Emily Wyckoff

Teaching your kids the joy of giving back at the holidays

The holidays are in full swing and the Christmas countdown is on. My favorite part of the holidays is definitely at this point giving gifts, not receiving gifts (don’t get me wrong –  I love presents – if my husband is reading this I don’t want him to think he’s off the hook:-)). My children, bombarded by toy commercials, circulars and chit chat among their friends, are all about what they are getting for Christmas. I realize this is natural as they are kids, but I want to make sure they get to the place where they get as much joy from giving as receiving.

I love that my 7 year old daughter loves to make gifts for her grandparents and aunts and uncles. She will painstakingly decorate paper ornaments all afternoon, then use entire rolls of wrapping paper and tape to wrap the gifts, and wait by the door for their arrival until she can proudly present her gifts. I think kids are generous by nature and find joy in giving, but many times this natural instinct is outweighed by the commercialism of Christmas.

I want to be sure that my kids have the opportunity to give back to others throughout the year, but especially at Christmas time when the focus is often turned inward. Here are some ways your kids can give back – and enjoy it:

  1. Talk about why your family is thankful at the dinner table (or another time you are together) and discuss how there are families who aren’t as fortunate as you are. Ask your kids ways they think your family could help.
  2. Go through your family’s clothes and donate to the Goodwill or another charity. Involve your kids – they can go through clothes, put in bags, go with you to the donation center, etc.
  3. Make Christmas cookies and distribute them - to your neighbors, the postal carrier, the newspaper delivery person, etc.
  4. Visit an elderly relative or a nursing home and donate time and company to someone who will definitely appreciate it. Just a half hour spent with someone can make their whole week. If you don’t have a relative to visit, call a local nursing home.
  5. Go to the animal shelter and pet the animals – I challenge you to not bring one home!
  6. Support your school’s, church’s, or grocery store’s food or clothing drive. Have your kids pick out the food or clothing you donate.
  7. Sponsor a family at the holidays through a church or charity. Many organizations do this and will give you information on the family you sponsor and details on family members’ ages, sizes, needs, etc.
  8. Get your child another piggy bank and every time they make a deposit, have them put some in their original piggy bank and some in the charity piggy bank (it doesn’t have to be split down the middle!). Once or twice a year your child can pick the organization or cause to which to donate the money. Even $5 makes a difference! Here’s how to donate to Rachael’s non-profit organization – Yum-O! that helps kids and their families develop healthy relationships with food and cooking through teaching families to cook, feeding hungry families, and funding cooking education and scholarships.

What are your ideas for teaching kids how to give back?

6 Responses to “Teaching your kids the joy of giving back at the holidays”

  1. Michelle Howell says:

    This year Christmas will not be as big for our family this year. My husband and I are a dual military family. This year my husband who is stationed at Ft Stewart, GA is currently deployed to Iraq. I am stationed in Ft Sam Houston, Tx but blessed enough not to be deployed and to be with the kids this year. We just purchased a new home, but due to the timing, ended up paying a mortgage payment and my last rent payment on the place we just moved from. Financially, that pretty much took Christmas from the kids. I will be able to get my five kids a pair of shoes, which is more than what some kids get. Other than that we will volunteer our time at one of the homeless shelter serving food. Each one of my children will find something that they are willing to part with to give a child at the homesless shelter as a Christmas gift. That will be our way of giving back this year. It will also give my children an opportunity to see how truely blessed they are and to appreciate what they do have.

  2. My husband Tim and I along with our two teenage children ages 14 & 15 volunteer at our church once a month with Angle Food Ministeries.This is the one Saturday a month that the children aren’t allowed to do anything until late afternoon. They are allowed to invite friends to help this allows us to expose their friends to giving back.

  3. Alena says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  4. Staci says:

    Rachael Ray.
    My husbend and I just watched one of your shows from a couple of weeks ago the one with Whoppie and you guys was talking about unhealthy people and the things the gov wants to do to them.Go frist I want to till you about myself so you understand me.I am a 27year old and 8m ago I almost died from not takeing care of myself.At that time I weighed 281bls March30,2008 I went to the hospital for pains under my ribcage it turned out to be Pancreatitis and then something realy bad happened I got something called RDS it has to do with your lungs and what happened is my shut down so they had to put me in to a coma and on a breathing machine I was in it for 30days I should of died but I did not.When I woke up I was told I was a diabetic and now I have to take a shout once a day and eat.My cholestrol mayed me that sick and almost killed me.I have to eat healthy now or try to but its hard becaues we cant afored to my life depends on it but I cant do it.
    We make to much to be on food stambs but everything we make goes to bills we are a family of 5 me my husbend and 3kids and two mounths after I got out of the hospital I got pregnet I have lost wight I am now down to 216bls and we do what we can to eat and be healthy but we cant afored to be.I think that the goverment needs to take a better look at we people are so unhealthy its not like we all want to be like this but we cant aford to do any better then we can.And becaues of all that is going on so far this year it has made Christmas tuch for my boys we are doing what we can but its not much.
    There is a radio staion that on the frist of Dec you could put up a wish and I did we are geting help with Christmas dinner and I have been trying to invit a homels family to come and injoy dinner with us but so far no luck.Will thank you for lisening to me.Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  5. Gilly says:

    Every year my daughter who has just turned 5 goes through her toys and donates what she doesnt play with anymore… This way she has room for her new gifts (her bday is December also).. and its teaching her to give to the less fortunate.. Merry Christmas to all ,, may you be surrounded by friends and family….

  6. Ashley says:

    I have to say my children pleasantly surprised me this Christmas. I am a nurse practitioner. In August I took a position in the public school system in my hometown. As a result, I am in the active process of starting a nonprofit that meets the many needs of our inner city kids. I am involving my four daughters, ages 10,6,6,4, as much as possible. Despite my effort to involve them, I wasn’t quite sure if they understood how fortunate they are and how unfortunate other kids are. I found myself getting more upset everytime a child would add yet another item to an already legthy Santa list. In the end, they didn’t seem to care so much about their lists. Santa brought enough this year, but not like previous years. The girls were soooo grateful for everything they got. We are in the process of choosing toys to pack up to donate to my nonprofit. I guess they were paying attention afterall.

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