Some of you may have seen this feel good news story around the web this week:
Ohio 8 Year Old Turns $20 Into Priceless Gift  This one pretty well hit home for me as I have kids around this age, we live in Ohio, AND my husband is also a veteran  🙂  After reading this short article, I had to wonder, would my kids respond with similar thoughtfulness if they found themselves in the same situation as the boy in this news story?

As much as my husband and I hope to instill the pay it forward mentality in our kids, I can’t say I’m sure exactly how they would respond had they been in that boy’s place, so I decided to explore some practical ideas to bring up the next generation to be servant-hearted givers. Service learning has been a big interest of mine since I was working on my Masters degree in School Counseling. So I decided to go back to my roots and ask a few questions – When it comes to raising children to give, how do we begin with the end in mind? We may know the kind of people we would like them to grow into some day, but what does it look like to build the daily habits into a long term way of life that they will carry with them into adulthood?

Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments because we will barely skim the surface of the how and the why behind service learning and list only a handful of virtual and tangible resources. Indeed, this subject is so broad it is going to take an entire series just to touch on a few aspects of it.

How to create kind kids: Inspiring Kids to Pay it Forward

Why service learning?

It provides a platform to motivate and fully engage children in the process of learning – It helps foster civic responsibility as kids gain experience in taking action as socially aware global citizens
Kids gain deeper understanding of themselves as well as empathy and respect for others

How to do service learning

– Tie in current events
– Engage kids in decision making and service project design
– Start small and local

How to create kind kids: Inspiring Kids to Pay it Forward

Books for adults to teach kids service learning

Service Learning in the PreK-3 Classroom

Based on field trials with over 2,000 students and 215 educators, this one-of-a-kind resource presents all the background knowledge and skills needed to effectively use service learning in preK and primary classrooms. Rich in both theory and practice, the book combines community service with differentiated curriculum-based learning to meet the academic and social needs of the young children in meaningful ways. Sample lesson plans are based on tested classroom projects and correlated to national service learning, Head Start, and Common Core State standards. It includes dozens of ready-to-use templates for lesson planning, surveying, assessment, evaluation, permissions, and documentation. Aligns with K–12 Service Learning Standards for Quality Practice.

The Complete Guide to Service Learning
This project-based guide is a blueprint for service learning. It provides ideas for incorporating literacy into service learning and suggestions for creating a culture of service. An award-winning treasury of activities, ideas, annotated book recommendations, author interviews, and expert essays—all presented within a curricular context and organized by theme. Digital Content contains all of the planning and tracking forms from the book plus bonus service learning plans, and more.


Books to read with kids to instill service learning

Pay It Forward Kids: Small Acts, Big Change

In Pay It Forward Kids readers will meet ordinary kids from across North America who have done extraordinary things, all on their own initiatives. These kids have raised both money and awareness for causes such as homelessness, human rights, orphans, and literacy. They’ve rescued child slaves, provided hope to the sick, and comfort for the dying. They’ve also enabled others to enjoy pleasures that many people take for granted. These powerful stories demonstrate that you’re never too young to make a difference or to improve the life of another.

Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed

Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed is a feel-good story that inspires and celebrates a world full of ordinary deeds! A little girl’s act of kindness starts a chain reaction that multiplies around the world.

Pay It Forward: A Novel

Pay It Forward is a wondrous and moving novel about Trevor McKinney, a twelve-year-old boy in a small California town who accepts the challenge that his teacher gives his class, a chance to earn extra credit by coming up with a plan to change the world for the better — and to put that plan into action. What is his idea? Trevor chooses three people for whom he will do a favor, and then when those people thank him and ask how they might pay him back, he will tell them that instead of paying him back, they should each “pay it forward” by choosing three people for whom they can do favors, and in turn telling those people to pay it forward. It’s nothing less than a human chain letter of kindness and good will.

Online Resources

ZOOM!: Service Learning
National Service-Learning Clearinghouse
National Service-Learning Partnership
Learning In Deed
Good Character: Character Education
Zoom Into Action: Hunger and Homelessness
NOW with Bill Moyers: Hunger Resource Map
America’s Second Harvest

Kid to Kid
Learn and Serve America
Idealist: Kids and Teens
Special Olympics

For more ideas and inspiration on service:

Follow Sybil Brun @’s board GET OUT & GIVE! on Pinterest

This post was the first in a series on how to teach kids service learning. Throughout this series, we will be talking about the character qualities that lead kids to want to pay it forward in the first place  : )

We’d love to hear your thoughts on how to teach kids to pay it forward!  What do you do to foster kindness in your kids? Next up in this series – check out a discussion on how to teach kids gratitude in an age of entitlement.