January 2011 - Helpfulness


To give assistance, to aid

Helpfulness means trying to make life a little easier for other people. If we are paying attention, we notice when someone else is struggling –to open a door, to complete a task, or even to go through the dying process with grace and dignity. We move instinctively to ease the struggle – lending ourselves whether for a moment or a lifetime to serve their purpose.

If we look around us, we become aware how much of the substance and beauty people are able to create depends on helping hands. Like generosity, helping is a gift that gives to the giver. Sometimes we receive help in turn from those we assisted; even more often our helpfuness ripples through the world as other people spontaneously pay it forward.


“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else.” -Charles Dickens

Long-range studies imply that doing something with other people, especially something for them, is the most powerful of all stimuli to longevity and health.

- Jon Poppy

Most arts require long study and application; but the most useful of all, that of pleasing, only the desire.

- Lord Chesterfield

Die when I may, I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.

- Abraham Lincoln

Helpfulness Activity Ideas

Providing assistance or being useful is the main definition of being helpful, when we are giving of assistance we are doing a great service to others, and honestly, to ourselves. Being helpful is an excellent quality and impressive characteristic to display.

Every award handed out; almost every honorary prize ever won was from that person being helpful to others. And from the beginning of times people have been helpful to one another, only to never expect anything in return for your helpfulness or generosity is a far more impressive and wonderful characteristic.

Preschool No matter what we do as parents everything falls back on us teaching them the most important characteristics that will get them through their adult years. When you are at the store, be sure to hold a door open for someone, if someone at the grocery store has their hands full, offer them help with their bags, or if someone you don’t know drops something be sure to pick it up for them. Anything that is presented to you that you can help with, with or without your children, do what you can to incorporate that helpful behavior with your children. When your children see you being helpful to others they quickly learn how being helpful can both be fun and rewarding.

Read to your children stories that center on being helpful. Talk to your children about the story, asking them questions about the characters and their actions. “Did you think rabbit did the right thing at the beginning of the story? How would you have done this? How do you think squirrel felt about what rabbit did?”

Main points to address:

  • Teach by example

  • Read stories about being helpful

Grades K-3rd When your child begins to demonstrate helpful characteristics reward their behavior. “That was really great the way you helped that person out. You get to pick the next family activity we do together. You deserve a reward for being so kind and helpful.”

Ask your child how it made them feel when they were helpful to someone. There is something intoxicating that comes with helping other people out and it really makes you feel so great, when you get them to help out once and they see how wonderful that feels they will want to continue to be helpful as long as they can. Even when others are helpful to them talk to them about how they feel, no matter which way the get or receive help it is a great feeling, one that everyone should feel at least once.

Main points to address:

  • Talk to your children about how it feels to be helpful and how it feels when someone helps them.

  • Reward their helpfulness.

Grades 4th-6th One great way to get your children motivated with helping others is to take them to programs that need volunteer helpers. Whether that is at a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, a children’s home, a senior citizen home or a hospital you can volunteer to serve the homeless, read to children, play a game with seniors or do various other activities that are helpful to other members in your community to get them started on being helpful now and in the future.

Helpfulness can come in many different ways as well, talk to your child about being helpful at home, in school, with their friends and family and how that will emanate back to them when they are the ones who need help. When they do something helpful for someone else, that person will do something to be helpful to them to repay their kindness and this type of chain continues on and on.

Main points to address:

  • Do various things in the community with your child.

  • Talk to your child about other ways to be helpful.

Activities for older children

  • Join a service organization like the Camp Fire Boys and Girls. Check your local listings for phone numbers, or call the Camp Fire Boys and Girls by calling their national headquarters at (800)669-6884. Organizations like these provide ample opportunities for being helpful to others

  • Have the whole family volunteer to work in a homeless shelter. You may have an opportunity to make beds, serve meals or play with the children. Be certain your children can play a substantialrole.
  • Participate in a service project together, such as a community park cleanup, a Habitat for Humanity project (call 1-800-HUMANITY for more information), or a Sierra Club service trip (call SierraClub National Headquarters at (415) 977-5500).

Books to Share With Children

Read books that illustrate and encourage helpfulness. Check your library for some of those listed here. Each one provides opportunities to discuss the results of giving aid and assistance.

  • Amos and Boris by William Steig

  • Can I Help? by Marilyn Janowitz

  • "The Great Big Turnip" (many versions available)

  • Helping Out by George Ancona

  • Henrietta's First Winter by Rob Lewis

  • Herman the Helper by Robert Kraus

  • I Like to Help by Karen Erickson and Maureen Roffey

  • Island Baby by Holly Keller

  • Is Susan Here? by Janice Udry

  • The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola

  • "The Lion and the Mouse" by Aesop (many versions available)

  • "The Little Red Hen" (many versions available)

  • Manners by Aliki

  • Mommies Don't Get Sick by Marilyn Hafner

  • "The Shoemaker and the Elves" (many versions available)

  • Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox