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?

What's Fresh from @RachaelRay

Rachael Ray