Monday, December 15, 2008

The Greatest Gift for Your Kids This Season...A Lesson in Giving

The holiday season is a great opportunity to inspire charity in children.

The holidays are bursting with abundance. Take time to enjoy the spirit of the season with your kids.  Use all your senses!  Take in the brilliant sights, joyful sounds, the scent of pine and of gingerbread houses.  Savor each special morsel of holiday food.  Enjoy the soothing warmth of the fireplace.  Go out and be exhilarated by the snow with your kids.  Or if you live in Hawaii, like our family, or some other warm place, play in the rain puddles on a rainy winter day or go to the beach on a perfectly beautiful warm, sunny winter day.  Take time to reflect on the year and the abundance in your family’s life – no matter how poor you are; even in these difficult economic times – if you are healthy and live in the United States, you are far better off than the most of the rest of the world. 

As you reflect on the the good things in your life, however, remember that as well off as we are, the holidays are a time of sadness for many people.  There are many people with no shelter; people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  There are people who are sick and people who are dying.  And there are so many people out there who are just plain lonely.  

Your kids need to know this.  Share this information with them, and then empower your kids by teaching them to make a difference. There are so many reasons to give.  Giving not only brings a little light to others; it makes us feel good too.  

Here are just a few of the benefits of teaching your kids to be charitable:

  1. Kids gain perspective.  They see firsthand the hardships that others endure and may possibly appreciate their own abundance a little bit more.
  2. Kids develop compassion.  Hearing about the hardships of others helps to develop compassion and a broader world view.  Seeing it firsthand or interacting with individuals in need makes an even greater impact. 
  3. Let’s kids know that they can make a difference. Kids learn that even as children they have the power to bring dignity, hope and joy to others.
  4. Makes kids feel proud.  Kids want to make a positive impact and feel like contributing members of society.  Doing so makes them feel very proud.

Ways to  Give 

The greatest impact is achieved when children have personally invested in the act, and is even greater when they actually meet the recipient of their gift.  Be sure to include a kind note of inspiration and compassion with your gifts. 

  1. Bring breakfast to the homeless.  We did this last year on Christmas morning.  We wanted to make it homemade, but we ran out of time so we picked up 10 breakfast platters from McDonald’s and took them to a park where we know a lot of homeless people are.  It was our first time doing this, but the response was incredible!  The people we delivered the breakfasts to were so grateful, and several called us “angels”.  My older son, who was 5 years old at the time, decided on his own to take money from his piggy bank to share with the homeless too.  It was such a proud moment for me.  The most amazing thing is that his most vivid memory of Christmas 2007 is bringing food to the homeless; and his spirit of giving has continued throughout the year.  
  2. Make homemade snow globes and deliver them to sick children or the elderly in a hospital.
  3. Adopt a family – find a family in need.  If you don’t know of one personally, check with your church or the Salvation Army to refer you to one.  Your family could pick out gifts, drop off a wonderful holiday meal or invite them into your home for Christmas dinner.  Another fun thing to do is to drop off a festive decorated box of wrapped toys, clothes and other gifts and goodies at the door anonymously – like a Secret Santa Angel.
  4. Play Santa to nursing home residents.  Wrap up small gifts like a nice natural hypoallergenic lotion, lip balm, books or magazines, board games, extra soft non-skid socks or soft lap blankets; put on Santa hats and grab a pillow case and deliver the gifts.  Be sure to stop and chat and/or sing Christmas carols as you make your deliveries.
  5. Volunteer as a family to serve a meal at a homeless shelter.

There are so many ways to make a positive impact on others.  And giving can (and should be) done year-round. If you can’t make time this year to do something in person, here are some other ideas to plant the seed of charity in your kids:

  1. Have your kids pick out toys to donate to Toys for Tots.  Drop them off together. 
  2. Demonstrate to your kids how you set aside a portion of your income to give to charity and teach them to do the same.  Ask them who they would like to help and find a charity that serves that niche.  Help your children donate to the organizations they choose.  If the charity lists the names of donors, be sure to show the list to your kids and have them find their names.
  3. Have your children go through their toys and clothes and select items that are still in good shape to donate to a local women’s shelter or the charity of their choice (check around, though – many places will no longer accept toys because of the liability associated with recalled items). 
I would love to hear your - or your kids’- ideas for charitable giving.  The more creative the better!

Give your kids the best gift of all this year - gift that will be a beautiful memory and a lesson in appreciation and compassion. The gift that brings the greatest joy of all.  The gift of giving. 


  1. These are all wonderful tips. Years ago when we lived in Hawaii there was a homeless man that slept at the same table every day. So I started making extra sandwiches and I would give them to him.

  2. I especially like the idea of taking a good breakfast out to the homeless. I've heard homeless people say that they feel invisible ... by taking a meal and hand delivering it to them, you not only fed them ... you acknowledged them as valuable citizens and made them feel special.

    Great post!!

    Small Footprints

  3. Paul- glad you like the suggestions. Thanks for commenting!

    Kelli- Wow! We share a Hawaii bond. I love that you made sandwiches for the homeless man. What a compassionate gesture!

    Small Footprints - It really was a great experience that we will be repeating this year. I highly recommend it. I read a book called "Ten Conversations You Need to Have With Your Children" by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (a great read regardless of your religious beliefs). I don't remember the exact quote, but he said something to the effect that one of our main goals in life ought be to take every opportunity to bestow dignity on others. It was something that made a huge impact on me and has really stuck with me.


I'd love to hear your comments and ideas for future postings! Please share.