Charity: Teaching Our Kids to Want to Give During the Holiday Season

Christmas is not just presents. It's important to remember charity.
Pixabay Image

Every year, my kids’ Christmas lists get just a little bit longer. And that pile of presents under our tree, despite my best intentions, seems to grow just a little bit larger.

So this year, I’m looking for ways to motivate my kids to give a lot more. Charity is an essential value. 

We are so, so lucky to have what we have, and to live where we live. Because I want to teach my kids to give, even while they receive, here are 3 things I’m trying this year to promote my daughters’ understanding of charity.

Make a list of people we want to give to

The girls have grown accustomed to writing a letter to Santa with their wish lists. This is a rite of childhood that I would never want to take away from them. But the day after they get that list of their wants down, we’ll be making a list of people we want to give to.

We’ve always had the girls pick out and purchase Christmas and birthday presents for each other. So why not expand their giving this year? This isn’t to say we’ll be granting the girls an unlimited present budget, or even that we’ll be buying everyone on our list gifts. Instead, we’ll be taking the time as a family to think about everyone we love and want to give something to. The discussion of what and how we give will come next. I’m anticipating some lovely cards, lots of baking, and probably a supplemental gift card or two for their teachers.

Give tangibles to a charity

Food bank donations!
Food bank donations!

There’s a lot that’s good in the giving we do online, but I think a crucial element has been missing for the girls: the human component. Children are concrete thinkers and all our online giving, while good, just doesn’t seem real to our kids.

Every year come holiday time, we pick a charity to give to from money that the girls have been saving all year. My husband and I always match the girls’ funds so the charity of our choice gets a larger check. For years, I’ve spent time with the girls online researching where our money will be best spent. I show the girls how to evaluate a charity, how to research what’s being done with the money, and when the times comes, they get to click on the “donate” button. But after a few weeks go by and I show the girls the thank you card with the tax write-off that comes in the mail, all I get are blank looks. “Don’t you remember the deworming initiative we donated to?! All those cool, icky videos I let you watch?” No, no they don’t. What’s worse is that they don’t remember giving anything at all. The experience of giving has not stuck with them.

So this year, we delivered food for the canned food drive at school. And by delivered, I mean delivered in our own hands. My kids had to pick out the food at the grocery store. They helped pay for it at the grocery story. And then I had them physically carry the food to school the next day for the donation.  In a few weeks, I plan on asking them about the donations they made & I hope that this time- because they actually gave a physical item, that they’ll remember more what it means to give.

Use a gratitude journal

gratitude for the important things- like candy.
“I am thankful for candy.”

We’re going to follow up on our giving with some practices in gratitude. In order for our kiddos to make the connection between giving food and the privilege of having food, we have to talk about it with them. And because my children listen so well to lectures pay more attention to what I do over what I say, I’m going to record my own gratitude about the food we get to eat over the holidays in a family gratitude journal. I also like the idea of returning to this book in the future to read all the different things each of us was thankful for each year.

In the future

I know that realistically, if we only ever talk about giving at a certain time of year, that my dream of growing more generous human beings is less likely to become a reality. At the very least, maybe I’ll see my kids acting a little less selfish and a lot more generous with each other.  Or maybe our efforts will inspire their own thinking about taking care of our neighbors, the world, and those less fortunate in the years ahead.

Ultimately, I hope this plan to promote the joy of giving over receiving will kick start 2017 in the right direction for us all.


  1. […] One of the best things about this “project” is that you can tailor it however you want. Is your tree already full of ornaments? Hang some string on the wall and let the kids clip up a paper angel for each act of giving. Are angels not your thing? Make it a holiday star or a special snowman instead. Lost for ideas of things to do? Try these fantastic ideas here, here, here,  here, and here. […]


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