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  • Writer's pictureLisa Dixon-Wells, M.Ed.

Bringing K-2 Students an “Aha” Moment About Kindness

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

How do you explain to children of 5, 6 or 7 years old, that their unkind or bullying words can have long-term impact when “long-term” doesn’t really make sense to them yet? The Dare to Care Broken Heart Activity is simple, but we’ve found it to be a powerful exercise that really connects with this age group.

We start with a big, cut-out heart and invite students to give examples of unkind things they’ve heard said to others or have had said to them (no swearing allowed). Each time a student shares an unkind comment, we rip a piece of the heart and let it drop to the floor.

When the heart is all gone, we tell the students that they have the ability to help someone by replacing the unkind words with words of encouragement and kindness. As each child shares a kind statement, we pick up a piece of the broken heart and tape it back in place, and we do this until all the pieces are back together.

But does the heart look the same as it did in the beginning? Even though the pieces are all together again, the children can still see the “scars,” and we explain that's exactly what happens in life. For every unkind word, it takes about three kind words to help someone feel better – but the scars are still there.

The learning from this activity is that it is very easy to break someone's heart with the words we say and the things we do. It's very hard to make that person feel better again, so why be mean in the first place?

I believe that children are inherently good, and their responses to this exercise reinforce this belief every time. Children truly take this to heart, with many now starting to understand empathy, perhaps for the first time, and determined to do better.

We’ve incorporated many teaching tools into Dare to Care because we’ve found activities, classroom posters, mnemonic devices, and discussion questions not only make new concepts easier to grasp, they can be used to remind children to continue their kinder, more respectful behavior over time.

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