Encouraging Helping Behaviors in Young Children

Encouraging Helping Behaviors in Young Children

We hope that every young child in our care grows up to be a kind and generous adult, and we know that each of their parents does, too. And according to research, helping behaviors can be learned in children as young as 18 months of age. Your children are encouraged to develop these behaviors by their daycare and preschool providers each day, and you can motivate your children to help at home as well.

A study was published in the journal Science, which suggested as young as 18 months of age, children display helping behaviors. And what’s more, they actually continue to help others around them even if when no reward is offered. In the study, adults dropped a clothespin on the floor, but did not tell the children in their presence that they wanted the clothespin to be picked up. Nevertheless, nearly every child possessed an instinct which encouraged them to pick up the clothespin and hand it back to the adult.

Adults can be on the lookout for ways in which children can help others. If a child is reaching for a toy, another child within reach of that toy may be asked to pass it along. If a child wants to share, or join in on a game, kids are encouraged to be generous while they play.

You children’s daycare and preschool providers encourage this helping instinct by modeling good behavior to young children. As they help with everyday tasks from using the bathroom to learning about a new toy, children watch adults assisting and offering service all day long, and are motivated to behave in a similar manner.

Responding in a positive manner to helping behaviors is another way in which childcare providers can encourage children to help. Children share toys, clean up their own messes, and retrieve items for others throughout the day, and the praise they receive in response to these actions acts as excellent reinforcement.

And at home, parents can model good behavior, positively reinforce helping behavior, and encourage specific helping acts. But parents can also choose books, television, and media with positive messages about generosity and kindness. Choosing a television show like Sesame Street or a book like The Giving Tree can show children the ways in which they can help and be kind.

Are there any television shows or books that you recommend which carry positive messages about helping? We’d love for parents to share in the comments section!

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