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"How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids" -Mom's Book Review

Updated on October 9, 2013

"Go Fill Some Buckets, Girls!"

After the first day of school, my girls came home talking about buckets. They enthusiastically explained about fillers and dippers and how their buckets were "overflowing". One paused, looked at me and said "I love you your bucket full now?"

Three months later and we are still talking about how to fill someone's bucket. We talk about doing and saying things that will make buckets full to the brim.

Everyday as the girls get out of the car to go to school I say "Go fill some buckets, girls!"

Which book transformed our family lingo and opened discussions about kindness, respect, and bullying? "How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids" by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer.

Ok, so the book is written "for kids"- it says so on the cover. The main character is a little boy going about his day experiencing regular kid stuff through the "bucket filling" lens. Even though this is a picture book, I believe that the 'tweener and parental units have benefited immensely from this simple analogy. We didn't even need to purchase the award winning "adult" version.


Each of us has an invisible bucket. It is constantly emptied or filled, depending on what others say or do to us. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it's empty, we feel awful.

Each of us also has an invisible dipper. When we use that dipper to fill other people's buckets -- by saying or doing things to increase their positive emotions -- we also fill our own bucket. But when we use that dipper to dip from others' buckets -- by saying or doing things that decrease their positive emotion


How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids

Filling Buckets at Home

Teachers at school are following a whole curriculum about filling buckets. They are addressing the interactions between classmates at school, starting early discussions about kindness, caring, and yes, even bullying. The teachers have worksheets and bulletin boards so the kids can fill in the blanks with kind "bucket filling" words to say to classmates. When writing book reports, kids describe characters as "bucket fillers" or "bucket dippers".

The buckets were so popular at school, that my family and I brainstormed ways to fill buckets at home. We started by talking about filling buckets at different times of the day. Here are some examples.


Getting up on time, doing the daily routine without reminders. (We used to have a chart with stars for this, but the bucket analogy gave the old chart deeper meaning.)

After school:

Taking turns talking about the day without interrupting.

Sharing snack.

Doing homework respectfully, carefully, and diligently.


Take care of your body- fill your own bucket. (Bath, Teeth, Early to Sleep)

Read a book- also filling your own bucket.

Quiet time with family- fills all buckets.

Bucket Fillers

So many ways to fill buckets:

words, actions, tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, gift giving, saying thanks, being positive, just being present...

The list goes on and on, and changes depending on your situation. Being a bucket filler is a deliberate, conscious act. It takes thoughtfulness and mindful sensitivity towards others to be a great bucket filler. We can teach our kids these skills while we continue to apply them ourselves as parents and role models.


Filling buckets and tummies.

The Bucket Song

Preventing "long term bucket damage" with discussions about bucket dippers.

Empty Bucket

Sometimes Mommy or Daddy can come home from work with buckets close to empty.

Kids can learn that they can help fill buckets, even if they belong to an adult, friend or sibling who is older.


Bucket Dippers

Sometimes kids just don't know that their tone of voice can hurt someone, or dip from a bucket. Kids don't know that their facial expressions can hurt someone. Kids can learn how and when to correct someone without hurting feelings.

Using the bucket analogy makes these discussions easier. Practicing these skills at home prepares them for school and social activities.


Buckets at Soccer Games

I am a volunteer referee for little girls' soccer games. Those sweet little angels with the bouncing pigtails, ribbons, and pink uniforms can also make rude comments, throw grass and push each other.

So how does a bucket get filled at a soccer game? What things can we say to fill our teammates buckets before a game, during a game, and after a game?

What things do we say and do to dip from the opposing teams' buckets at soccer, swimming, dance, karate? What could we do or say to fill buckets instead?


Other Bucket Books

The book "Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness" is written more as an informational text instead of a narrative. It is an EXCELLENT book as a follow-up activity. Shucks, it could even come first. The two books compliment each other wonderfully.

Adults have buckets too.

Buckets anyone?

Have you heard of the "bucket books"?

See results

Does your family have any buckets?

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    • profile image

      shatabdi85 3 years ago

      Resourceful lens.

    • michaelangelo1 profile image

      michaelangelo1 4 years ago

      very nice lens and so informative and simple;-)

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 4 years ago from GRENADA

      Yes. Wash buckets, mop buckets, water buckets, waste buckets....

    • profile image

      sam-metz 4 years ago

      Yes, i lived all of my childhood with buckets. The worst was the slop bucket. This was where my Mom put the water used to wash the dishes after breakfast, dinner, and supper. It was always full of the most nauseating. foul smelling liquid you can imagine. It was my job to take the bucket to the hog trough and carefully to not spill any of this delicious soup. Serve it for the pigs to eat. They always slurped it like it was honey and peaches. Then we had milk buckets. We poured the milk from the milking machine into buckets to take it to the milk house. These were big buckets. For a small boy they were just to heavy to lift and carry sixty feet to where the milk was stored. And this was liquid gold. If any was spelt due to my fooling around with the cat between my legs, I would get it. It being a slap with my Father's belt across the legs. There were better days. We had berry baskets. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and even goose berries gave wonderful memories. The rule was one for the basket and one to go into your mouth. That's the way I came down with appendicitis one hot 4th of July. As is evident, we lived in the country. We had a country doctor to fix our ills. He sent me to the nearest hospital that was an hour away. My little teat on my intestine had almost ruptured by the time they got me onto the operating table. But I survived to fill many more buckets.

    • Michelllle profile image

      Michelllle 4 years ago

      @Pat Goltz: Doesn't it seem like sometimes things happen- randomly- to make bucket filling really challenging? But sometimes it goes the other way too... I find when my kids are working as a team thinking about "buckets", life is just easier. Hey, thanks for reading.

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      Definitely. And we have a lot of empty ones, much to my regret. But I can only fill buckets as best I can. I can't compel others to do so.

    • Michelllle profile image

      Michelllle 4 years ago

      @favored: I heard that the author Tom Rath, Ph. D. also lectures. I'll be watching for his next book tour. ; )

    • Michelllle profile image

      Michelllle 4 years ago

      @kristalulabelle: You know, when my kids kept talking about this book day in and day out...I thought it must be something good. Thanks for reading.

    • kristalulabelle profile image

      Kristen 4 years ago from Wisconsin

      I have never heard of this book but it sounds like a wonderful read and life lesson for both children and adults! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 4 years ago from USA

      Wonderful concept that we all need to participate in daily. Thank you for bringing this book to our attention. Giving it a tweet to share with others.