Christmas trees now line every store and commercials urging you to think about your ‘list’ now fill the space between every TV show. The season of giving has begun.
For our kids, however, these late fall and early winter months often become the season of getting. Getting candy, getting toys. New books and clothes. Things they need and some things they probably don’t.
And it’s so easy to get swept up in it all. Buying gifts for small people is fun. Clothes we wish they made in our size and toys we wish were around when we were small call to us and our family and our friends. But, before we know it, our kids are asking for the next present and tearing paper like it’s a job.
If you want to turn this season of getting into a season of giving for your little ones, here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Talk about giving
As the season gets underway, start a conversation. With our diaper drive so fresh in their memories, we’ve got a great opening—kids understand that babies need diapers and that we donated. Talk about the drive and how so many families at Brooksfield participated. Use this opening to sprout deeper conversations about giving. Ask your children to think of other ways or things to give. Brainstorm some ways your family can give together. Talk about what it means to give and how it makes us feel. Starting an ongoing conversation about giving is a great way to combat the season of getting.
2. Participate in Toys for Tots
A few years ago I took my daughter (she was 2 at the time) to the toy store a few weeks before Christmas. I asked her to pick out a toy that we’d then give away to a friend in need. She wandered the store and ultimately needed some help selecting an appropriate item, but eventually we were off to the nearest Toys for Tots drop-off location. I unbuckled her from her stroller and helped her drop the toy inside the collection box. Then we sipped some chocolate milk and talked about what we had done. For young children giving a brand new toy can be tough and the concepts might be a bit over their heads, but activities like this begin to build their giving muscles.
3. Create a ‘give-away’ toy pile
No matter how much we talk about giving, the truth is that we all might see a flood of new toys inundate our playrooms over the next month. So, in preparation for the deluge, sit with your kids and ask them to divide their toys into two piles—one that they want to keep and one that they are ready to give away. This might be tough (and you might want to come in and finish the job later when they aren’t around!) but it will give you a chance to talk about how much you have that others don’t and the importance of releasing things we no longer need so others can have a turn.
4. Make a reverse holiday list
Rather than asking your child to create a Christmas wish list for themselves (because, odds are, you have a pretty good idea of what they want and need) ask them to create a list of what they plan to buy for other people—family and friends. Giving doesn’t always have to be directed at those in need. Ask your child what he thinks his brother might like or what she wants to get for Daddy this year. Turning their gift-focused mind towards others, rather than themselves, is a great way to flip the switch from getting to giving.
Finally, keep giving! When the holiday season ends and the new year begins, keep talking about giving with your kids and look for ways to keep the spirit alive all year long.