Teaching compassion should be an ongoing process. Children are exposed to many things every day in which compassion should be the appropriate response. Sharing, friendship, love, respect, and charity are all traits associated with compassion.

The Coin Jar

This is an ongoing activity that will teach the children that one small act can grow into many acts of kindness. This particular act will grow into sharing and caring. For this activity you will need the following materials:

  • 32-oz (or larger) plastic jug or jar
  • Permanent marker
  • Sequins or other small decorative items
  • Liquid glue
  • Several coins

First, decide on a donation project with your children. Examples include the rainforest, a homeless shelter, women’s shelter, Habitat for Humanity, etc. Label the jar with the name of the foundation to which you will be donating. Have your child decorate the jar sparingly with the decorative items, using the liquid glue (you will want to leave some see-through spaces so you can gauge how much the coins are filling up the jar). Begin the project by putting several coins in the jar and encourage your child to put spare change from his/her allowance or change they find on the sidewalk, etc. into the jar. Once the jar fills up, start another jar. Make sure you discuss with your children the importance of the activity. Explain to them that you are showing compassion by adding money to the jar that will go towards a cause or group of people that are in need of financial assistance. Your children will be surprised as to how quickly the coins will add up to a considerable amount of money. Throughout the activity, have your child guess how many coins are in the jar, how much will be collected, or how much the jar weighs. This is teaching estimation skills, as well. If you have more than one child, whoever guesses the correct amount or weight can get some sort of small prize. Once the second jar is filled, go ahead and make a donation to the cause you chose, and if you wish, you can continue the project – either for the same charity or for a different one.

Other ways to teach compassion:

  • Visit a nursing home with colorful cards you children have made for the residents.
  • Donate gently used toys to a children’s hospital. If your children are mature enough, you may even deliver them to the hospital and visit with the patients personally.
  • Have your children make care packages for soldiers overseas, or simply mail the soldiers cards or letters. Alternatively, you can donate care packages or items to those affected by natural disasters.
  • Have a yard sale and donate the proceeds to the chosen charity in the activity above, or for another charity of your choice.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
  • Donate items to a food bank or homeless/women’s shelter.

Some books about compassion that you can read with your children are:

  • Now One Foot, Now the Other (Tomie de Paola)
  • Special People (Who Cares) (Rachel Letch)
  • The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein)
  • The Rainbow Fish (Marcus Pfister)
  • The Selfish Giant (Oscar Wilde)
  • The Little Red Hen (Paul Galdone)

Children learn most by example, so make sure your actions are able to reflect the things you want them to learn.