Earlier this year, a friend gifted us the book, How Full is Your Bucket written by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer.

It’s a story about a young boy named Felix, who learns a valuable lesson about the invisible buckets of water that each of us has over our heads.  When our buckets are full, we feel abundant happiness; however, if our buckets are empty, we feel dreadful.

This book will help children understand that every interaction we have has the potential to either fill or empty our bucket.  This is why it is important to be mindful of our actions and words.

After reading this book, my girls and I talked about our actions and words and how they can affect others.  Throughout the day, I am mindful to ask them how something is making them feel.  Depending on the situation, I point out that their buckets aren’t being filled, and; therefore, they aren’t being fulfilled, which is contributing to their moods.

This can be a challenging concept to understand when you’re only four-years-old, so I wanted to take it a step further.  That’s when we created our button jars.  They are the perfect way to help your child visualize their bucket.

Fill a Bucket: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Young Children written by Carol McCloud and Katherine Martin, M.A. is another delightful children’s book to help them learn about giving and receiving.

If you’re looking for a book for teens and adults, Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton wrote this book, How Full Is Your Bucket?  It teaches readers that even the smallest interactions in life have the power to profoundly affect our daily productivity, health, relationships, and longevity.

teaching life lessons to kids with button jars

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Teaching Life Lessons to Children With Button Jars

These jars are so simple to make.  All you need is a container and objects to fill it with.  We use glass mason jars and colored buttons.  The mason jars are perfect because they are see-through.  If you are worried about the jars breaking, you can use plastic jars instead.  I love using the buttons because they are all different colors, shapes, and sizes.  We also use them for crafts and learning activities like sorting and patterning, so they serve multiple purposes.  If you have more than one child, adding a ribbon, their names, or allowing them to decorate their jars are great ways to distinguish everyone’s jar.  Teaching life lessons to children is fun and simple with these button jars.

What You Will Need

Buy Mason Jars Here

Buy Colored Buttons Here

Recommended Books


How to Teach Life Lessons with Button Jars

How you use these jars to teach life lessons to your child is completely up to you.  There is no right or wrong way and the best part is that they can grow with your child and their specific needs.

Filling Your Bucket

You can use this activity to help your child understand the concept of filling your bucket.  If you choose to do it this way, everyone in your house will need a bucket.  At the beginning of each day, everyone will have the same number of buttons in their full buckets.  Whenever someone does or says something that negatively affects another member of the family, those members will lose a button.  When positive interactions occur, those members will receive buttons.  This activity is a great way to help visualize how we are affected by the people around us and the way that we react to life’s daily challenges.  Did your child’s favorite toy break?  They are likely sad and have lost a button.  Be sure to acknowledge their feelings, talk about disappointment, and find a way to help fill their bucket back up.

Teaching Respect & Kindness

We use the button jar to teach respect and kindness.  Whenever our children do or say something that shows respect, kindness, or compassion, we add a button to their jar.  They only receive a button if their words or actions are completed naturally.  For example, if they clean up on their own without being asked, they may receive a button.  However, if they have to be asked to clean up, then they will not receive a button.  In our home, we are a team and we all work together to take care of each other and our home.  It’s important to love, share, and help one another in order for our team to be happy, healthy, and thriving.

Teaching Responsibility

The button jar is an easy way to keep track of chores.  Whenever your child completes a chore, a button is added to the jar.  If your child receives an allowance for doing their chores, each button could be worth a certain dollar amount.  You could also make a color-coded chore chart.  For example, red-colored chores earn $.50 and blue colored chores earn $1.00.  Once a chore is completed, add the corresponding colored button to the jar and at the end of the week/ month, add up the buttons to see how much your child has earned.  You can use this as a learning opportunity and have your child sort, count, and add up the buttons to determine how much they earned.

Positive Reinforcement

These jars can help children learn good behaviors from bad behaviors.  Each time your child does something positive, you reinforce the behavior by acknowledging it, praising them, and adding a button to the jar.  You will never remove buttons for negative behavior, as this will encourage negative reinforcement.


A Few Tips…

Whether you use your jar to help your child learn to be respectful and kind or to keep track of chores, be sure to know what your end game is.  Will your child receive a reward once their jar is full or after they’ve earned so many buttons?  If so, how many will they need to earn and what type of reward will they receive?  Discuss this with your child and have him or her help you come up with ideas.  Be sure that they know what the expectations are and help them understand what actions will earn them a button.

Teaching life lessons to children with button jars

Instilling good values in our children helps set the foundation for a brighter future.  I hope that you and your family enjoy reading these books and learning and growing from the button jar activity as much as we have.

If you enjoyed this post about teaching life lessons to children and are looking for more fun learning activities for your toddler or preschooler, be sure to check out this post about shapes and this one about letters.


Love & Blessings,



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