Social-emotional learning activities are essential to help kids develop the skills they need to succeed in life. And among the most important skills to learn are kindness and compassion. These bucket filler activities are a wonderful way to help your students make the connection to how good it feels to both recognize and be recognized for acts of kindness. Read on for a bevy of bucket filler ideas.
What is a bucket filler?
It all started with the delightful children’s book Have You Filled a Bucket Today? If you haven’t read this bestseller yet, here’s the concept: We each carry an imaginary bucket around with us. Being kind to others fills their buckets as well as our own. When we’re not kind, we dip into others’ buckets, depleting them.
Bucket filler activities encourage kids to recognize their own “filling” and “dipping” activities throughout the day and encourages them try to fill as many buckets as they can. Give them a try in your classroom today!
1. Read a bucket filler book
Whether you read the original or one of the many charming follow-ups, a bucket filler book or two (or three or four!) is a must for kicking off all of your bucket filler activities.
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids: The book that started it all! Learn all about bucket fillers and dippers and how to apply them in your life.
¿Has Llenado una Cubeta Hoy? Una Guía Diaria de Felicidad para Niños: The same bucket-filling story you love, in both Spanish and English.
Buckets, Dippers, and Lids: Secrets to Your Happiness (McCloud/Zimmer): This follow-up reminds kids that sometimes they can control who they allow to dip into their bucket and take away their happiness by using a lid.
Growing Up With a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life: If you’re looking for a way to share bucket filling with older kids, try this chapter book that’s perfect for upper elementary and middle school.
2. Brainstorm ideas together
Most kids (especially little ones) have a natural affinity for kindness. Opening up the floor to their ideas is a great way to brainstorm together and get them excited about trying it out.
Learn more: Proud To Be Primary
3. Create an anchor chart
Help kids understand what a bucket filler does and says with a simple anchor chart. When you’re done, post it on the wall as a daily reminder of the best bucket filler activities.
Learn more: Crafting Connections
4. Sing a bucket filler song
Play this video for your students, and they’ll quickly learn the words so they can sing along too. The song has lots of helpful suggestions for how kids can help fill each others’ buckets.
5. Sort bucket fillers from bucket dippers
Give students a stack of pre-printed behaviors, and ask them to sort the phrases into “bucket fillers” and “bucket dippers.” Tip: Include some blank slips and have kids fill in their own behaviors to add to either list.
Learn more: Third Grade Thoughts
6. Color a bucket filler picture
Ask your students to illustrate a bucket-filling activity, or give them a page from this cute coloring book. It includes a page for every letter, A to Z.
7. Work to fill a classroom bucket
Encourage your class to fill a communal bucket as they work toward a reward. Add a star to the bucket each time you see an act of kindness in your classroom. When the bucket is full, they’ve earned the reward!
Learn more: Poet Prints
8. Keep a bucket filler journal
This journal from the author of the original book walks kids through some thought-provoking questions each day. It also provides space for their own reflections. Buy one for each student, or share the questions and ask them to write their answers in their own notebook or online journal.
9. Celebrate Bucket Filler Fridays
Take time once a week to recognize the power of kindness. Every Friday, have kids choose another student to write a bucket filler letter to. Encourage them to choose a new person each week.
Learn more: Proud To Be Primary
10. Craft personalized buckets to fill
Students will love decorating a plastic cup with stickers, glitter, and more. Attach a pipe cleaner handle, and they’ve got their very own bucket!
Learn more: Moments a Day
11. Use a shoe organizer to hold buckets
This clever idea works for DIY buckets made from plastic cups or inexpensive small metal buckets. Slide each into a pocket, label them with students’ names, and provide a stack of blank “bucket filler” slips nearby. Kids write messages and leave them in the buckets for each other.
Learn more: One Kreative Kindergarten
12. Or hang your buckets on hooks
Attach a piece of pegboard to the back of a bookcase. Then insert hooks for students to hang their buckets on. This arrangement is handy for smaller kids because it keeps the buckets at their level.
Learn more: Made2Style
13. Fill up a bucket for someone special
Choose someone to honor (the principal, janitor, or school secretary). Have your little ones write one word that describes that person on a heart or star, then mount them on sticks and fill up the bucket. Present the bucket to your honoree in front of the whole class!
Learn more: @the_miss_education/Instagram
14. Don a bucket filler T-shirt
These cute T-shirts come in men’s, women’s, and youth sizes, and in a variety of colors. Wear one to remind your students to fill each other’s buckets, or offer one as a prize in a bucket filler contest!
Buy it: Bucket Filler T-shirt/Amazon
15. Use pom-poms to fill buckets
This is a cute and quick way to fill buckets throughout the school day. Recognize bucket filler activities and behaviors by tossing a pom-pom (some folks call them “warm fuzzies”) into a student’s bucket. They’ll love watching their buckets fill up!
Learn more: Meaningful Mama
16. Set a daily bucket filler activities challenge
Fill a container with a variety of bucket filler behaviors. Each day, have a student pull one from the container, and challenge your kids to complete the activity before the day ends.
Learn more: Sparkling in Second Grade
17. Do a bucket fillers crossword or word search
These free printables help kids learn what a bucket filler looks like. Visit the link below to find these and other free printable resources.
Learn more: Bucket Fillers 101
18. Make and eat a bucket filler snack
Getting ready for story time? Make these adorable (and healthy) bucket snacks to eat while you read! You could also fill these with popcorn or other treats.
Learn more: Sommer’s Lion Pride
19. Fill up a teacher bucket too
Don’t forget about your own bucket! Teach students that their kindnesses can fill up their teacher’s bucket. Keep track with colorful magnets on the whiteboard so everyone can see their progress.
Learn more: Teacher to the Core
20. Write a bucket fillers book
Take a photo of each of your students and describe one way they’ve helped to fill someone’s bucket. Collate them all together into a booklet and display it when parents come to visit.
Learn more: Forever in First
21. Make bucket headbands
This adorable activity for little ones not only allows them to personalize their headbands with color but brainstorm ways to be kind.
Learn more: Proud To Be Primary
22. Play a bucket filler board game
In this simple board game, players work to collect four different pieces and fill up their buckets. Get the free printable game at the link below.
Learn more: Teaching Heart
23. Make little wooden reminder buckets
Help kids craft these little wooden buckets with heart and star fillers. They serve as a great reminder to live a kind life dedicated to filling buckets.
Learn more: The Art Kit Blog
24. Turn sticky notes into bucket notes
Need a quick, easy way to fill a student’s bucket? Trim the corners from a sticky note and write them a message. Bucket filled! (See more creative ways to use sticky notes in the classroom here.)
Learn more: A Blog From the Pond
25. Have your whole team dress up in bucket filler costumes
Dazzle your kiddos when you grab your fellow teachers and dress up in bucket filler costumes. This is a great way to kick off a series of bucket filler activities.
Learn more: Bucket Fillers 101
26. Think about how to fill your own bucket
Keeping your own bucket full is an important part of the bucket filler philosophy. Many bucket filler activities focus on how kids can fill others’ buckets. This one asks kids to consider how they fill their own buckets with their kind behavior by crafting and filling an origami paper bucket with drops of water.
Learn more: Creativity in Therapy
27. Personalize a bucket
This fun art project allows students to create their own kindness bucket, personalized with their own handprint.
Learn more: Mrs. Davis
28. Create a rainbow of kindness
Crafts-based kindness activities for kids can help them make something unique and memorable around the idea of being kind. Have students add the colors of the rainbow to ice cream sticks and write phrases that are polite and kind to say, for example, “Please,” “Thank you,” “I appreciate you,” etc.
Learn more: Design Improvised
29. Have a compliment circle
A compliment circle is an activity that teaches students how to give and receive compliments. Essentially, the idea is that in a compliment circle every student will give a compliment to one classmate and every student will receive a compliment from another classmate.
Learn more: Paige Bessick
30. Clip words of kindness
Brainstorm kind words and compliments as a class. Then, they can be written on clothespins and placed throughout the school, on backpacks, on teachers’ desks, and anywhere else to spread kind words. It’ll be such a sweet surprise!
Learn more: @teachwinerepeat
31. Make a kindness paper chain
Hand out strips of paper to students where they can write down ideas on how to be kind to others, the environment, or animals. The class can share why they chose these ideas and then form them into a paper chain to display as a reminder. This is one of our favorite kindness activities for kids to use in the classroom! Get full instructions on this activity on page 71 of Kindness for All.
Learn more: @MsVanessaDionne
32. Create kindness challenges to work toward
As a class, decide on ways you can be kind to classmates, teachers, friends, and more as a daily or weekly challenge. By choosing one action to focus on, students can really notice the difference being kind to others can truly make. Read more on page 71 of Kindness for All.
Learn more: @proudtobeprimary