By Kelley Fitzsimmons
With Winter Holidays right around the corner, there is no better time to teach kids about the importance of giving! Showing your kids that giving should be more rewarding than receiving is difficult, especially around the Holidays, but it is essential to their growth as humans in this world.
Whether it’s tangible like giving money and objects or intangible like giving love and time, a great way to teach kids the value of charity is by providing hands-on opportunities for them to participate in and learn from. The act of giving is a rewarding experience for both you, as parents, and your kids that creates lifelong traits of empathy and compassion in your little ones.
- Create Giving Traditions
Whether it’s once a month or once a year, determining a giving tradition that the entire family can participate in creates an environment for kids that instills giving as a natural part of life. The tradition can be as simple as donating unused toys and clothing twice a year or baking cookies for an elderly neighbor around the Holidays, to something a little more complex like bringing your child and their friends to a nursing home to sing Holiday carols and brighten up residents’ days. Traditions are a great way to create consistent patterns of giving behavior in kids.
- Include Kids in Volunteer Opportunities
Because kids typically love to observe and imitate their surroundings, including your kids in volunteer opportunities is the perfect way for them to soak up the importance of giving. Better yet, allow and encourage your kids to choose the volunteer project or event for the whole family to participate. Involving kids in grocery shopping for a local food drive, helping out at your local homeless or animal shelter, or even participating in a walk for a good cause are all easy and fun ways to volunteer as a family. Immersing kids in a giving environment reinforces the importance of giving to those less fortunate.
- Read About Giving
Reading books about giving is a fun way for kids to learn important life lessons around giving from some of their favorite fictional characters, all while sharpening their reading skills! It’s also an easy way to open the dialogue on giving to those in need, while introducing kids to key concepts such as gratitude, empathy, and compassion that you can discuss with them after. Here are a few books to begin:
- The Berenstain Bears, Think of Those in Need by Stan and Jan Berenstain
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
- A Kid’s Guide to Giving by Freddi Zeiler
I’ve spent many years in early childhood development and teaching children about giving also broadens their ability to empathize with others. We make this type of learning a focus at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. There, anyone can see that when children are taught about giving and empathy at a young age, they tend to develop additional positive character traits as they continue to grow. Whether it’s sharing toys with grace or patiently waiting their turn in line, kids who have been taught about giving and respect tend to exemplify a different degree of gratitude, compassion and understanding than kids who have not.
These hands-on giving opportunities are only a few of the many ways to switch up the normal routine of watching a movie or heading to the park and teach kids valuable life lessons of giving and empathy. Incorporating these activities cultivates compassion in kids, helping them grow up to be more giving, generous adults. Spend this Holiday season replacing the privilege of receiving with sharing the gift of giving!
Submitted by: Kelley Fitzsimmons is the Director of Education and Programs at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. She has been with the Museum since it’s very early formation over 19 years ago. Kelley earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Arizona State University. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Positive Network Alliance (PNA), a nonprofit that serves homeless, impoverished and specials needs children. Each year PNA serves over 17,000 children and their families. She is also a participant in the American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Lodestar Center.