“It’s better to give than to receive.” This wise saying is repeated over and over, but when presents are involved, it’s also a sentiment that can be lost on kids. They understand why getting things is fun. Why giving something might be even better isn’t always as obvious. Fortunately, there are some practical things parents can do to help children come to understand the truth behind this proverb.
Chip in at the Humane Society – Humane Societies and animal shelters can always use additional materials and helping hands. Donating food, blankets or cat litter can help a facility meet the needs of all the animals in their care. After you and your child drop off any donations, see if you can help walk or play with animals. It’s good for the animals and will show your child that donating time can be just as beneficial.
Participate in a Clothing Drive – Go through your child’s old clothes with them and pick out clothes for donation together. Explain that you want to choose clothes that are in good condition, that another child would want to wear. This will help drive home the lesson that giving is not throwing something away, but is a gift to someone who needs it.
Donate Books – Go to a bookstore with your child and have them pick out a book or two that they’ll donate. Ask them to choose a book that they would be excited to read, and remind them that the child who will be receiving their donation is just like them!
Give Neighbors a Helping Hand – You don’t need to go far to help. Shoveling, cutting the grass or even bringing in your neighbors garbage cans with your child can illustrates that some forms of giving don’t necessarily involve “stuff”. Giving your time to help someone you know is something anyone can do, and your child will see the immediate difference it makes in the lives of others.
Keep a Change Jar – Set up a jar somewhere in your home for your family to collect loose change. Set a good example for your kids by tossing in change yourself. It’s important to show that that you don’t have to give everything you have, but by giving a little bit on a regular basis, the amount really add up. When it is full, decide as a family where to donate the money and bring it there with your children.
Working then Donating – Host a garage sale, lemonade stand or bake sale with your child. When the work day is complete, donate some or all of the profits to a local charity. Again, always be sure to include your children on the conversation of where you’ll be donating and how much, so they can see the thought that goes into such a plan.
Be a Secret Santa for a Child in Need – Many churches, toy stores and community centers offer a Secret Santa program, where you can sign up to anonymously give toys or school supplies to a child in need. By giving anonymously, your child can learn that you don’t need a thank you or even to know the person to whom you’re giving.
Make Food Baskets – Some Food Shelves accept baskets of food, instead of the usual canned donations, especially around the holidays. With your child, collect some of your favorite healthy foods to put together in a care package. Fruits, vegetables, peanut butter and pasta are all great additions to a gift basket. And some cookies never hurt either!
Volunteer as a Family – Make giving a regular part of your family’s day to day life and your children will see it as an easy, reasonable thing to do. Become a regular at your local soup kitchen, animal shelter or blood drive. They can usually use extra help and your kids can see the results that their giving does over an extended period of time!
Talk to them about Giving – Kids are like sponges. As early as 3 or 4, they begin to understand how they and the people around them feel. So talk and demonstrate how you give to others, and how it makes both the person receiving and the person giving feel good! You might be surprised by how much of the lesson they absorb.
Hopefully this list has given you some ideas for other ways you can show your kids how rewarding giving can be. Just remember not to treat it like work or something you “have to do”. If the experiences with giving are positive, you’ll see your children starting to think about it on their own. And that’s a gift that keeps on giving!
Originally Published 12/21/2016