Showing kindness to animals, while not universal in all kids, is something that young kids seem to understand. So, doing a kindness activity for kids to this summer to practice this kindness seemed like a great way to continue to expand our children’s definition of kindness and use of empathy.
Earlier this year, I was so excited to run a Kindness Club for my son's elementary school for the third and fourth graders. In this short program, we discussed gratitude (and each family received my Gratitude Crate from my product based business), discussed kindness and paying it forward, and then were then pick a service project to do for the community.
It was important (to me at least) that the kids felt some ownership over whatever service project we tried to do for the community so I didn't preset the activity that we would do. I did come up with a short list of about 6 to 7 different projects for the kids to choose from, one of which was a project for the animals at a local shelter.
I gave each of the 15 kids three votes and they had to choose their top three projects. With the first couple of kids, it was obvious which one was going to win. They began asking if they could count each of their votes for a single project. I said, sure, why not. Within minutes, the project for the animal shelter was far in the lead.
All of the kids there wanted to do this project. It was very cool having everyone be aligned to the same idea, so I had to give myself a pat on the back!
We decided we would do a couple of things for animals at the animal shelter, including hold a school drive for food, collars, and bedding for the animals. But, I wanted something hands on for the kids to do.
But, before we got into the project, we read a few books. I am in LOVE with a couple of this week's books. Each book gives a different perspective of human relationships with their pets.
Rescue and Jessica explores the role of service dogs in a touching story;
Bad Dog Marley explores life with a dog and how even in times of trouble, they are part of the family; and
Hobbes Goes Home introduces kids to the experience of many animals in their search for a forever home and their [hopefully short] visits to shelters.
These books only increased the kids passion and desire to do something to help the animals. We discussed what feelings came up from reading these books and then how to turn those feelings into action and advocacy.
For the hands on project, we decided to make toys for the dogs and cats. In this week's download, there are links to two videos that walk you through how to do the dog toys and cat toys. These are perfect for elementary aged kids and is definitely a fun craft activity.
In preparation for doing this with our Kindness Club, I spent many nights cutting up t-shirts and materials for the dog pull toys. I sprayed cat nip all over 50 corks to make the cat toys. I knotted and prepped. And, then the kids and I spent two hours making more than 100 dog and cat toys, counting up food, collars, bedding, and supplies to take to the animal shelter.
It was so fun. Here are a couple of lessons learned:
Stick to t-shirts (or similar cotton material) for the dog pull toys. We tried a couple of different types of materials for the toys and most of it just left little threads and strings everywhere…and didn't work well for the toys.
The video for the dog toys is AWESOME! It perfectly explains how to do a box knot, which for an uncoordinated person like myself was just what I needed to explain it to a group of 15 nine and ten year olds.
Use spray Cat Nip. The video for the cat toys suggested boiling the corks in catnip. I just bought the spray catnip and spent 20 minutes spraying them. It worked just as well.
Don't go crazy with the glue. Tacky glue worked just fine for the cat toys.
The kids had a good time doing this activity, and it was fun working on it with them. They were super engaged all the way. We are on vacation this week before school starts, but we are going to work on making a few dog toys on one of the undoubtedly rainy days coming up.
Grab this week's activity download and have fun showing the animals in your life and in your community some extra special kindness!