These Are The Days

Smart ~ Writer ~ Mom

Filling The Bucket

I haven’t posted in a while, but when I saw today’s Five Minute Friday prompt, “LEARN”, I was inspired. Disclaimer- I totally wrote this post back in May as my daughter’s preschool year was coming to an end. But I never finished it. So, today? I decided to finish it ๐Ÿ™‚
OMG second disclaimer. I drafted this on Friday and then I got distracted and so even though this is meant to be a response to a Five Minute FRIDAY, it’s turned out to be a Six-Minute-Sunday-kind-of- post.ย 


My daughter’s preschool teachers are doing it right.

In addition to learning their letters and numbers, the young students are learning a valuable lesson about compassion.

20150428_115940At the front of their classroom is a jar filled with multi-color cotton balls and a sign that says, “We Are Bucket-Fillers!” The cotton balls are all shapes and sizes.

(“Just like people”, the teachers say)

Below the jar, at just the right height for three and four-year old eyes, is a makeshift bucket. The teachers tell their students that every time one of them does something special for someone else in the class – by helping, comforting, etc. – they can choose one cotton ball and move it from the jar to the bucket. The goal? To perform acts of kindness and compassion and fill their bucket!

At first, their motives are purely selfish.

The kids get a kick out of doing something nice for one another just so they can play with the cotton balls.

Katie helps her friend pick up some toys, and then Katie skips over to move a cotton ball to the bucket in honor of her great deed.ย 

But then something happens that surprises even the teachers.

You know what these brave, beautiful kids did? It wasn’t enough for these do-gooders to just do nice things for one another. Nope. They went on the lookout, like tiny little spies, observing and watching each other. As they performed their own good deeds, they became tuned in to looking for the acts of compassion in each other as well.

Their hearts swelled and their faces beamed as they saw how much happiness and love they were able to inspire in their little classroom.

Luke witnesses Michael helping Anna; so Luke puts a cotton ball in the bucket for Michael.ย 

And then Michael witnesses Bella comforting Mason; so Michael puts a cotton ball in the bucket for Bella.ย 

These wonderful, amazing teachers taught them how to be compassionate and also how to pay it forward by recognizing and celebrating the compassion they see in others.

Now filled with a rainbow of colored cotton balls, the bucket is a powerful visual reminder of the compassion the students had shown. Every time I visit my daughter’s classroom, she’s always excited to show me the bucket of cotton balls. Such a simple lesson, right? But so powerful.

I truly believe in tests to measure what and how well our kids our learning. But I’m not a big fan of “teaching to the test.” Sadly, I think this is where we’re headed – if we’re not already there. Subjects like math and reading and science and history are all important. But what kind of citizens will our kids become without common sense, kindness, compassion, and empathy?


  1. I’m so glad you wrote thisโ€ฆwhatever day and however long it took. I’m seriously thinking this needs to be implemented in my house. Like now. What a beautiful approach to acting kind, witnessing kindness, and rewarding kindness. Perfection.

    • Kim

      August 26, 2015 at 2:03 am

      Amy, Thanks so much for your kind words and for sharing this post. And I’m with you about needing to implement this in your house. My girls could use a kindness reminder, too! Thanks again ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Love this so much! I’m a third grade teacher and we did something similar in my classroom. Every time a student noticed that someone did something kind for them, they would write it on a slip of colored construction paper, and we would make it into a link for a paper chain I hung around the walls of the room (we called it our “kindness chain). I noticed such a difference in the entire tone of my classroom when we focused on kindness…not only that kids were nicer to each other, but that they participated more in discussions and were more engaged overall because it was a safe space. Such a great idea for siblings too!

    • Kim

      August 26, 2015 at 2:01 am

      Thanks so much for your comments, Britt. I love the idea of a paper chain in the classroom! I have lots of friends that are teachers – I’ll have to pass that along to them. Thank you!

  3. I know she’s already gotten these lessons at home; it’s nice to see her awesome pre-school teachers reinforcing your efforts. I love that the little ones began “paying it forward” on their own! ๐Ÿ™‚

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