A metaphor of a bucket can be an effective tool for teaching kids caring behavior. Bucket fillers are those positive little people who lift others up, while bucket dippers bring others down and cause hurt feelings. As you try to teach your toddlers and preschoolers outgoing kindness, find some appropriate bucket filler activities to make this concept come alive.
Read All About It
The concept of an imaginary bucket representing a person’s emotional well-being isn’t new. In fact, it goes back to the 1960s. Dr. Donald O. Clifton first coined the phrases “bucket dipper” to mean a person who hurts feelings with words or actions and “bucket filler” to mean a person who says positive, uplifting things. Sit down with your little ones and read one or two short stories to introduce bucket filling and get them excited about the concept. You might read “Will You Fill My Bucket” by Carol McCloud and Karen Wells or “Fill a Bucket: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Young Children” by Carol McCloud and Katherine Martin.
Show the Lesson
Grab a bucket, a dipper and some packing peanuts in another container to illustrate the lesson to youngsters. Show your tots the empty bucket, the packing peanuts and the dipper. Explain to your little ones that the empty bucket is a lot like their hearts feel -- either full and happy or empty and sad. Point out the packing peanuts and tell your tots that you’re going to pretend that the packing peanuts are happy feelings that you can either put into the bucket to fill it or take out of the bucket to empty it. Scoop out a dipper full of packing peanuts and dump it into the bucket. As you add the peanuts to the bucket, say something like, “You’re a good friend and I love your smile.” Tell your little ones, “If someone said this to you, you’d feel happy inside, right? This is bucket filling.” Now, scoop out some packing peanuts with the dipper and pour them back into the other container. As you remove the packing peanuts, say, “You can’t play with us because you have red hair. If someone said this to you, you’d feel sad inside, right? This is bucket dipping.”
Make some buckets for everyone in the family to start a bucket-filling family activity. Buckets don’t have to be elaborate or fancy -- simple plastic sand pails from the corner store would be ideal. Give your little ones some glue, sequins, stickers, paper scraps and ribbons and help them decorate their buckets. Help kids write their names on their buckets so everyone knows which bucket is which.
Encourage Bucket Filling
Encourage kids to start filling other family members’ buckets with positive, uplifting and loving statements about others. Help little ones write their special messages on index cards and encourage them to stick them in other people’s buckets to fill them up with positive thoughts and loving comments. You could choose one day a week when all family members empty their buckets and read the sweet messages. Of course, you’ll have to help pre-readers with this. If you want, you could even tailor the entire activity for pre-readers by having everyone draw pictures instead of writing words.