Don’t know what to do with all of your children’s beautiful art work? Do the grandkids keep sending you masterpieces and you are running out of fridge space? Please consider sending it to be repurposed in our new Kids in Service Recycled Art Program. We will be taking the art and transforming it into cards for the homeless, cards for the military, Meals on Wheels placemats, cards for hospice patients and so much more.
Please collect their masterpieces and pass them on to Kids in Service for our members to repurpose. You can mail your recycled art to us at:
For the past 10 years, my children have traded their Halloween Candy for a $10-$12 toy of their choice. I know what you are thinking, “You take ALL of their candy, you are so cruel!” To be clear I don’t TAKE anything, it is a TRADE that they agree to make. I also allow them to eat some candy on Halloween and save 5 pieces for consumption the week after Halloween. This has worked well for us and their dentist approves!
The candy the kids trade in is sent to work with my husband. His employees LOVE the variety and it is usually all gone in 1-2 days!
Last year, while packing Thanksgiving food baskets at our local food bank, I was surprised to see that Halloween candy was one of the items included. “We like to put in a little fun for the kids,” the organizer told me. I knew right then that next years Halloween candy would go to the food bank for the Thanksgiving baskets.
There are many great places to donate Halloween Candy, a quick internet search will bring up many options in your area. I am asking you to consider your local food bank, call them and see if they would like a donation for their Thanksgiving baskets. Happy Halloween!!
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, empathy is:
the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.
In other words, empathy is the ability to understand the feelings and emotions of another person. It is the ability to “put yourself in their shoes” and try to understand what they are going through emotionally.
Why is Teaching/Modeling Empathy Important?
Why should we as parents and caregivers explicitly teach and model the concept of empathy? Because Empathy is a LEARNED trait. Everyone is born with the ability to feel empathy but many of us need to develop skills in order to understand and feel sensitive towards the feelings and emotions of others.
Ways to Teach Empathy
Talk About Feelings–Teaching our children about feelings, and how to name those feelings, is the most critical skill in developing their emotional intelligence. When you or your child are feeling a particular emotion, name it for them. Help them to understand when they are feeling joy, sadness, jealousy or anger. Once they understand these feelings in themselves, help them to recognize them in others. Practice role playing with them about how to react when people they interact with feel a certain way. My daughter has a My Mood, My Choicesflipbook. This book not only teaches her to name her emotions but gives her some ideas for activities she can do to help change the emotion or celebrate it. She now gives suggestions to the rest of the family for things they can do when they are feeling a certain way. This is a great example of empathy.
Model Empathy–You are your child’s greatest teacher! Children are watching all that we do and often model the behaviors they see in us. It is important for adults to model empathy so that children can learn to grasp this important skill. Show empathy and compassion to the people you meet and do kind things for others. Most important (and sometimes the hardest), show empathy for the people living in your home. When your child is feeling emotional, try to empathize with them and remember what it was like when you were a child. When you are feeling a certain emotion, help them to empathize with you.
Help Others–Volunteering and helping people in need is a great way to help your children to develop empathy. Recently while serving lunch in the park to the homeless, a man came up to the backside of the table and asked for some water. The two adult volunteers he approached stood frozen, unsure of how to answer him. Turning to see this interaction, I jumped in and said, “Of course sir,” and grabbed him a bottle of water. My son said, “Mom you broke the rules, he is supposed to wait in line and get his lunch and water just like everyone else. I took both kids aside and said, “Did you see his face? He desperately needed water and I was in the power to be able to grant that basic need. Imagine how you would feel if you were desperate for water and I said you had to wait in line for 20 minutes to get it.” Our time volunteering gives us so many teachable moments in empathy and kindness.
Read Stories and Put Yourself in Their Shoes–Reading quality stories to your children (no matter their age) is a great way to help them to practice the skill of empathy. Throughout the story, encourage your child to “put themselves into the shoes” of the character and ask what they think the character may be feeling. We have a great list of books to help talk about empathy with your kids. Check out our Kids in Service Book Corner.
Practice Mindfulness–Teaching our children to be mindful is an important skill in helping them to get in touch with their own feeling and emotions. Learning to be mindful will then help them to learn to be compassionate and empathetic to others. Kids in Service has many resources for helping you and your family to create a practice of mindfulness in your home. Click HERE to find those resources.
The kids and I recently stumbled upon Leon Logothetis and his work in kindness. Leon is nicknamed the Kindness Guy and has incredible stories and adventures to share that all surround kindness. The kids and I started watching his show The Kindness Diaries on Amazon Prime (season 1, season 2 can be found on Netflix). We all LOVE this show and I have not seen an episode yet that has not left me in happy tears. It is a wonderful show to prompt rich discussions as a family around empathy, kindness and gratitude. I’d recommend it for kids ages 6 and up and most definitely for ALL TEENS and ADULTS!!
I just ordered got my hands on this book and can not put it down!! I highly recommend it for parents of ALL ages! Here is what the publisher says about it: Teens today are forty percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. Why is a lack of empathy—which goes hand-in-hand with the self-absorption epidemic Dr. Michele Borba calls the Selfie Syndrome—so dangerous? First, it hurts kids’ academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience. And once children grow up, a lack of empathy hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate, and problem-solve—all must-have skills for the global economy.
In UnSelfie Dr. Borba pinpoints the forces causing the empathy crisis and shares a revolutionary, researched-based, nine-step plan for reversing it.
Because of You–This website is for teens and it is a wonderful resource to show how their words and actions can affect other people. This site is full of videos and resources for parents and teens and a great way to discuss the topic of bullying and empathy with our teens. “By encouraging self-reflection and focusing on specific actions, our goal is to inspire this generation to create a more empathetic and inclusive culture around them.” –Beauseofyou.org
PBS Learning Media–This is another great resource for teens and parents. Here they have videos and resources that discuss empathy, gratitude, resiliency and kindness.
You, Me and Empathyby Jayneen Sanders is a great book for introducing young children to the concept of empathy. This simple and sweet story follows Quinn as he models empathy in many ways for the readers. This book The back of the book contains discussion questions and two pages of activities that you can do with your children to promote empathy, kindness and compassion. This sweet book would be great for ages 3 and up.
My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood–This is the sweet story about an immigrant girl who feels lost in her new country. A girl in the park is kind to her and despite their language barrier they become friends. Slowly she learns the language with the help of her new friend and her new home does not seem as cold and scary.
Someone New by Anne Sibley O’Brien–This book is the story of 3 new children immigrating to America from 3 different countries. They come to school and do not speak English and the children in their class work to find ways to reach out to them. It is a beautiful story about even though we may seem very different on the outside, we have so much connecting us as humans on the inside.
A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams is a great example that you can make a BIG difference right in your own home if you work hard and make sacrifices. The main character does come home with her mother to a house fire. This may be scary for some young children but is done in a gentle way and shows the love of the community and neighborhood and how they rallied around the family after they lost everything. This book is about family, love, kindness and hard work. I would recommend this book to ages 5 and up.
The Invisible Boy was written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton. The Illustrations in this book are wonderful. Life is very gray and dull for Brian because nobody seems to notice him or include him. When a new child arrives in class, that all changes for Brian and slowly the illustrations change to full color as more and people start to notice him. This book is a wonderful example of how one simple act of kindness and a little empathy can make such a big impact on another person. I’d recommend this book to children ages 4 and up.
I am Human is another TREASURE written by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter Reynolds. I LOVE this writer/illustrator team and have ALL of their books. Their books do such a great job of packing in a powerful message for kids while entertaining them with fun illustrations. I am Human focuses on all of the ways that make us human (the good and the bad). It touches on feelings, dreams, making mistakes, compassion, forgiveness and making good choices. This book would be great to share with ages 4 and up.
The Lorax is my FAVORITE Dr. Seuss book and one of my top 10 FAVORITE children’s books (I also love the original movie from the 70s). The story has an important environmental message told in a child friendly way. This book is a wonderful way to spark rich discussions about empathy with your kids. This book is wonderful for ages 3+.
This timeless tale about bullying is perfect for ages 6 and up and is a book EVERY child should hear. From the publisher: Eleanor Estes’s The Hundred Dresses won a Newbery Honor in 1945 and has never been out of print since. At the heart of the story is Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl in a Connecticut school who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Wanda claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t and bullies her mercilessly. The class feels terrible when Wanda is pulled out of the school, but by that time it’s too late for apologies. Maddie, one of Wanda’s classmates, ultimately decides that she is “never going to stand by and say nothing again.”
My children and I DEVOURED the book Wonder by RJ Palcio!! It is a fictional story based on a real life experience that happened to the author, R.J. Palacio. This book has endearing characters and the book shifts from one character to the next so that you get the different perspectives. This BEAUTIFUL book is filled with powerful messages of kindness, acceptance and being yourself. I believe this book is for EVERYONE ages 7 and up.
Fish in a Tree follows 6th grade Ally as she struggles in class to fit in and hide the fact that she can not read. Ally’s dad is deployed and their military life has led her to be enrolled in 6 schools in 6 years.It is easy to fall in love with the characters in this book and your heart struggles right along with Ally as she tries so hard to be like everyone else. If you enjoyed Wonder, you will definitely like this beautiful story about celebrating who you are and the gifts that make us all different. This book would be great for ages 8 and up.
The kids and I are currently reading The Benefits of Being an Octopusby Ann Braden. This is a tough book and will inspire a lot of rich discussion about empathy, courage and kindness. The book is about a seventh grade girl named Zoey who has a lot of responsibilities and worries for such a young girl. As Zoey tries to navigate her unstable home life and the challenges of middle school her teacher forces her to join the debate club. This will change her life in more ways than she ever imagined. This book heartbreaking and challenging book would be great for ages 10 and up.
Celebrating birthdays is such an important ritual for children. They love to gather with family and friends, eat party food, play games, open presents and blow out the candles on their birthday cake. Some families are choosing to transition the theme of their child’s birthday from one of GETTING to one of GIVING.
Some families are asking for donations in lieu of birthday gifts for their children’s party. The child then delivers the items collected to the food pantry or animal shelter. This is a wonderful concept but can be difficult for many children. You may want to ease in to this concept with having a service project be an activity at the party or asking folks to bring a smaller gift and a donation from their cabinets for the local food pantry.
Here are some ideas that you and your child may incorporate for their next birthday gathering to spread a little love and kindness in honor of their special day.
For All Ages
Donate Items to Goodwill or a Local Shelter (one for each year)–Every birthday and Christmas, my children donate one item for each year they have been on this planet. This practice of cleaning out their spaces and donating their gently used toys, books and games is so important as we teach them to let go of things that are no longer serving them. My husband and I join in on this activity and since we are a bit older we include paper purging (catalogs, magazines and old bills) into our number.
Recycled Party--My son once had a birthday of all wrapped hand-me downs. People brought gently used toys, games and clothing items as gifts. Zach loved his “new to him” gifts and nobody had to spend any money. It was a great lesson in reusing and reducing waste.
Food Pantry Party or Animal Shelter Party–Food pantries and Animal Shelters are always looking for non-perishable donations. Asking guests to bring donations in lieu of gifts or a canned good with a small present is a great way to organize this party. Make a collection spot where everyone can see the items. Have the children count the donated items at the end of the party and have the birthday child thank everyone and share where the donations will be going. Make a big deal of the Donation Day for your child and make sure to take a picture of them donating the items to the pantry or shelter (send it to firstname.lastname@example.org for them to be featured on our website).
Birthday Box Party–Not every child in our country has the chance to celebrate their birthday. Consider asking party goers to bring the contents to make a birthday box in lieu of a gift. During the party, the group can work to assemble the birthday boxes and your child can go and donate them to the local food pantry. Check out our post on birthday boxes for more information.
Party with Seniors--Who doesn’t love a party? Many residents at your local nursing home would LOVE to celebrate a birthday with your child. Contact your local nursing home and see if this is a possibility and if there are any food restrictions. Invite some of your children’s friends, bring some balloons, games to play (they LOVE bingo with prizes) and bring some treats to share. This is a great way to spread some love and kindness.
Book and Pajama Drive–Have each party guest bring their favorite children’s book and/or a pair of new pajamas and donate them to the Pajama Program. For this party you could have everyone dress in their PJ’s, bring a stuffed friend (if they are young) and read your child’s favorite story to all of them. Older kids can enjoy a sleepover party with this theme.
For Older Children
Sole Hope Shoe Cutting Party–Sole Hope is a wonderful organization that helps to make shoes out of old jeans for children in Uganda. These shoes prevent the children from getting painful jiggers in their feet. Jiggers make it difficult to walk and thus the children can’t perform their daily chores, walk to school or play with friends. Organizing a shoe cutting party is a great birthday alternative. Order the kit here, have everyone bring a $10 donation toward the shoe cutting kit cost and a pair or two of old jeans (no holes) . Put on some music, chat while you work and think about all of the children you will be helping on the other side of the world.
Make Dignity Bags or Homeless Bags–Being a homeless has many challenges and homeless bags can make life a little easier. These bags contain hygiene items, snacks, uplifting messages and so much more. Dignity bags can make life a little easier for homeless women. Consider organizing a Homeless Bag party where everyone brings items to contribute and then you assemble them together. Check out our post about Homeless and Dignity Bags here.
Blanket Party—Project Linus is always looking for blankets for children in crisis. Making no-sew fleece blankets is a great project for a birthday party. As host, you can provide the blanket materials or in lieu of gifts have each child bring the supplies they need to make a blanket. This would be a great slumber party idea! Click here for more information.
The Holiday Cards for our Military Challenge is a non-profit from NH that collects and sends holiday greetings to our deployed military. Last year they collected over 50,000 cards from all 50 states. Kids in Service participated last year and donated 35 cards, this year we are hoping to collect 500!!
In order to meet our BIG goal, we need YOUR help. Write out a holiday card (or make your own) and thank a warrior for their service to our country and wish them a happy holiday. Send your completed holiday cards to Kids in Service, PO Box 4095 Windham, NH 03087. All cards need to mailed in or delivered by October 25th so we can get them in for the Halloween deadline. Locally we will be collecting cards at our Kids in Service Table at Windham’s Harvest Fest on Saturday, October 19th.
This service project does not take a lot of time, is perfect for ALL AGES (everyone who can hold a crayon) and will make such a big impact on the person who receives your card.
Thank you for helping to brighten up the holiday of our wonderful military!
September is a month of big changes for many children. Kids are going back to school, meeting new teachers, starting new sports teams or clubs, learning new homework routines and trying to stay awake as their bodies adjust to the new pace that is September. Given all of these changes that our kids are facing, we at Kids in Service decided to spend time this month talking about bravery and courage. Here is a list of 10 ways to help your children work on becoming more brave and courageous this fall.
1. Volunteer–Volunteering takes a lot of bravery and courage. Each time I set out with my kids to serve our community, my heart is pounding. I often share this fact with my children and they are always surprised to hear that I am just as nervous as they are. Volunteer at your local nursing home and bring a little joy to the residents there. Bring some board games to play with them or ask about what life was like when they were younger. Find a local trash pick up at a park or beach. Volunteer for your local food bank, church or animal shelter. The opportunities are out there if you look for them. Check out some other ideas here and here.
2. Read Stories with Brave Characters–Reading aloud stories is a wonderful and safe way for children of ALL AGES to get to “experience” difficult situations from a safe distance through the characters in the story. Check out our KIS list of books with BRAVE characters. I hope that these books will spark rich conversations with your children about the topic of bravery, fear and courage.
3. Share Your Own Stories of Bravery and Failure–A great way for children to learn about bravery is to hear about the moments in your life that you were brave and courageous. Our children need to know that we are human and that we feel the same emotions they do. Share those moments where you overcame fear, share the moments where you failed at something but you were brave and tried again. My kids love to hear the story about when I fell off of a horse while horseback riding. I did NOT want to get back on that horse but after a lot of encouragement from my family, I was brave and got back on. Share your own stories with your kids and allow them to learn about bravery from the people they love most.
4. Trying New Things as a Family–Sit down as a family and brainstorm a list of new things that you could try together. Perhaps you want to try new foods or a new activity. Maybe you want to learn how to play a new sport, or learn a new language. Try one new thing together and then come together to discuss how it went. How did you feel before the activity? Were you nervous, scared or excited? How did you feel after you completed it? Three winters ago, we learned to cross country ski. We took lessons as a family and cheered each other on as we took turns falling and taking on the harder hills. It was a wonderful family experience that took a lot of courage and patience. Perhaps you could set a goal as a family to try new things every season.
5. Make a Courage Board–We have a chalkboard in our downstairs hall that says, “Love Lives Here”. This board was inspired by Sweet Maria Goff and her beautiful book Love Lives Here. In her book Maria shares about the chalkboard that has hung in her home for decades. Her family chalkboard has been a place for positive messages of encouragement and love for the members of their family and guests in their home. On our chalkboard we welcome people into our home, share messages of encouragement to one another and share uplifting quotes of bravery and courage. This board is one of my favorite parts of my home and I love to see the sweet messages that my husband and children write on the board.
6. Watch Movies with Brave Characters–Quality movies, just like books, are not only a great way to spend time as a family but can provoke great discussions about important topics. Here is a list of movies from common sense media that inspire courage. This list has movies for ages 2 and up.
7. Visit a New Place–One of our favorite things to do as a family is to explore a new place. It is so important for EVERYONE to step out of their comfort zone and experience new things. Visiting a new place (whether it is within driving distance or further away) allows you to work as a family to navigate, find information, discover what that place has to offer and share a common experience. If you live near a big city, try visiting one of the neighborhoods that you have never visited before. You may experience new foods, a new language and see some amazing sites along the way. Share with one another the feelings you experience as you set off on this new adventure and then compare them to the the feelings that you have as make the journey back home.
8. Invite New Friends Over-Making new friends can be scary for many kids (and adults). You can model how to overcome this fear by inviting new people over to your home for coffee or a meal. Showing our kids the importance of community, kindness and making new friends is a powerful way for them to learn how to show compassion and make friends in their own lives.
9. Research a Person from History who was Brave–We are BIG history buffs in our family and one of our favorite things to learn about is the brave people who have come before us. We all LOVE Brad Meltzer’s books in his Ordinary People Change the World series. They are fun and filled with information about the courage that people like Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller and many more had to change the world. There are so many good biographies, memoirs and documentaries out there. Encourage each member of your family to learn about a brave person from history. Host a special family dinner where you each share about the person’s life and how they showed bravery and courage.
10. Solve a Problem as a Family–A great way to show how to overcome fear and obstacles is to work as a family to solve a problem. Scavenger Hunts are a fun way to work as a team to solve problems. You can create a scavenger hunt for your family around your home or you can purchase an online scavenger hunt. Let’s Roam has scavenger hunts for most major cities (this is not an advertisement) and it is a fun way to explore a new city or a city you already know very well. Finding a challenge to solve as a family can also be a lot of fun. Destination Imagination has something called Instant challenges and they have 4 free challenges listed at this link. Cooperative Games are another fun way to work as a family. My family loves Gamewright games and the Forbidden series of games are cooperative and challenging. For Harry Potter fans, Hogwarts Battle Cooperative Game is very challenging and requires lots teamwork. My kids and I LOVE this game and are still working to beat game 5 out of 7.
When You are Brave by Pat Zietlow Miller is the story of a young girl who is moving away from the home that she knows and loves. The illustrations in this book are beautiful and the colors reflect the feelings and emotions that the young girl feels as she is on the journey to her new home. This book encourages readers to remember those times when they showed courage and call on those memories when facing new and scary situations. I LOVED this book (a new favorite) and would recommend it for ages 4 and up.
After the Fall-How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Sanat is the tale fo Humpty Dumpty after he fell from the wall. It is a story of perseverance, bravery and taking one step at a time to overcome your fears. This book is a family favorite and great for ages 6 and up. Please Note–At first many people think that this book ends badly for Humpty Dumpty…pay close attention.
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismandy is about a girl named Lucy who is being made fun of for being different. In the story she finds courage inside and uses advice from her grandfather to help her overcome this challenging situation. This book would be great for ages 5 and up.
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall is the story of a young boy who sets a goal of jumping off the diving board at the community pool. He starts off the story very brave and excited to take on this goal but as his time to jump comes closer, he becomes more and more unsure and scared. Will Jabari find the courage to jump off the diving board? This book is wonderful for ages 3 and up.
Brave Enough for Two by Jonathan D. Voss is the story about Olive and her very best stuffed friend, Hoot. Hoot loves brave adventures and Olive prefers a quiet time and reading about adventures in books. Throughout the story, Hoot encourages Olive to be brave and step out of her comfort zone and onto some wild adventures. In the end Olive ends up being brave enough for both friends. This fantasy story would be great for ages 3 and up.
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel is the true story of Clara Lemlich who is a young immigrant in America at the turn of the century. When her father can’t find work, she finds a job at a factory making shirts. Working in the factory is hard work and unsafe due to the poor working conditions. Brave Clara becomes a young activist and inspiration as she organizes others to fight for better rights at the factory. This story is the true story of a BRAVE and COURAGEOUS girl who did not stop fighting for what she believed was right. This book would be great for ages 6 and up.
The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger is the perfect book for autumn. This story illustrates that sometimes all you need to be brave, is someone by your side. I LOVE the illustrations in this story and think it would be a great read aloud for ages 3 and up.
Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully is the story of a young girl who’s mother runs a boarding house. A famous wire-walker comes to stay at the boarding house and Mirette’s life changes forever. This beautiful story is about perseverance, facing fears and finding our own courage from within. My daughter LOVES this book and we’d recommend it for ages 5 and up.
The Ordinary People Change the World books by Brad Meltzer are well LOVED in our house. I think my daughter has almost every one of them (she may be missing 2 or 3) and reads them daily. I love them because they show that famous people who have changed the world are still people after all. Most have have had to overcome a lot of adversity and challenges to make change happen. Brad makes the world of biographies so much fun and the illustrations by Christoper Eliopoulos are wonderful. They always hide the next famous person they are planning to write a biography for at the end of the book and it so much fun to hunt for them. The Harriet Tubman book is my daughters favorite in the series. She loved learning about how brave Harriet was and how many people she helped to escape slavery. This series also has books about Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller and so many more. Ages 5 and up
Books that Will Inspire Bravery in Older Children
Green Ember Series (ages 9 and up)-This series is jam-packed with adventure! It can be a bit dark at times but my sensitive 9-year-old is just fine with it. She even named her pet bunny after one of the lead characters.
The Land of Stories Series (ages 8 and up)-This series of stories was an ABSOLUTE family favorite. We devoured these stories and loved the way the fairytale world and our world collided. These creative stories are read by the author and so much fun to listen to aloud.
The Tuesdays at the Castle Series (ages 8 and up)-This fantasy series is about a royal family who lives in a magical castle and the many challenges they face. This book is filled with adventure, magic and friendship and each book will leave you running to the next to see what happens. We truly loved this series and hope that there will be a few more in the series.
The How to Train Your Dragon Series (ages 8 and up)-This series is very different from the movie (we like the books better) and read by the amazing David Tennant. My son and I devoured this series but it was too much for my daughter who was 7 and 8 at the time.
The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates Series (ages 6 and up)-This book series is so much fun! The main character is the young daughter of the admiral and her dream is to sail the seas as a PIRATE. Her companion is a magical gargoyle and their adventures will keep you laughing and saying, “ARGH”. This is such a fun series.
The Peter Nimble Series by Jonathan Auxier(ages 9 and up)–The Peter Nimble books will keep you guessing until the end. Jonathan Auxier is a gifted story-teller and his characters are like no others. These stories are filled with humor, adventure and will leave you on the edge of your couch.
Watch the interview below to see what some of the kids love about Kids in Service & to learn more about our local Kids in Service program! Thank you so much to Cheryl Haas for inviting us to be her first guests on her new show, Community Connection!