Compliments, Self-Esteem, and Bucket-Filling!

I love all of the different bucket-filling books that exist. I recently used bucket-filling books in the self-esteem group I co-facilitate with my intern. This activity teaches students how to give quality compliments and creates a bucket-filling extravaganza! 

Bucket-filling books and supplies
Bucket-Filling Books
For this activity, I read Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud to students and briefly showed them other examples of how buckets could be filled or emptied from How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath and Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life by Carol McCloud. All of the bucket-filling books are great at explaining bucket-filling and how buckets can be filled or emptied. (Side note: How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath and Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life by Carol McCloud were received through a funded project on Donors Choose! Read more about how to get funded.)

Bucket-Filling Supplies
I wanted students to experience real-life bucket-filling by actually filling real buckets.  I went in search of buckets online and in stores. I found plastic buckets for $1.00 at Michael's Arts & Craft Store and used a 20% off coupon to bring them down to $0.80 before taxes.  They are colorful and just the right size!

I used my Cricut paper cutter to cut hearts, stars, and flower shapes out of card stock to resemble the shapes the buckets were filled with in Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud. There are seven students in the group so I made enough cut outs that each girl would be able to write at least six compliments. I made lots of extra cut outs just in case. 

You could also make water drops, which would go with How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath.

A bucket ready to be filled
with quality compliments!
Activity: Compliments, Self-Esteem, and Bucket-Filling!
After reading students Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud and and parts of How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath, we had a discussion about bucket-filling. We talked about ways you could fill a bucket. Student examples included, "by being kind to others," "sitting with someone at lunch,""standing up for someone if they are being bullied," and "giving someone compliments." We also talked about ways a bucket could be emptied. Student examples included, "bullying someone," "being mean to people," "fighting," and "spreading rumors." I reiterated that you can't fill your bucket by "dipping" or taking from another person's bucket. When that happens both buckets are emptied. 

We also had a discussion about how you would use a "lid" for your bucket from Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life. A "lid" can be used in situations where someone is trying to dip from your bucket.  Suggestions students had were, "walk away," "ignore the person until you can get help," "tell an adult you trust," and "tell the person that you don't like they way they are treating you."

"You are a good friend!"
I was exited that one of the students mentioned giving compliments as a way to fill a bucket, because that is exactly what we did! I gave each student a bucket and die cut hearts, flowers, and stars. I explained to students that we were going to be real-life bucket-fillers by giving compliments to each other. Students were so excited that they got their very own buckets to fill!

I asked if anyone could explain what it means to give a compliment. Students gave some examples about outward appearance like "I like your jeans" or "Your hair is cute." I explained to students that we are going to strive for quality compliments, which are compliments about the actual person.  My intern explained that quality compliments are something someone just walking by would not notice about the person.

I asked students if they could think of examples of quality compliments.  Some ideas included compliments about someone's personality, ways the person is a good friend, a skill or talent the person has, or how the person makes you feel.

"I like the way you stay out of drama!"
We passed out markers and students got to work writing compliments for each member of the group. Students were so engaged in the writing of compliments. Students filled out all of their cut outs and wanted to write more to other people, including my intern and me! They asked us where our buckets were! Luckily, I bought extra buckets so my intern and I also participated. We wrote compliments to each of the students and they all wrote us one too! It was a lot of fun and they did a great job of making the compliments quality compliments! Students even wanted to create a bucket for the group! They wrote compliments about the whole group, which was very powerful and thoughtful of them. Once they started filling buckets the positivity was overflowing! It truly was a bucket-filling extravaganza!

After everyone was finished writing out their compliments, each student had an opportunity to sit in my big, comfy, bowl chair and get their bucket filled by the group.  After each girl got a chance to sit in the chair and get their bucket filled, we went back to our seats and read our compliments. For time sake we didn't have time to read each compliment aloud to each student, but I am sure it would have been even more meaningful!

Everyone wanted to take some cut outs with them to write to other students and teachers! (Good thing I made extra!) They were so excited about bucket-filling and giving each other compliments. Students loved this activity and were so excited to take their bucket full of compliments with them! It was really great activity and it definitely filled my bucket too!

This activity would make a great last session for pretty much any kind of group. It gives students something they can keep to remind them of the group and group members. This would also be a great end of year celebration activity for a class, even a graduate level school counseling class!!!

Have you used any of the bucket-filling books in your work with students? Which books did you use and what activities have you facilitated? Comment below, email metweet, or share on the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page!

Danielle is a K-12 Certified School Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor, and blogger at School Counselor Blog, a place where school counselors share innovative ideas, creative lesson plans, and quality resources.  Contact Danielle via email, follow her on twitter, and become a fan of the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page.


  1. I just found this blog entry from Scholastic about bucket-filling! More great ideas of how you can introduce bucket-filling into your school!

  2. Great idea - I love it!

  3. Does anyone have a lesson for "Positive Attitude" that uses Model Magic clay? The theme for our school for May, and I was donated several cases of clay to use up before school is out. Thanks!

  4. I need a bubket-filling-type of book for 5th and 6th graders. Thoughts and recommendations please!

  5. Would the students in the groups keep the buckets to take home??? BTW, I totally love this website!!!

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