A guest post by JessieLeigh from Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles
I love Christmas! I love the decorations, the music, the wrapping, the anticipation…I love it.
What I don’t love? Clutter.
So I love giving consumable gifts. It’s fun for children to have things to unwrap and it’s nice for me to know that once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Another way I like to cut back on clutter and help my children learn a little about giving is through gifts of charitable donations.
But how can we make this, well, more fun for our kids? How can we hold on to the joy and elation of surprise on Christmas morning while making the real gift something for others?
Here are a few tricks that help keep it exciting even for toddlers and preschoolers:
- Double up. Rather than purchasing a new, trendy game, pick up two copies of an old classic. Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, Hi Ho Cherry-o, etc. often go on sale for $5 each during the holidays. Wrap them both together for your child to open and he gets to keep one, the other gets donated to a child in need.
- Give a small toy that represents the charity. Want to give to an animal shelter? Wrap up a little stuffed dog or cat. Is this the year you donate to the March of Dimes? Give your child a small baby doll. Let your little one know that while she takes care of her new treasure, your donation will help take care of even more in need.
- Give them a gift card. Children have amazingly giving spirits. They also love to get to choose things and to be “in charge”. Consider giving your child a ten or twenty dollar gift card to a local supermarket and letting them choose canned goods for a local food pantry. The adventure of getting to shop is as good as a new toy for many little ones!
Those are my three favorite ways to keep Christmas clutter-free and encourage a giving heart all while making sure there’s something to open under the tree.
Do you have any tricks for making charitable giving fun for children? Share it in the comments!
JessieLeigh is the mother of a former 24-week micropreemie and two full-term blessings as well. She is a determined advocate for the tiniest of babies, including the unborn, and a firm believer in faith and miracles. She shares about raising such a precious, tiny baby over at Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles.
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photo by Fearless
My son is only 10 months old, but I look forward to sharing with him a tradition my husband and I started when we got married three years ago: buying gifts for our parents and grandparents through various compassion organizations (like Compassion, World Vision, Angel Tree, and local places). I look forward to it all year long, anticipating what we’re going to do this year! http://smilingwhilesaving.blogspot.com/2010/12/fun-of-giving.html
We like to give through Samaritan’s purse. They have a ton of different gifts you can give and I like to give something related to each family member. i.e. last year in my son’s name I gave a “sports gear” gift as that is something that he would enjoy and now little boys and girls in another part of the world can enjoy it too!
I like to take my kids shopping for another needy child. As they are picking out gifts to give, I also choose one of the items in the cart that they’ve chosen and buy an extra to put in their stocking as a surprise. When we bake, we make extra cookies for homeless ministries to give to street folk. This year we also had a hot cocoa and cookie stand (instead of lemonade!) to raise money for a particular charity that distributes gifts to children all around the world!
I asked family to give the kids consumable gifts this year. I bake so many cookies to give as gifts, and never get any in return. So I asked for cookies! My kids celebrate with 5 different families, so they dont need more junk!
Thanks for posting this! Wonderful ideas for teaching all of us about the joy of giving.
I LOVE the idea of getting kids a GC to a grocery store so that they can pick out their own donations for the food bank. They get to play “mommy” and shop for their own stuff, AND get to have the joy of giving something to someone in need. Thank you for that great idea! (and too bad I don’t have any little ones at home!)
@Ana, Thanks, Ana! One of our grocery stores also has those little carts for kids and I’m thinking of taking them there so they can have the “complete experience”. 😉 It’s amazing how exciting it is for them to feel “grown up”!
One of our family’s favorite things to do is to select a family that we know is struggling but perhaps might not “qualify” for the short-term assistance they need. We then buy some needed items (food, clothing, practical gifts, fun gifts, or whatever the need may be). We drive to their house around midnight and set the gifts on their front porch. We park a little ways down the street and then the kids get to carry some of the gifts (very quietly, of course : ), put them on the porch, and then we run back to the car before anyone sees us. The kids love that they have helped someone they know but are able to keep it a secret. That way the praise goes to the Lord.
Now every Christmas, my children are more excited to choose a family and buy gifts for them than they are in making their own wants known to us.
@Heidi, Love this. I love that you teach about giving while making it a fun adventure too!
Our kids are a little bit older and really like picking the donations to Heifer International which we give in the names of their uncles/aunts and grandparents as Christmas gifts for them. Everyone likes to see what the kids have picked out as their donations be they hives of bees, flocks of chickens or flocks of ducks. The kids get excited about helping others and the donations are helping people around the world obtain a sustainable source of food and income.
~Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
@Holly, Heifer International is a fabulous organization. I’d love to get my children more involved in that type of giving as well as they get a little older.
This has also been the answer for my husband and I in regards as to what to do for our parents (in their 50’s) and grandparents (in their 70’s & 80’s) for Christmas each year. The last two years we chose items to buy from World Vision’s catalog (you can “buy” sheep, cows, rice, school supplies, etc…), then gave a Christmas card with a recent photo of us, and a little note of what had been bought in their honor. This year we’re taking tags from the “Angel Tree” at our church (partnered with Angel Tree Ministries, providing gifts for children who’s parent(s) are in prison). We have been setting aside Christmas money all year, and been excited about what we got to buy this year! And our parents and grandparents have loved it!
@Jessica, What fantastic ideas! I think those are perfect gifts for parents and grandparents who, truth be told, have often accumulated plenty of “stuff” over the years too! 🙂
Baby Coupon Mom says
Thnak you very much for sharing the great ideas. I love to get my kids involved in giving, and as shared in BCM site, planning to send a gift to a child in need through Child Fund International.
@Baby Coupon Mom, You’re very welcome- I think it’s wonderful to get the kids involved. 🙂
I love these ideas. This was the first year I have done Operation Christmas Child. It was so much fun! My son is 2 years old and he went with me and helped me pick out some of the things. And I explained that there are boys who don’t have any toys for Christmas and that we were going to send it to someone. He got so excited then I realized he thought a little boy was coming to our house for Christmas. So, I let him go with me and hand the lady the box at the drop off location and explained it was going to be mailed. It was so sweet to watch him so excited to give to someone else. Definately, something I am trying to teach him… the world doesn’t revolve around him.
@Stephanie, That’s so precious that your son thought the little boy was coming for Christmas… I am forever inspired by what natural givers our children really are!
nicki s. says
When I took my nieces to the local dollar store to get little gifts for their moms for Christmas, I asked that they each pick out a toy to give to Operation Homefront. They picked a matching fairy skirt and dress-up shoes and got to put it in the box at the end. The three-year old is telling everyone how she gave shoes to a little girl who didn’t have christmas presents. : )
@nicki s., So beautiful. I actually just published a post TONIGHT about taking our children to Dollar Tree to shop for/give to Operation Homefront. I absolutely love how easy Dollar Tree makes it to make a very real contribution.
I love these ideas. My 2 year old son is helping me put together Christmas gift bags for the women at the local maternity home. I have gotten a lot of samples/freebies just for this reason, and he has enjoyed helping me sort and decorate the bags. He is also coming with me when we deliver them.
@Hollaina, What a special tradition to start with your son! Love it.
Dottie Peters says
A great way for the little ones to share is through Operation Christmas Child, packing a shoebox for a needy child, and letting your child help shop to fill it with toys, school supplies, health care supplies, clothes, etc.
You can actually fill one pretty inexpensively if you shop ahead for bargains, like when school supplies go on sale, and make it a year-round project! Collection time for these boxes is just past already for this year, but it’s a great project to start on anytime for next year! :o)
@Dottie Peters, Absolutely wonderful way to give- we’ve done this with our children too! They especially love choosing things for a child in their same age bracket. 🙂
Danielle Hull says
I wanted to give a bit of insight about food pantries. Our church has one, and we’ve volunteered a few times. Our church is pretty small, so we know the coordinator of the food pantry pretty well. She goes to a food bank in the nearest large city to buy most of the food and other home supplies and is able to purchase these for 19 cents per pound! So instead of spending money to donate items, your time and money would go farther if you donated some time and money to the food pantry itself. I know our coordinator is happy to have kids help load, unload, stock or sort at a time when the pantry isn’t open to the public.
@Danielle Hull, This is good information to have- thank you. It’s also a good reminder to really get to know the organization you’re donating to in your own community so that you can provide the most needed help!
Rebecca Burgener says
This is an awesome idea, and I love that it includes stuff that would get little ones excited too.
@Rebecca Burgener, Thanks! I think the real challenge is finding a way to help make giving more “tangible” for the littlest ones. But, really, they truly do have such generous hearts!
THANK YOU!!! I think u just solved my Christmas nitemare in trying to figure out what to give my son, who seems to have everything!
@Delene, You’re very welcome- thanks for your sweet comment!
Love the ideas! We collect toiletries throughout the year. Whenever there is a sale on Axe (my son’s favorite), he gets to keep one and give one to our foster care bag. Our daughter loves Bath and Body Works, so every time there is a B3G3 or FWP item, we do the same thing (she keeps 1, 5 go in the bag). Many of the kids in the foster care system get few “exciting” toiletries, usually whatever is given to the shelters. By collecting throughout the year, we can impact a lot of kids, and my kids feel like they’ve really helped make someone else just a little bit happier.
@KatieBee, What a great idea! I love the idea of having some “nice” things to offer… Bath & Body Works products are a nice indulgence to be able to give. 🙂