Teaching kindness and giving reminds me of a great quote by Benjamin Franklin,"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." As the mother of a 2.5 year old, I can attest to the fact that my son learns best by doing and by watching me. So here are 10 simple activities you can do with your child to help teach your family about giving and kindness.
Before you begin, there are few key underlying concepts to keep in mind. Empathy is the first cousin of kindness. Consider having a dialogue on the importance of having empathy and developing compassion for others. Ask you child how they would feel if their brother or sister skinned their knee. Hopefully, the answer is that they would feel sad. Your child's ability to feel sad on behalf of their brother or sister is empathy. Developing empathy allows for the ability to put themselves in someone else's shoes and respond in a caring way. If your child can understand that other families have different experiences and lifestyles that will help them also understand that other families also have different access to resources ( Ex. money, toys, education, healthcare.) These conversations will help lay the foundation of your child's ability to recognize the needs of others and respond to those needs in a caring manner.
1) Toy Swap - Get your child in the habit of giving by opting for a toy swap. Offer that in order to get a new toy, an older toy must be given away. Let your child choose the recipient of the old toy. It can be given to a younger sibling, cousin or even to a non-profit or shelter. The key is a regular acknowledgement of having enough --to share or give to someone else. Have an instant dance party to celebrate the toy swap!
2) Favorite Snack - Prepare your child's favorite snack or meal --and encourage them to share it with their brother, sister or Mommy! Around the toddler age --to a child, everything is MINE, MINE, MINE. Curb that behavior early by regularly encouraging your child to share the things he or she loves the most.
3) Hug Factory - Ask your child for a hug at least once a day. Asking your child for a hug helps to demonstrate the idea that giving is not always about money or things! Teaching you child to give their time and undivided attention can be just as important as money or toys. Hugs are free and they just feel good. Sometimes Mommy really needs a hug too.
4) Birthday Tradition- Celebrate your child's birthday not only by what he or she will receive, but by also what they will give. Encourage your child to choose one special toy to give away in honor of their birthday. Allow your child to choose who will receive the toy and make sure you make a really big deal about the whole effort.
5) Give Away Box - Place a give away box somewhere easily accessible in the house at the beginning of the month. Encourage the whole family to add to the box throughout the month. ( Mommy and Daddy should participate as well!). At the end of each month, take the box to a local charity of the child's choice (Ex. homeless shelter, children's shelter, Salvation Army) --this allow your kids to see the family's items have been put to good use.
6) Tithe - Teaching monetary giving can be directly tied to your faith --depending on your family's religious beliefs. We are a tithing family ( and believe me it is so not easy in practice) --but we believe in the concept of first fruits and that all that we have really all belongs to God anyway. Modeling the behavior of being a consistent tithing family or encouraging your children to contribute to the offering is a great way to start.
7) Give a Saturday - Older kids and teenagers usually grasp the concept of giving--easily--but teaching empathy, compassion for others is a little more complex. Further, teaching gratitude is even harder. In middle school and teen years -- a child places a high value on their time --and the ability to control how their own time is spent. Find a local charity that focuses on a topic that is important to your child ( homeless shelter, Goodwill, pet rescue shelter, food bank) and give a Saturday to support the organization's mission. Explain to your child how important it is to be grateful for what they have and recognize that their our those who might not be as fortunate.
8) Holiday Spirit - Help your children get into the holiday spirit by giving. Use items around the house to make Thanksgiving goody bags, Easter candy bags, or Christmas gift bags. Be sure to use only gently used items --and non perishables so that the items can will still be useful to the recipients.
9) Back to School Time-Back to school time is a great time to teach your kids about giving! As you and your family shop for back to school items, buy 1-2 extra backpacks and fill them with school time goodies for a family in need. Make sure your child can help select the items that go into the Backpack!
10) Children Will Be Want They See - Model the behavior for your children. Show your children how you and Daddy give on a regular basis. Make sure your children are aware of the local charities, organizations, churches and or schools that you support both monetarily and with your time and or expertise. Get your children thinking about the organizations they would like to support when they get older.
Need more ideas to teach your kids about giving and learning to be kind? Find out more here.
How do you teach your kids about giving? I'd love to hear about it! Leave me a comment here or at my blog Smartchoicemoms.com, where I focus on helping parents raise money saavy, tech saavy, and socially responsible children.
This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.