Something I want to teach my children from an early age is to be thankful for what they are blessed with and how to help those less fortunate or in need. The best ways I’ve set this foundation is to talk about it, and involve them in the process of giving back.
The holiday season is a popular time for giving…giving to those you love and to those in need that you might not know or never even meet. I’ve found joy from both of these and I want my kids to as well. Here are some ways you can teach kids of all ages how to give back this holiday season and year round.
I have my favorite local pantries and organizations that are great to their communities and giving back. While monetary donations are accepted, I typically donate physical items such as food or toys. My son and I just made a donation at his school, going to the local food pantry. The conversations about giving back through donations can start as early as in your living room. In teaching my son I bring him along and we select items in the store. We talk and communicate about it, and he can help select items to donate. When we are going through old clothes that he’s outgrown we pack them in a bag to donate to others. Master’s Manna in Wallingford, CT and Gifts of Love in Avon, CT are my favorite local resources to provide donations. Where are your favorite organizations or locations to give donations?
Tweens and teens are the perfect age to organize volunteer work in your local communities. While it may be a requirement for graduation or look good on their resume or college applications, the real satisfaction is the feeling you get from dedicating your time to help others. Whether it be volunteering at a food pantry, horse farm, or raking leaves for the elderly search your community on ways to give back. Volunteering in your community is also an example of a family activity that can become a new tradition.
Giving Away Old Toys
Getting rid of toys can be hard for young kids. It seems that right when I am making a pile of old toys the haven’t played with for a while, they become a novelty again making it hard to part ways. Every now and then I remind my son that we will be going through his toys to donate to a little boy or girl who might not have toys and how it would make them feel to get a new gift. I involve him in the process so he can learn the gift of giving. As he matures and gets older I hope that he can begin to think of others and chose toys of his own to donate. Holiday time is perfect for clearing out old toys (I’ve got an itch for this right now!!)
Military Care Packages
The holidays can be a difficult time of year for those away from their family and friends. For our military, they are dedicating their lives to protect ours. Unfortunately that also means being far away from home without the option of traveling home. When my brother was overseas we were fortunate to be able to send letters, treats, and personal items. There are great organizations out there that organize the donation of care packages and list suggested items. What a treat it could be for our members of the military to receive such a surprise! Involve your children in the purchasing of items and packaging them for delivery. They can write letters or color pictures too! Here is a list of organizations that can help you on your way. The US Postal Service has free military care kits that include boxes, tape, and labels.
The Giving Tree
They’re not just any tree. Adorned with little tags with big wishes you can find a giving tree at places like churches or the mall. Select a tag and become Santa for a little girl or boy. We have these at my company holiday party each year, for children in foster care or congregate care. With one small act of kindness you can create a new memory and huge smile for someone this holiday season. While you and your children are not likely to see those smiles in person, the mear act of giving is what the holidays are all about.
Don’t Forget About Our Four Legged Friends
Animal shelters and foster parents of animals open up their hearts and homes year round. They save dogs, cats, turtles…you name it and there are saving the animal world one four legged friend at a time. A great example of this is Monkey’s Pack; they’re doing great things with such kind hearts. For the child who is an animal lover consider setting up birthday gift donations at the time of their birthday (instead of toys or gifts children ask that bags of food or donations be made in their name to a local organization), making a donation to an animal shelter through their Amazon wish list like the Meriden Humane Society, or dropping off food, beds, toys, or treats to a local shelter.
Pay It Forward
How many times have you been in line at the Dunkin Donuts drive through with your kids in tow? Or how about a tip jar at a local hot dog joint waiting for some lovin’? Paying it forward doesn’t have to be monetary but sometimes it is the quickest way to spread a random act of kindness. I’ve pulled up to the Dunkin Donuts drive through and felt the joy from the person in front of me paying for my order. It literally turned my day around, and brought a satisfying feeling paying it forward to the person behind me. Show through example and model this for your children.
Shoveling Snow For A Neighbor
I was fortunate to be raised in a close knit neighborhood growing up. To this day it is not out of the ordinary for a neighbor to shovel someone else’s sidewalk or driveway. Spread the love and give back by shoveling snow, raking leaves, or mowing the lawn out of the kindness of your heart, expecting nothing in return; an important lesson for my children to learn. Little ones can get in on the action too. My son has his own shovel and just might be visiting a neighbor this winter to lend a helping hand.
Thank You or Thinking of You Cards
Go the extra mile and send thank you cards or “thinking of you” cards to someone special in your life. I LOVE snail mail…giving and receiving. A thank you card can follow a gift or kind gesture. A thinking of you card can be done just because. Any school aged child can work on these cards with you. A child in preschool can color a picture or list things that they love about the recipient. School aged children and above who have the language and writing skills can formulate their own letters and drawings.
Surprise! Dinner or Dessert Drop Off
Who would love to have dinner at their doorstep without having to worry about the planning and cooking? How about a tasty treat or your favorite candy bar? Together as a family you can cook, bake, shop, or order a meal or dessert for a family member or friend as a surprise…just because! Have your child select the recipient and spread the love.
Walk The Neighbor’s Dog
Kids are full of energy. Pups are full of energy. For well behaved dogs with a trusted adult nearby, your child can offer to walk their neighbor’s dog for the day. This can especially be helpful for the elderly.
Pay For Someone’s Layaway or Wish List Item
Imagine logging in to view your Christmas wish list has a purchased item or receiving a gift mailed to your door? How about having your layaway item all paid for?! Go on a scavenger hunt collecting coins around the house or children can choose to take from their piggy bank to give to others. Have them join in on the fun of being a Secret Santa for a little boy or girl this year.
Leave A Quarter At A Candy Machine
Surprise! Your wish is my command. Your child can become a genie and leave a special surprise for someone looking to buy candy. Search for coins around the house or teach them to take a quarter from their piggy bank, grab some tape, and head out in search of a candy machine! Your kids will get a kick out of hiding the quarter for someone to find.
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