kindness challenge has opened us up to be more consciously considerate of others and to experience more gratitude for all of the beauty in life.
Despite the length of this post, I covered only a small snippet of the multitude of activities and joys we experienced while completing this challenge! If you would like to try our 31-day kindness challenge, I have a printable version of the calendar that can be done all year long, or you can read and view the full post. This challenge is not specific to the holidays. In fact, I hope people will try it all year long!
Much love and happiness to you and your little helpers in the new year.