A few days ago, I stumbled upon a Christmas wish list that my 4-year-old son had put together with the help of his babysitter. I chuckled as I read through it and began to make a holiday shopping list based on his wishes. Superhero watch? Yes. New guitar? I don’t think so. Off I went, thinking about which items from his list I would actually add to my own list.
As tempting as it was to try to buy the entire wish list, I knew that purchasing every item would send the wrong message. After all, the holidays are about giving back and I really wanted to turn this situation into a teaching moment. As I tried to think of ways to help my kids learn about generosity, the needs of others, and gratitude, I turned to my amazing mommy friends for ideas and inspiration—and was quite surprised by some of their responses! Here are three of my favorites:
1. Have kids donate their own toys before getting new ones
One of the biggest surprises came from my friend Jenna, who encourages her children to give away half of their toys before they make a Christmas list. I naturally wondered how her kids reacted to this request and learned that they had been doing this for several years and were completely eager and willing! As Jenna explained, “I just tell them that some kids’ parents can’t afford Christmas gifts so we need to donate them so they can have them for Christmas. I donate them to the local Good Will or a church nearby that has a bin in its driveway.” Amazing, right? I wonder if my own kids would be as willing…
2. Volunteer as a family on Christmas Day
Volunteering as a family during the holiday season is not exactly a new concept but one of my friends has taken it to the next level. Each year on Christmas Day, she and her husband take their three young kids to a nursing home to spread joy to the residents. I found it especially meaningful that they chose to visit on Christmas morning, as opposed to an earlier, more convenient time during the season. Their selflessness and strong commitment to volunteering as a family has made me rethink how our family plans to give back this season.
3. Allow kids to use their own earned money to give back
For the past several years, our family has participated in a wonderful giving program through Samaritan’s Purse. We select gifts we want to send to a child or two in need and fill a shoebox with these items. Many of my friends also participate in this campaign or a similar one, but my friend Lori shared an idea I really love. She allows her daughter to use her own allowance money to purchase items for the shoebox. What better way to teach your child the concept of personally giving back?