If there was ever a time to be kind, it’s right now. As parent group leaders, we just love that we have the chance to influence our school culture for the better, making kindness, empathy, inclusion, and acceptance an everyday thing. Below, we’ve rounded up loads of feel-good ideas to inspire your whole school!
1. Throw kindness around like confetti—as in, all over the school campus.
You might want to bring that umbrella to Doughnuts With Dudes because we’re about to make it rain kindness! Encourage students and staff to leave anonymous “kindness cards” (sticky notes scribbled with messages of hope, peace, and all-around awesomeness) on cars in the parking lot, vending machines, lockers, desks, and elsewhere.
2. Invite students to write notes to school staff at an appreciation station.
It doesn’t take much to lift someone up—a few kind words can change everything. Set up an appreciation station in the school cafeteria or lobby where students can drop by to write notes. Then, collect and distribute notes to staff members during Teacher Appreciation Week, National Custodian Day, Principal Appreciation Day, School Secretary Appreciation Day, and School Bus Driver Appreciation Day—and let’s not forget the lunch monitors, either.
3. Teach kids to be kind to others—and themselves—both online and offline at a Family Tech Talk event.
Kids face a lot of pressure, from perfecting that filtered pic on Instagram to fighting hours-long Fortnite battles with buddies. It’s easy to feel excluded, addicted to the screen, not good enough, not thin enough—the list goes on. Our free Family Tech Talk program offers a chance for families at your school to learn from an Internet safety expert what kids are doing online, the importance of being kind to others and yourself (both IRL and virtually) and finding a healthy balance between time spent online and offline.
4. Create a Kindness Rocks garden (literally).
Invite students to decorate rocks with messages of kindness, empathy, and hope during recess. Collect and place them in a designated garden, or line the walkway of an outdoor learning space with the decorated rocks. A few tips from one of our rock star PTO leaders: Prep rocks in advance with Rust-Oleum American Accents 2x Ultra Cover spray paint, then decorate with oil-based paint pens (just make sure you open and activate them in advance). Finally, seal rocks with Mod Podge clear acrylic sealer.
5. This tree of kindness display is kind of hard to miss—but that’s the point.
Given students hearts to write down acts of kindness they performed. Hold a kindness challenge and tally up how many kind acts your school community performs.
6. Start an after-school Kindness Club where kids learn how to spread kindness and encourage others to do the same.
Students at Whipple Elementary in Canton, Ohio, get together regularly to make kindness a priority at their school, from signing kindness pledges to passing out kindness notes and lollipops at football games. Nonprofit organizations like the Kind Campaign offer free resources to help schools start a Kind Club in addition to providing in-school kindness assemblies.
7. Something good is in the air! Get things rolling with a Kindness Counts Night.
Getting kids involved in bettering the world around them helps develop both perspective and empathy—and the knowledge that we can all help change the world for the better. During a Kindness Counts Night, families can make cards for local nursing homes and hospitals, assemble blessing bags for homeless shelters, and donate items like winter coats for families in need. Show kids the power of kindness by inviting them to add a heart to stick to a wall of kindness.
8. Trade your (sort of creepy) Elf of the Shelf for Kindness Elves.
Come December, that pesky Elf on the Shelf can be found wreaking harmless holiday havoc in classrooms everywhere (he’s even been blamed for that paper jam in the office). But some schools are trading it for Kindness Elves who bring notes asking children to do one kind thing each day. For instance: “Write cards to kids at St. Jude”; “bring in canned goods for the local food pantry”; “compliment the person sitting next to you”; “pick up trash around the school property.”
9. Kick that school spiritwear up a notch with some school kindwear.
Great to don during antibullying month (October) and Random Acts of Kindness Week (February), “kindwear” is the fun way to show that your students are proud to be kind. Some of our favorite shirt sayings: Kind Is Cool, Choose Kind, Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti, and Kindness Is Contagious.
10. Rally around kindness with a schoolwide lip dub.
Come together to celebrate the fabric of your school community with an all-school lip dub video. Show kids that individually we may be different, but we each play an important part and together we can accomplish anything. Hold a kindness rally at the end of the video to celebrate all the differences that make your school great!
11. Deck the halls (and stalls) with powerful messages of kindness and positivity.
Gather parent volunteers and teachers to paint inspirational quotations on walls in the school restrooms or lobby. For all you non-painters out there, you can use vinyl, too. You can also purchase ready-made vinyl decals on sites like Etsy.
12. Source volunteer talent (mad woodworking skills a plus) to make a buddy bench.
Great for the early elementary years, a buddy bench offers an easy way for kids looking for playmates to connect during recess.
13. Dedicate some of that precious PTO bulletin board space to making a kindness bulletin board.
Or fill envelopes with different acts of kindness that students can draw from anytime.
14. Make a poster with a message for students.
The simple message on this poster made by the Conneaut Lake (Penn.) Elementary PTO reminds students of their role in spreading kindness. Hang your poster at student eye level in a highly trafficked area of the school, like a hallway near the cafeteria or the wall near the exit to the playground.
15. Hold a schoolwide Kindness Challenge Week.
Challenge students to perform different acts of kindness all week (these fun “kindness challenge” pencils make it hard to pick just one!). Give each day of the week a theme to encourage kids to think about how their actions and behavior affect those around them. We love this “What-if Week” idea shared in our Facebook group for leaders:
Monday: What if we practice positivity? (wear pink or purple)
Tuesday: What if we serve others? (wear camouflage or superhero cape)
Wednesday: What if we don’t judge others by how they look? (wear funky glasses)
Thursday: What if we stand up for one another? (school spirit shirt & jeans)
Friday: What if we have no excuses? (wear college gear)
16. Hold a disabilities awareness fair to show students what it’s like to live with different disabilities.
With nearly 13 percent of children receiving special education services (as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics), there’s good reason to help foster a kinder, more understanding, and more inclusive school community. Disabilities Awareness Month (March) is a great opportunity to give students the chance to learn, hands-on, what it’s like to live with different challenges—from spectrum disorders like autism to vision, speech, and physical impairments. Set up tables, each manned by a parent volunteer or child (or both) who can talk about what it’s like living with that specific disability. From learning to read Braille to trying out a wheelchair to meeting a service dog, kids get to be curious in a respectful way while learning and asking questions. Connect with your school’s special ed department for resources.
17. Provide a moderated activity during recess for kids who tend to fly solo.
Give students who might otherwise play alone the opportunity to engage with their classmates during a structured, feel-good activity. Offer a sensory path to encourage physical movement, games like giant Jenga, or an epic Lego wall to encourage kids to build together. Roll out an arts and crafts cart to allow quieter kids to create, draw, and color, or invite students to help the PTO with a “VIP task” like gluing googly eyes to cups for the upcoming monster-theme movie night. Motivate older students to help out with this effort by recruiting “kindness ninja” ambassadors.
18. Instead of pledging laps walked or minutes read, kids pledge acts of kindness during a good deeds-athon.
From cutting their hair for Locks of Love to sending a card to a sick neighbor, kids learn that being kind is actually pretty easy. (Psst: Your group can coordinate schoolwide kindness efforts, like a Kindness Challenge Week, to help facilitate!)
19. Chalk the walk (and you might just be the reason someone smiles today).
Greet students and staff with sidewalk notes that remind them that anything is possible, kindness is cool, and more.
20. Loop a kindness chain around the hallways as a reminder that no good deed goes unnoticed.
Start a schoolwide kindness paper chain and see how far it can reach throughout the school. To start, give paper strips to teachers. When a student or teacher is the recipient of a random act of kindness, have them write it on a strip of paper and add a link to their classroom chain. On the last day, staple classroom chains together and string throughout the hallways.
21. Start each day with good vibes by having kids read a kindness quote.
Have students from each grade take turns sharing the quote of the day during morning announcements.
22. Take an aerial photo of students in the shape of a heart.
Source a drone (just ask those techie 5th graders!) and have students assemble on the blacktop in heart formation. Print the photo on thank-you cards that you can hand out when you catch kids (and adults) being kind, or share on your group’s social media channels as your school’s emblem of kindness.
23. Got kind kids? Let them show off all the good deeds they’ve done during a kindness share fair.
A kindness share fair is an opportunity for students to celebrate all the good deeds they’ve done throughout the year, from making board games and cards for senior center residents to baking cupcakes for the local police station.
24. Invite them to a kindness cafe.
As part of an extensive school kindness program implemented through the 365Z Foundation, organizers at Chaffee Elementary in Oxford, Mass., recognize students who’ve shown kind behavior in a variety of ways. At the kindness cafe, kids who’ve demonstrated kindness have their lunch with Captain Kindness (alter ego of school principal Robert Pelczarski); after lunch, they enjoy a surprise treat. “We set some expectations on what we hope to see in regards to kindness and behavior,” Pelczarski says. “We celebrate the heck out of kids when we see kind acts and deeds...then when we find some kids that deserve even more rewards (or need them) and we celebrate even further!”
Originally posted in 2018 and updated regularly. Elizabeth S. Leaver contributed to this article.