Children pick up on an awful lot without us saying it – they learn to talk, walk and jump without specific lessons, and they’ll pick up on lots of ‘the way we do things at our centre/in our family’ unconsciously. But for some things, especially in the area of values, virtues, and character development, it’s necessary for us to live them out loud if we want to pass them on.
If we want children to develop good character, it’s great for them to discuss and practise things like:
- care for the environment
- and perseverance
In this recent article on spirituality and religious life in early childhood education, I talked about finding common ground between your centre and your families, and making the most of it.
Families from all religious – and secular – backgrounds will appreciate a centre focusing on values and virtues.
So today we’re starting a series brainstorming different ways an early childhood education centre could live their values out loud. Let’s make a big noise about these wonderful things we want our children to pick up on, and in doing so, also strengthen connections with religious families – and all families.
We’re starting with generosity, and we’d love to hear your ideas and tips in the comments below, and on our Facebook page, to share around.
Talking about Generosity
What is generosity? We can talk with children about:
- Putting someone else’s needs first
- Letting someone else go first
- Giving things to other people
- Sharing with other people
- Spending time doing what our friend wants
- Thinking about what will make someone else feel good
Mentioning generosity throughout the day
Once generosity is a thing you regularly talk about, you can point out examples of it in your everyday activities.
‘Let’s be generous, shall we, and offer the plate of fruit to our friends before we have some.’
‘Who will be generous and let the other friend choose a story first?’
‘Perhaps Ruby needs us to be generous to her just now?’
‘Who shall we draw a picture for? Who can we be generous to today?’
‘Thank you for being so generous!’
‘That’s a generous thing to do.’
I’m sure you already do this kind of thing, whether it’s with generosity or with ‘kind hands’ or ‘using our words’. Don’t you find it makes a real difference to point these things out, to identify them as they happen?
Stories showing Generosity in Action
What picture books can you think of that show generosity in action? There will be plenty on your shelves already, probably. Here are some ideas:
Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam, by Juliette MacIver, is one of the best rollicking rhymers of recent years. Marmaduke Duck has made himself some grapefruit jam, but along comes a greedy llama who is not generous, and makes poor Marmaduke cry by licking it all up. But there’s good news! The animals make up and put together a friendly feast to share at the end, everyone contributing a different dish.
Splash, Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke and Lauren Tobia, is one of a charming series following a little girl living in an enormous family, in Africa (the country is deliberately not specified, but Atinuke grew up in Nigeria). In this story, she really wants someone to play with her at the beach, but everyone is too busy with their own things. When they finally do join in and generously play with her, they all have a good time.
In Robyn Kahukiwa’s The Boy and the Dolphin, a water-loving boy generously helps a dolphin in distress, becomes friends with it, and is helped in return. (Available in English and te reo Māori.)
The little boy in Last Stop on Market Street is riding the bus with his Nana, from church to the soup kitchen where they volunteer. Nana does a great job of finding the good in everything that happens, and modelling a life of generosity.
Mo Willems’ classic Knuffle Bunny series ends in Knuffle Bunny Free, when Trixie loses, finds, and eventually gives away Knuffle Bunny to a baby who needs it more. A warning: the epilogue will make the adults cry!
If your centre has older children who enjoy listening to audiobooks or to a teacher reading longer stories, you might want to check out the absolutely wonderful Snake and Lizard series, by Joy Cowley, available as an audio download from Radio New Zealand, or from your local bookshop. Snake and Lizard are two friends who are very different, and have to practise all sorts of kind and generous behaviour to make their relationship work. They’re whimsical, funny stories, with a big heart.
Please let us know your favourites that other centres could hunt down.
Making the Most of Finding Common Ground with your Families
It’s worth remembering that every time you focus on positive character development, you will be further endearing your centre to parents. Make the most of this!
Make sure families know that you care about helping their children practise generosity, and celebrate generous choices in your learning stories.
If you have families with a particular religious affiliation, don’t be afraid of mentioning the connection to both adults and children.
You could even include a note like this in your newsletter:
This month we have a special focus on generosity, and will be doing XYZ.
We would love to hear how your family practises generosity, so that we can help the children make connections between what we do here, and how things are at home. In particular, if you are part of a religious or cultural tradition that values generosity, please feel free to tell us about it so we can weave it into our planning.’
Most religious families will be delighted to find that their strongly-held values are being supported by your centre.
What other ideas do you have that you could share with other readers? How do your children show generosity at your centre and at home? Let us know in a comment below, or on our Facebook page.
Thalia Kehoe Rowden was a Playcentre kid before attending St John’s Hill Kindergarten in Whanganui, New Zealand. Some time later, she became a Baptist church minister, then a mother and a writer. She now lives with her husband and two small children in Wellington, New Zealand, and knows more about dinosaurs and astronomy than ever before. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and her parenting, spirituality and social justice website, Sacraparental.