It was the day after Halloween and somehow my two preschoolers had already devoured the entire Amazon and Target holiday toy catalogs. Wish lists ensued. Endless questions and talk of gadgets they “had to have” overflowed. Confession: at first I was excited. Visions of the delightful expressions on my children’s faces as they opened their presents on Christmas morning were tantalizing. But as that feeling began to dissipate, a deeper desire arose. A desire to instill gratitude and generosity into their young and vulnerable hearts. I knew instantly that fulfilling every item on their wish list was the exact opposite way to foster these virtues.
I am not here to tell you that giving your children gifts is bad or damaging. Our children will certainly still have gifts under our tree! What I am saying is that this year, we are trying to minimize the quantity and hyper-focus on those gifts and shift to including our children in the joy of giving to others. I hope some of these ideas can make their way into our family traditions over the coming years as we raise our little people to be big givers!
Help your child learn to give
- Create a Giving List
Alongside their wish lists, I am having each of my children create a giving list. This list will be just as colorful and fun as their wish list, but its purpose will be to brainstorm ways they can bless other people in our family and community this season. A list is such a tangible thing and honestly, I love making them! It is also a joy to see my children’s creativity bloom. No, we may not actually be able to buy daddy a new car or our neighbor a new puppy, but just the thoughts are exercising their generosity muscles.
- Start a New Tradition
Choose a new tradition to start with your family that focuses on giving or serving. This year our family is going to try the Giving Manger. The gist is that each time someone in your family notices someone else perform an act of kindness or service for another, the doer gets to place one piece of straw in a wooden manger. On Christmas day there will be a soft, full bed that was built through giving to lay the sweet baby Jesus on that comes with the set. I am excited to see how this activity inspires my children to love and serve each other!
- Go out and Give Together
This one is definitely my favorite and the ideas are endless. For us, this looks like finding ways our children can participate in creating gifts for the people in our community. As a three and almost five-year-old, their community is small, but the opportunities are still plentiful. Some of the ideas we have so far are baking Christmas cookies to deliver to our neighbors, drawing special thank you cards and leaving them with cookies for our mailman and garbage workers, cooking a meal for our new temporary neighbors that were displaced by the tornado, and putting together some bags of necessities with little Christmas goodies like candy canes to hand out to people who are homeless.
I love that my boys can truly participate in a hands-on way in each of these giving activities, deliver most of them face-to-face and really bless someone in the process.
How you teach and encourage giving with your children? Please share with us!