5 ways to teach children about giving

My kids are constantly asking for things. Everyday, I am inundated with requests for food, a drink, a blanket, a new toy, a hug, and a variety of other things. Obviously, I have no problem obliging their needs for food, shelter and love (after they’ve added a ‘please’ to their request, of course). The ‘I want that toy’ and ‘Mom get me that’ pleas really get on my nerves, especially this time of year when they want everything for Christmas. These are the same little girls that could play with a different toy every day for a year (or five) and probably never play with the same toy. Seriously, they are not toy deprived by any means.

Yesterday while we were at the store, I suggested to my oldest that we select a toy to give to a child who might not get presents this year, she said ‘Okay as long I get a toy too.’ I wanted to scream (but obviously didn’t) and then realized maybe it was my fault that she didn’t get the point of the gesture. I have never really taught her that there are people out there much less fortunate than us. It’s not really her fault that she sees commercials for toys and then wants them (damn you savvy marketers).

So I’ve decided to take responsibility and make it my mission to get my kids into the giving spirit this year. I want them to understand how truly blessed we are for all that we have as a family and for them to WANT to give to others, both by giving things as well as giving their time.

These are the 5 things that I’m doing to try to teach my little gimme monsters that giving is just as important as receiving (all year around):

  1. Get them involved in giving to family – have them help choose gifts for family members, or better yet, have them make gifts for dad, grandma, aunts/uncles, cousins, and friends. This will help them be excited to give the gifts and see the recipients open them.
  2. Encourage them to donate old toys or clothes – ask them to go through the toys and clothes they’ve outgrown and pick a couple of items in good condition to donate to a local organization that distributes them to the needy. You can help but let them make the choices, so they feel like they’re doing the ‘giving’. And do this every 3 to 6 months, so they understand that giving is important all the time, not just during the holidays.
  3. Have them pick out a toy or book for a local toy drive – take them to the toy store and ask them to select a toy or book that another child may enjoy (and no, they don’t get a toy while they’re there – that defeats the purpose). Talk to them about how there are some families that can’t afford toys, or sometimes even food. If you can, take them with you to drop the item off in the toy drive bucket/box as well.
  4. Let them witness the effects of giving – if they’re of an appropriate age, take them with you to a soup kitchen to serve meals to the homeless or to a local food bank to help sort and pack food boxes. If they’re younger, ask them to help you bake cookies and deliver them to an elderly or sick neighbor. Experiencing the joy of giving can help them understand why it’s important.
  5. Start a ‘Giving’ jar – get a jar and start regularly putting money into it and encourage them to do the same. It doesn’t have to be a lot (try putting your loose change in for a start), but having a physical reminder can help keep giving top of mind for them throughout the year. Decide as a family how to best use the money to help others.

One of the most important ways to teach your kids about giving (or really anything) is by modeling the desired behavior. So make sure you’re giving year round by helping neighbors or sick friends, volunteering your time at your child’s school or donating money to one of your favorite charitable organizations. This doesn’t mean your kids will stop asking for stuff, but hopefully, it will help them think of others more often.

And with it being Thanksgiving week, let’s not forget about teaching our kids to be thankful, too.


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