teaching kids to be giving

Kids can be greedy little bastards. But really, can you blame them? It’s our own fault. As soon as they’re big enough to make half-intelligible sentences, we ask them repeatedly what gifts they want for the holidays. Their answer might be as simple as a toy car. But we push them and push them and push them and then, one morning, they wake up and that little car and so much more have materialized under their Christmas tree.

They’d be stupid if they didn’t ask for everything they could think of the next time around. Yet we get all embarrassed and we shush them for being too greedy and remind them that they can’t get everything. I mean, that would be crazy—even though we already taught them that they can.

I guess what I’m trying to get at here is the fact that we should be more mindful of what we’re teaching these bite-sized little sponges. I have no problem spoiling the crap out of my kids when it comes to the holidays. It’s not an every day thing and they’re good kids. But if I’m going shower them in gifts, I should probably teach them a little bit about giving too, no?

teaching kids to be giving

My kids are like their mother. They like a good project. So, in an effort to make giving something fun that they feel really good about, I put together a list of five things that you can do with your kids to get them excited about giving. And don’t forget, these things can be done year round—which is an even better lesson to teach your littles.

1) Choose gifts to give to Toys for Tots

I took my girls on a little shopping trip this weekend so that they could pick out toys to donate to kids in need. We’re not exactly swimming in extra cash, so we kept the budget low and picked one toy for a girl and one for a boy.

Samantha took this job very seriously and changed her mind a few times before choosing the perfect gifts. She was so proud to drop the toys into the bin at the mall and as we walked away she had a huge smile on her face and said “Mommy, it feels good to do nice things for other people.” Mission accomplished.

2) Go through their own toys and donate some

This is probably the most difficult idea on my list. First, the kids need to understand that toys that are broken or missing pieces don’t count. Second, if your kids are anything like my pack rat daughter, they might have a little trouble letting go of things. At the same time, she is very thoughtful and giving and might decide she can only donate her absolute favorite thing (which would simultaneously make her happy and break her heart).

While it’s a lovely thought, it’s important to teach that there is a middle ground. You don’t want to donate trash, but you also don’t have to give something you treasure. There are plenty of ways to give (and give thoughtfully) without leaving yourself lacking in some way.

3) Donate clothes/food to a local shelter

We’re heading into that time of year when everyone wants to clean out and start fresh. There’s no better time to go through your clothes and pull out some things that you don’t wear as much or things that are outgrown.

While you’re at it, you could also donate some food to a shelter. My girls love to shop so I know they will enjoy going into the grocery store and choosing things to donate.

4) Donate books to a children’s hospital

I try to make sure that my daughters love reading by making it a fun, comforting part of every day life. What better way to help a sick child than by giving them this gift while they’re stuck in the hospital? You can have your kids pick out some books (whether it be weeding through some of their own, or choosing some of their favorites from a bookstore) and make a little card for the children they’re spreading the love to.

5) Choose a charity and raise money for it

If you want to go a step further, this is a great idea for older kids (which also teaches them entrepreneurial skills). Have them choose a cause that means something to them (whether it be animals, reading, or feeding the hungry) and come up with a plan to raise money for their charity. They could have a lemonade stand, sell cookies or bracelets, do little jobs for family and neighbors, whatever they come up with. At the end, they can write a note to the organization they’re helping and send in the money—and remember, even $5 is something to be proud of. The sense of pride this will fill them with is sure to make a lasting mark.

teaching kids to be giving

Obviously, you don’t need to run out and do all of these things at once—I haven’t. I just think it’s important to teach our little boogers that life is not all about what you get. If my babies grow up and don’t think twice about helping someone in need, I know I’ve done something right.

Now, before I end this, I have a feeling internet trolls might come across this post and criticize my emphasis on making giving fun. My thought is that if giving becomes something that’s connected to warm and fuzzy memories, it will become ingrained into who they are and they will continue to do it throughout their lives. It might not always have to be something that is fun or something that fills them with pride, but it will become a part of who they are.

Do you have any other thoughts on ways kids can give?

Written by Jennifer Garry
Jen is a freelance writer and girl mom from New York. When she's not knee-deep in glittery crafts and girl talk, you can probably find her sprawled across her couch in the middle of a Netflix marathon with dark chocolate smeared on her face. The struggle is real.