Spreading Joy: 10 Random Acts of Kindness to Do With Your Kids This Holiday Season

Giving back during the holidays, and instilling this mindset in my child, is something I value tremendously. Though we vary in our methods and don’t have a set tradition for contributing to the greater good, my family and I always try to do something special to serve others in the name of the Christmas spirit.

But last year, as I looked at the calendar, I realized I’d failed.

It was less than a week until Christmas, and I’d been so busy preparing for and stressing over the frivolities of the holiday season that I had not yet done a single thing to give back to others in my community, let alone one that incorporated my daughter. Disappointed with myself, I decided to designate the next day as my personal Random Acts of Kindness Day.

I spent the rest of the day brainstorming and eventually came up with 10 simple, affordable, charitable ideas that my then-five-year-old daughter and I could put into action. After preparing our supplies, Harper and I woke the next morning, put on our Santa hats, and set out for a day of performing good deeds around San Antonio. It was a day I’ll never forget.

Here are the 10 Random Acts of Kindness we carried out, along with the cost of each:

1. Because Mama needed some caffeine, we kicked off our Random Acts of Kindness Day by stopping by the Starbucks drive-thru. We bought coffee for the person behind us in line and drove off before he had a chance to acknowledge us. The barista thanked us for doing something nice and said he dug our Santa hats. This cost us a little less than $4.

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2. We taped packages of microwaveable popcorn on Redbox machines so people could enjoy a bowl of popcorn with their movie rentals. We already had a few packages of popcorn lying around our pantry, so this good deed was of no additional cost to us.

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3. We left a tin full of Milk Bones at the dog park so that all of the pups could enjoy a yummy snack. We already had a box of Milk Bones at home, and Bustopher didn’t seem to mind that we shared some, so this cost us nothing.

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4. We had to get some gas, so once we were done we left $10 in cash taped to the pump for the next person to spend on their gasoline. Cost: $10 out of our pocket and into another’s.

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5. We stopped by Methodist Hospital to drop off cookies to the nurses in the NICU. Harper stayed in this same NICU for 45 days as a result of her premature birth, so this act of kindness wasn’t quite so “random,” but because we hold the NICU nurses dear to our hearts, we wanted to include them in our Kindness Day. The ladies at the front desk were touched, and Harper told them all about her NICU story and thanked them for taking care of her when she was little. We already had the cookie dough in our fridge from our last trip to HEB, so our only cost was the $1.25 we spent to park.

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6. We taped quarters to the front of six vending machines at Methodist Hospital. We’d planned to spread this one out across different places, but then we thought about it and figured that those visiting the hospital were probably in need of a free drink and some kindness more than anyone else. Total cost: $1.75 in quarters x six machines = $10.50.

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7. We filled a few Ziplock bags with $1.00 bills and hid them all around the Dollar Spot at Target. This cost us $4.00 for four baggies.

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8. We picked up a couple of gift cards during our earlier visit to Starbucks and taped them to the windshields of random cars in the hospital parking garage and Target parking lot. Cost to us: $5.00 x two gift cards = $10.00 total.

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9. We filled a Ziplock bag with $5.00 worth of quarters and taped it to the change machine at the car wash. Cost to us: $5.00 in change to help someone make their car look a lot cleaner than ours!

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10. We left a king-sized package of M&Ms in our mailbox to say thank you to whoever was delivering packages that day. This cost us approximately $1.00.

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A completely inadvertent bonus Random Act of Kindness happened when we found two dogs running loose in the neighborhood and escorted them home to their very thankful owners. I was too busy trying to keep the not-particularly-friendly pups from biting my feet to take a picture, but at least we helped them to make their way home safely.

It took us almost all day, but together my daughter and I completed 10 Random Acts of Kindness in hopes of making the world a little bit better than it was yesterday. The total cost to us? Only $40.75—proof that you don’t have to spend much to make a difference in the lives of others.

Post #32--IMG 007I loved everything about this experience. Not only did it provide a unique opportunity for my child and me to bond in the name of goodness, but it taught us both so much. We learned that giving feels good—and that we should do it more often. We learned that it doesn’t take much to give back and make people’s lives better—just kindness and a little bit of time—and that the simplest things can brighten someone else’s day. We learned that we ALL have the power to make the world a better place, even in the slightest of ways, and that no act of kindness is too small. And we learned that, above all, kindness breeds kindness.

Throughout our Random Acts of Kindness Day, I posted each of our good deeds on Facebook as we completed them, hoping to inspire others to do the same. I was completely overwhelmed by the response.

Dozens of friends followed suit by performing their own random kindnesses and then posting on my Facebook to tell us about them. It touched me to see the trickle-down effect of our Random Acts of Kindness and know that our experience had encouraged others to do good in the world, and I especially loved being able to share this with my daughter. Every time I told her that another person had written to express their thanks and share that they now felt compelled to do something similar, her eyes just sparkled. “Mama, it’s really working!” she said. “We really made the world a better place!”

The icing on the cake came a few days later, when one of the recipients of our Random Acts of Kindness took the time to visit ACMB and write to Harper and me. “Chris” was in town visiting his family for the holidays and had stopped by the car wash to clean and vacuum his mother’s car when he came across our bag of quarters. “It [had been] awhile since someone [did] something for me, so it put a huge smile on my face,” he wrote. “Not only did you both make my day by giving me a free car wash, you also helped me complete a good deed for my mother. Thank you!”[hr]

For moms, December can be a stressful time. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and hoopla of the holidays when there are gifts to buy, trees to decorate, lights to hang, cards to send, elves to hide, and Santas to visit.

But I believe in the importance of giving back to others and teaching children the value of charity. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

Taylor is a San Antonio native and stay-at-home mom to two daughters: eight-year-old Harper and one-year-old Hayes. She and her Okie husband, Jeff, have been married 12 years despite their Texas/OU rivalry. Taylor is a former Clark Cougar, a devout Texas Longhorn, where she studied English, an active MOPS member, and often feels like a professional juggler. She relishes trips to the theater, loves embarking on new adventures with her family, and admittedly spends too much time on Facebook. A former contributor, Taylor’s posts center on parenting her tenacious, strong-willed first-born and the challenges she faced along the way to becoming a mom of two. She now serves as ACMB’s editor and resident proofreader, and as such, cares way too deeply about the use of Oxford commas.


    • Yay, thank you for sharing! You have no idea how much fun it is for me to be able to tell my daughter that we’ve inspired someone else to do more RAOKs. She lights up every time! Thanks for reading, and have a great holiday!

  1. I love this and I love what a great example you are setting for your daughter!!! I am from SA but living in California. I am so proud to be from SA because of folks like you! Thank you for being such an amazing and kind person.

  2. I love that you documented this day with your daughter. I read the comment about the financial of this project, and while he is technically right, he misses the point. I’m looking around my house right now and thinking about things I already have that I could use in a few little RAOKs.

    My 4 year old twins were born prematurely too, and I remember the long, long days spent sitting in the NICU all day. I am loving the idea of taking the boys up there to drop off some thank yous to the nurses and to leave little goodies that will be a small comfort to parents.

    • Thanks, Jenny, for reading & your kind words! I’m so happy you’ve been inspired by some of these ideas! 🙂 Leaving little somethings for parents of NICU babies is a WONDERFUL idea. I, too, remember those long days of helplessly staring at the incubator, and any act of kindness at that time would’ve meant more than anyone possibly could’ve known. Thank you for sharing that idea; my daughter & I will have to add it to our list. Hugs from one preemie mom to another!

  3. My previous comment should read, “that Taylor” not “the Taylor”. I didn’t notice the typo until I already posted and didn’t see a way to edit it.

  4. Some pretty great ideas. I did notice the Tayor doesn’t know how to figure costs however, lol. If she gave away something she already had she said it didn’t cost anything. When giving away $1.00 bills in plastic bags she only figured the cost of the bags. I like her generosity but I sure wouldn’t want her for a bookkeeper, lol

    • Thank you, Bill. I’m a writer, so no, I am not particularly mathematically brained. However, labeling these items as “free” since they were already in my possession at the time that I wrote the post seemed logical to me; I wanted to show people that they don’t necessarily have to go out and buy a bunch of materials to participate in this. I think it kinda goes without saying that the items I already had in possession did, in fact, cost something at one point, but thank you for pointing that out.

  5. I think you have some really great ideas here and I applaud your efforts to teach your daughter about giving to others. I do however question if these were truly RAKs when you put your website address on them. A RAK should be a completely selfless act expecting nothing, not even a thanks in return. Your acts, although kind, were actually inexpensive advertising for your blog.

    • Hi Sharon, thanks for reading! I’m not sure what you mean when you say you question whether these were truly RAOKs. They were random, and they were kindnesses. To me, that meets the definition. The goal of our #acmbspreadjoy social media campaign (which includes the templates containing our logo and web address) is simply to reach as many people as possible in our city, and the blog serves as a platform for us to do that. More reach = more involvement = more people doing kind things to make our community, and thus our world, a better place. A logo does not detract from the value of a kind deed, and one doesn’t have to completely conceal his/her identity to do something nice. I wish you & yours a wonderful holiday season!

      • I agree with you, Taylor. A RAOK is RANDOM, nothing said it was (or had to be) anonymous. I suppose each person has their own feelings and beliefs on what truly defines a RAOK, but I feel that your inclusion of your website or blog is not for marketing or advertising purposes, but to lead a person there to see how the experience helped you and your daughter as well for that is also a benefit.

        Sharing your ideas and resources and encouraging others to see just how EASY it is to be kind and generous are truly inspiring and I think sharing on social media is the best way to promote this idea.

        Sorry, Sharon, but I think you are way off base here (and you are, of course, entitled to your opinion!) and by downgrading these beautiful gestures, you are detracting from them and personally, I think it is downright insulting to a lovely woman with a kind, giving heart that is teaching her daughter to be the same way. There is such great joy in giving back and too many people have forgotten that!

        Lovingly sent from California <3

        Keep doing all that you do, Taylor! I will follow suit and get my grown son and other family members to contribute and participate as well.

        • Ellen,

          Thank you so much for reading, not to mention your thoughtful comment and support. I think you’ve already performed one random act of kindness simply by sharing such uplifting words here. THANK YOU! Sending my love & best wishes to you & your family this holiday season!

    • Oh Sharon that’s so silly. I’m so inspired by this!! I can’t wait to be able to share experiences like this with my son once he is old enough and I will be saving it so that I can. Including contacts are not just for thanks but for showing the children that people really do get reached when you reach out. Sharing things like this really is helping the whole world to be a better place (I am from New Zealand!) If it wasn’t blogged about how could that have happened?

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