Character Traits for a Positive Environment

Thoughtfulness, generosity, and empathy are character traits that will help foster an environment that is peaceful and supportive, and where all children can grow and develop to their maximum potential. The question is, ‘How do we foster these character traits in children?’ Although we generally think that these are inborn, innate traits, there are ways we can encourage the development of these positive attitudes. One great, often used strategy is a reward jar which helps identify and celebrate the desired behavior.

Therefore, key to a reward jar’s success in creating a positive environment lies in:
• Identifying the most important trait to reward
• Making sure the children understand what the trait is, and how it ‘looks’
• Being consistent with reward jar additions
• Choosing a group reward instead of individual rewards, (and of course, an unspoken part of the ‘reward’ is a more positive environment!)

With the Generosity ‘Reward Jar’, we are teaching children to be generous and giving to all children in the group, as well as others. Helping children learn to express compassion and empathy towards others through day to day activities will help them develop life-long practices of caring for others.

Making and using the 2019 Generosity Jars

Materials Needed
• Poster board – 2 pieces
• Paper strips
• 2 Clear, large plastic jars with lids
• Marker
• Tape

Jar 1 ‘Generosity Is…’
• Define Generosity – Create a poster with ideas of how to be generous – this helps children understand how generosity ‘looks’; children need concrete examples of abstract ideas
– Draw the outline of a jar on the poster board
– Label this poster ‘Generosity Is….’
• Cut strips of paper to write out things that showed generosity
• Have an ‘end of day’ circle time to talk about what someone did that was kind and generous that day
• Write these actions on a strip of paper and tape to ‘Generosity Is ….’ Poster
• At the end of the week, read all the slips of paper on the poster and choose one that was the best for the week; put that strip in the jar
– These will be read at the end of the year to see a year of generosity

Jar 2 ‘Helping Hands’
• Use a second piece of poster
– Draw an outline of hands on poster board
– Label poster – ‘Helping Hands’
– Make a list of things children can do to help others; write these on strips of paper
– Tape inside the hands
• Every month, choose one idea from the ‘Helping Hands’ poster as group project of giving back to the community at large
• When project is completed, write a summary of the project with each child adding what they liked about it; fold the paper up and place in ‘Helping Hands’ jar
• At the end of the year, read the papers to see all of the things they did to help others in 2019

Character Development Using the Early Learning Success Curriculum

The Early Learning Success curriculum has several Units of Study that can help children develop generosity, empathy, and friendship skills. Each Unit includes a list of books, songs/finger plays, and activities for ages birth through school-age. Here is a summary of these Units.

1. Gifts from the Heart Unit of Study

Available at
Teaching children to be generous and caring can help ensure a peaceful and supportive environment where all children grow and develop to their maximum potential. This is not only a great environment for children, but also for the adults that work in it… win-win for all!

Guiding children in expressing compassion and empathy towards others through day to day activities will help them develop life-long practices of caring for others. Through hands-on activities, children:
• Create a ‘coupon book’ of nice things to do for others
• Make a ‘I Care’ puppet to use in role playing how to care for others
• Bake cookies to share with others

Sample activity from this Unit:  Enough for All

2. Being A Friend Unit of Study  

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Learning what makes a good friend, and learning how to be a good friend is something that we should be teaching our youngest children. The character traits that make up a good friend are the same ones that will help alleviate bullying in the classroom. We need to help children feel special and that they are a valuable, contributing member to the group. This nurtures a sense of ‘community’ which promotes kindness, understanding of others, celebrating accomplishments, and the goal of working together.

Learning about being a friend is a fun and joyful experience. Through hands-on activities, children:
• Concretely see how each person is an important member of the group when they take ‘attendance’
• Practice measuring skills as they see how tall they and their friends are
• Create a group ‘friendship quilt’ where every square is unique
• Work their large muscles in an action game

3. Peace Keepers Unit of Study

Available at
This Unit is an introduction to the development of Positive Personal Power. Children and adults that are able to develop, recognize and access their Positive Personal Power are able to make good decisions, are responsible and accountable for their behavior and actions, and contribute to the development of a positive environment that promotes group or community cohesiveness. They are also better equipped emotionally to be resilient during times of stress. Although developing Positive Personal Power is important for children,  there are great benefits to educators and providers too. As children develop their Positive Personal Power, there will be fewer and less serious discipline issues/concerns; the atmosphere will be fun and energizing for children and adults; and the environment will be educationally stimulating and emotionally nurturing.

Key elements in developing Positive Personal Power are:
• Positive self-esteem
• Membership in a group or community
• Communication skills such as listening and the power of language
• Strategies for solving conflicts
• Sharing common values
• Practicing respect and responsibility for ourselves, towards others and the environment
• Positive decision making strategies
• Recognizing, respecting and celebrating diversity
• Commitment to civic responsibility and service learning

Most importantly, children that develop their Positive Personal Power are more successful in developing social skills, academic skills, self-help skills, and real-life skills. This leads to more success in life and in school.

Sample activity from this Unit:  Giraffe Puppets

Read more about teaching children empathy at