For many religions and communities, the holidays are seen as a time of giving. There are stories everywhere of people helping those less fortunate during the holiday season, from dropping coins into the red kettles to paying off strangers lay-away bills. However, charity and giving should not be limited to natural disasters, emergencies or holiday seasons.
Many families readily give during emergencies, during the holidays and for school fund raisers and it’s important for children to see charity as part of their family values. Teaching children the spirit of giving helps them connect with the community and learn how to reach out and help others. The act of helping others also teaching children that it is okay to need help at times and that people can rebound from difficult situations.
Many families donate financially but it’s also important for children to see their family donate their time and resources. There are many ways children can participate and it’s best if they can pick a charity or charitable activity to pursue.
1. Donate clothes and toys. Children can go through their gently used clothes and toys, picking items they can donate. This is a great way to clear out the toy area and make room for all those holiday gifts. Encourage children to pick at least 10 items.
2. Make toiletry bags. Collect free soaps and shampoo bottles from hotels and pack them with other toiletry items. These items can also be found at dollar stores. Gift the bags to a local homeless shelter.
3. Visit local hospital or retirement community. Children can play checkers, sing songs and learn about the lives of those recovering in a hospital or residing in a local retirement community. Make sure to check ahead of time so the facility is aware of your plan to visit.
4. Volunteer at a pet shelter. Volunteer to help care for dogs, cats and other animals at a local shelter. Grab some old blankets and towels and donate them.
5. Send homemade cards to military service-members abroad. If your child is creative and enjoys crafts, have them make holiday, birthday or veterans day card. These can be sent to military service men abroad or military hospitals.
6. Start a food drive. Ask the children to collect non-perishable donations from neighbors and then give them a ride to a local food bank. They may even be able to help put food packages together for the food bank patrons.
7. Help a neighbor. Children don’t have to go far from home to help others as they can help a neighbor by mowing the grass, weeding a flower bed, shoveling snow or bringing in the trash bins. They can also bake goodies to take to the neighbors and volunteer to read to those with impaired vision.
8. Clean up a park. No matter the season, spending a few hours picking up litter can help beautify a local park and teach children how they can be responsible for play areas.
9. Make donating a part of a child’s everyday life. Teach children to allocate part of their money to charitable acts or institutions. Get three piggy banks and have the children allocate 1/3 of their money to a spending bank, 1/3 to savings bank and 1/3 to donation bank.
10. Host a charity bake sale. If children love baking or making lemonade, a food stand is a great way to get donations for a charity. They may work with a group of kids in the neighborhood or on a sports team to increase their earnings and thus, be able to donate even more.
Children can have a powerful influence in their community and helping others should be a way of life. Even very young children can learn the concept of giving and as they grow, their giving activities should grow with them.