Products we love: My Kindness Calendar
with Maran Stern-Kubista, Founder of My Kindness Calendar
February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness day and to celebrate, we spoke with Maran Stern-Kubista, the Entrepreneur and mom of two behind My Kindness Calendar, a company on a mission to promote generosity and kindness in even the smallest members of your family. Kindness doesn’t end after the holiday season though, and to encourage families to practice kindness all year long, Maran recently created two new products: My Mindset Magnets, which help promote positivity and gratitude and the "Be Kind All The Time" Calendar.
Kind Human Club: How did My Kindness Advent Calendar begin?
Maran Stern-Kubista: Growing up, holidays were always some of my favourite times of the year. So many wonderful childhood memories were created from the traditions we enjoyed as a family. When I became a mother, bringing these family traditions into my home was important to me, as was beginning new traditions that my kids would cherish as I do. When my daughter was three and December rolled around, I noticed a gap in the way we prepared for the holidays. We had beautiful traditions around food, music, crafting, and of course gifts, all of which she could enjoy and take part in, even at her young age. And while we adults made charitable donations during the holiday season, as my family had done growing up, there was no tangible way that my young daughter could participate in these traditions of giving. By the age of three, she had already mastered the idea of getting, so it was important for me to balance that idea with the concept of giving, as well as the larger meaning of the holidays. So that year, a new family tradition was born as we made our first My Kindness Calendar. With construction paper and painter's tape, we mounted a tree on the wall surrounded by kind ideas, each accompanied by a simple picture so she could recognize the idea, without yet being able to read the words.
As with a traditional advent calendar, we would use the calendar daily in December, but instead of getting a toy or candy, she would choose an act of kindness we would do together. Sometimes she would even come up with her own ideas. It was something we looked forward to each day and gave me an easy and accessible way to start important conversations about helping others, being kind, and other topics I wanted to discuss. The experience was so wonderful for my family, and the feedback from family and friends was overwhelmingly positive. So many friends wanted to do a Kindness Advent Calendar on their own, but just didn’t have the time or energy to make one. The more I looked into it, I found there really was nothing like this available for parents - a tool to actively engage kids and support parents in practicing kindness, which is why I decided to create it! Our Advent Calendars are premium-quality, reusable wall calendars that inspire families to practice kindness together. They're made in North America and I donate 5% of profits annually to charity. Our beautiful tradition has become a beautiful business that so many families can enjoy. It's so humbling.
KHC: What kind of feedback do you get from parents about the calendar and the magnets?
MS-K: Overall, parents are loving the focus that My Kindness Advent Calendar puts on giving back, at a time of year that can be so consumer-driven. Families who are looking for ways to focus on social-emotional learning love our products because it makes it easy to do. The products are high-quality and meant to be used over and over by kids, and parents are loving the ease with which the calendars and magnets can be used. They put kids in the driver's seat and empower kids to think creatively and actively about how they're feeling and how they want others to feel. Parents also love how they open the door to amazing conversations they want to have, but don't always know how to start.
KHC: What are some ways to encourage kindness in our kids throughout the year? How have you seen kindness expressed with your own kids?
MS-K: By the time my kids (now 7 and 4) were 3, they were both regularly doing nice things and saying, "here's an act of kindness for you!" Just having them familiar with the language of "an act of kindness" and understanding the impact of doing something nice for someone else is really meaningful. By focusing on giving over the holidays, through My Kindness Advent Calendar, it has set the stage for giving and kindness to be a part of our daily conversation and dialogue. Not that we are doing acts of kindness every day, but the fact that they recognize what an act of kindness is, how it makes someone feel, and how it makes them feel to do it, and why it is important to do, is a win for me. The model of the Advent Calendar - doing an act of kindness everyday - uses repetition and consistency, so that after 25 days, acting with kindness is normalized and becomes not so much of an exceptional task, but a habit and way of thinking and being that carries through throughout the year. This is the biggest difference that this tradition has made for us - opening the door to an ongoing conversation around kindness and helping to instill foundational values around kindness and the kind of people we want to show up as in the world every day.
When kids do kind things for others, it just melts my mama heart. My daughter made a care pack for her brother the other week when he was heading for his flu shot. In advance of my son's 4th birthday, he offered to help me make his cake, so that I'd never have to do it all by myself. They make pictures for each other and their friends, love giving things to neighbours. Don't get me wrong - like all kids and siblings they fight and bicker and have all those challenging childhood moments full of huge emotions. That is expected and totally appropriate for their age. But I'm confident that they know what kindness is. When it really matters or someone needs a little extra kindness, they recognize the emotions, can empathize, and know just what to do. Those are proud mama moments.
KHC: Tell us a little about your newest Calendar project?
MS-K: I'm so excited about this! Our new My "Be Kind All the Time" Kindness Calendar is fully customizable and versatile so families can focus on kindness any week or any month of the year in a way that works for them. We've had so much great feedback on the Advent Calendar over the years and customers have been asking for a way to use the same concept and quality calendars for other holidays or special occasions: leading up to a birthday, getting ready for back to school or for so many other reasons. This Calendar lets you do it all! The Calendar includes 25 all new Act of Kindness Decals and 5 customizable decals, and additional Act of Kindness Decals can be purchased too so the possibilities really are endless.
Just like with our Advent Calendar, the Acts of Kindness are thoughtfully chosen to promote social-emotional learning, foster skills, and act as conversation starters around not only kindness, but empathy, gratitude, growth mindset, self-confidence, inclusion and global citizenship as well. We really can't wait to see how and when people use this new Kindness Calendar in their homes.
KHC: How do you use your products with your own children?
MS-K: My kids are the inspiration for My Kindness Calendar, and we've been practicing the Advent Tradition since we built the prototype together 5 years ago. It's such a wonderful tradition they look forward to every holiday - there are Acts of Kindness they remember and look forward to every season. The familiarity and routine at Christmastime has been such a meaningful tradition and I love seeing how their engagement with the Calendar changes and matures as they're growing up. Aside from Christmas, though, we actually keep our Calendars up all year (I think I currently have 5 scattered around the house! Kids' rooms, basement, even the back of a bathroom door!) ... they're always there acting as a gentle reminder about kindness, how to be helpful and why it's important to think of others and empathize. Soon, of course, I'll be replacing these with our new My "Be All the Time" Kindness Calendars and plan on coming up with a fun way to use the new calendar together - maybe choosing a specific day of the week to do an act of kindness on an ongoing basis, or to count down to the end of school or something special like this!
Our My Mindset Magnets are also omnipresent... on the fridge with some special inspirational messages scattered around the house too, always acting as a reminder to exercise self-love and positivity in our thinking. I love leaving little special messages for my kids to find and working together to craft affirmation statements together. My daughter has a few special messages on her lamp at her desk... "I am Loved", "I am Amazing"! Who doesn't need these reminders right now? Especially during lockdown and homeschooling and everything that's come along with it, the magnets have been a really helpful tool for us to set intentions, remain hopeful and also to work through challenges. Sometimes, on tricky days, one of the easiest ways to transition or move through tough feelings has been going to the fridge and using the magnets to calm and express our feelings - cathartic for parents and kids alike!
KHC: Do you have any tips on how to incorporate kindness into everyday life?
MS-K: I think the simpler and more regular the conversation around kindness, helping others, expressing feelings and empathizing is, the more it becomes the norm and a way of thinking, not an exceptional action. Kids learn from what they see and hear, so the more we role-model, as parents, being kind to ourselves, being kind to others and being kind to the world, the more our kids will start to think in similar ways. There are teachable moments everywhere and opportunities to start conversations around being kind - from the simplest things like naming our emotions and telling our kids how it makes us feel when they help out around the house, when strangers smile at us, when we get a phone call from an old friend. Remembering that we and empowering our kids to know that they have the power to be kind and really make a difference in someone's day or life is really powerful. That's what My Kindness Calendars aim to do - make it simple and easy to do these actions, start these conversations, and make it a habit and normalize acting with kindness every day in a creative and fun way.
Looking to celebrate Random Acts of Kindness day with your kiddos? Here are some fun, easy ways to do so:
1) Spread love - give every person you talk to a nice compliment
2) Show you care - write a note telling someone (a teacher, friend or neighbour) how much you appreciate them
3) Clean up your neighbourhood - spend ten minutes picking up litter at a park near your house or at school
4) Pay it forward - buy a coffee or a treat for someone in line behind you
5) Buy a conscious product - support a brand whose value system aligns with your own
6) Be kind to yourself - high five yourself in the mirror and remind yourself that you're doing great