Learning to care for or share with others can be difficult for young children because they are so focused on themselves. But, thinking about others—their feelings and their needs—is a critical social skill. Very young children know when someone is unhappy or hurt, but they need guidance to learn how to help.
As parents, there are many ways to help children learn to care for others:
- Model caring. When you see someone in need, offer your help. For example, if an older person at the grocery store has trouble reaching an item or reading ingredients on a package, stop and help. Talk with your child about the smile of thanks you received and how good it makes you feel to help another person even with something simple.
- Praise helping. When you see your child do something to help others, talk about how you noticed his or her kindness and appreciate it. For example, when your child reads to his/her younger brother or sister or helps pick up another child who has fallen, offer praise, a thank you and a smile.
- Offer opportunities for children to care and share. Arrange specific times for children to help each other. For example, ask one child to help another with a chore or teach someone a game or share a special talent.
- When someone is unhappy or needs help, talk about it as a family. For example, if the local news tells the story of a fire in your town where families lose their homes, talk about it with your child. Ask why it’s important to help these people. Then, check with your local Red Cross or other agency to find out how your family can help.
- Treat others the way you would like others to treat you. The best way to teach children how to care for others is to treat them with love and kindness so they learn to give in return. Talk to your child about appropriate ways to help, speak, or play with others. Participating in activities together as you do something special for someone shows the importance of treating others with kindness and gentleness.
Note: Building Blocks has great ways to support helping your child’s understanding of caring for others.
- Sing along with "The Lion and the Mouse," a song about helping others.
- Play the Building Blocks’ Activity Book’s "The Lion and the Mouse" (PDF), a game about sharing, being helpful and good manners.
- Read the Building Blocks’ Family Guide’s section on Volunteering as a Family (PDF) to get ideas on how you and your children can help your community.
Family Activity: Family Caring Project
Quiz for Parents: Golden Rule
Related Article for Educators: Helping Others
- "Children and Charities: Teaching Kids To Share" from More 4 Kids has ideas for helping children show that they care by sharing with children’s charities.
- "Helping Children Learn About Kindness" from Missouri Families Relationships gives tips to support children caring.
- "Celebrate the Holidays: Teach Children About Giving" can help you find activities to encourage and teach giving from Sharon Vincz Andrews, Professor at Indiana State University.
- "Giving (and Getting) in the Holiday Season" from Bright Horizons Family Solutions has ways to manage a balance between giving and getting from e-family news.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.