Educating the Heart as Well as the Mind

Doing Good Newsletter


Our July newsletter mentioned a recent Harvard study where children believed parents placed more importance on academic achievement than caring. Did this imply that compassion and academic success were incompatible, that parents needed to choose one or the other? In fact, research suggests that they are deeply intertwined.

Empathy and emotional intelligence are critical characteristics of successful learners. What's more, service to others helps your child gain skills and confidence. Here are a few of our favorite projects for growing your child's heart -- and brain.

-Jenny Friedman, Executive Director


Make a Difference.....

Any service or kindness project can improve your child's cognitive skills, but these activities specifically promote giving and learning.

  • Terrific online games that give:

    • Free Rice: Players build their vocabulary while donating food to those in need.

    • Answer4Earth: Each correct answer in this trivia game helps plant a tree.

    • Free Kibble: 10 pieces of kibble will be donated to an animal shelter each time you play.

    • EcoKids: Games, quizzes and positive actions teach children about key environmental issues.

  • Mail matters. Writing letters and cards helps polish your child's literacy skills. It can also benefit those in the military or children struggling with serious illnesses. Add a lesson on civics by writing letters to public officials or creating a newsletter about an endangered animal or other issue you care about.

  • Count as you collect. Children learn math skills (counting, sorting, weighing) when your family organizes a collection for a local nonprofit, whether it's food, socks or toys. Fundraisers for a cause (like hosting a fall craft sale) come with hidden lessons too.

  • Read to those in need. Remember the comfort of hearing a book read aloud? Many care facilities need people (including your child!) to read books to the residents. This can also be an opportunity for your child to practice other skills - playing the piano, teaching computer know-how or sharing games.


Talk About It...

You can embed a little learning before and after your projects as well.

  • Read a book related to the project and discuss how you can use the information to tackle your volunteer job.

  • Reflect on your service project — and teach important critical thinking -- by keeping a journal, writing a blog, or together problem-solving issues that arise.

  • Have your child describe the project and the results to friends and family. Or perhaps your family can present your activities to a faith or civic group. It's great for inspiring others and building public speaking skills.

Learn About It...

Any service project can have a learning component if you read about the issues you're addressing, whether it's wilderness protection, nutrition, homelessness or animal rights. And if you want to know more before deciding which cause to get behind, you'll find a range of topics in our comprehensive list of kid-friendly books and websites


"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn."
– Benjamin Franklin