A Gift for Others on My Birthday

Grade Level: 
KS4, PreK, K, 1, 2, 3
Act of Kindness
Good Character
Young people are encouraged to “do for others” on their birthdays with an act of kindness toward someone else. The action is something they can do on their own, or with very little help from home.

Duration: One 20-minute introduction, and a revisit on each birthday throughout the year.


The learners will...

  • experience the importance and joy of doing for others.
  • feel capable of impacting others with their own simple acts.


  • On a poster board or chart paper, create a chart like the sample handout below
  • Optional: read-aloud copy of Yoko’s World of Kindness, Golden Rules for a Happy Classroom by Rosemary Wells. Read story number 4, "The Secret Birthday" page 79 
  • Send a note to families to describe the birthday reverse gift project and tell about your shared desire to help produce caring citizens with this approach to birthday celebrations. Adapt this letter for the age and makeup of your group.


  1. Discuss why we celebrate, how we celebrate, and why birthdays are special - young people can share favorite birthday moments. 
  2. On the prepared wall chart, young people write their birthday wishes beside their names. This may be an ideal present or an ideal way to spend their special day.
  3. Introduce and read “The Secret Birthday” or talk about what it would be like if we gave to others on our birthdays. What are the benefits of giving to others? What would it do for our shared "community"? 
  4. The facilitator may share a personal story of an act of kindness, the benefit to the person who was served, and the effects on the community. 
  5. Lead a brainstorming session on what they can do for others on their birthday. What can they give to others that doesn't cost any money (with their time and talent). The chart may be completed over time. 
  6. Inform them that this year they will celebrate birthdays in reverse. The protocols for reverse birthdays may be set up by the facilitator or the gorup.
  7. Several times over the year they will reflect on the impact on the community and themselves.

Suggestions for kind birthday acts:

  • On your birthday, help the teacher greet each student with a hug or handshake as they enter the room.
  • Make a card for someone in the building to thank them for what they do for us (custodian, lunchroom attendant, secretary, social worker).
  • Bring an extra snack for someone in the room.
  • Give someone a package of gum or candy they enjoy

Read about the service-learning project called Happy Birthday to Others by Fennville Elementary students who were taught using this A Gift for Others on My Birthday lesson to guide student learning and action. Ms. Sandor said, “As a teacher for the youngest members of our school family, my goal is to introduce the value of giving and the positive feelings such activities bring.”