After substituting is a 4th grade class this week, I was reminded again of just how excited children get whenever they think about giving to others. We were talking about the meaning of the word volunteer, and after a lot of enthusiastic discussion, the class came up with their own definition, which was: To do something for others because you want to, not because you’re going to be paid for doing it.
Since they had been so creative with their ideas, I decided to extend the activity and asked them this question, “Can you think of some ways that you could volunteer to help someone during this Christmas Season?”
Oh my goodness! This was a brainstorming session on steroids.The enthusiasm and creativity of their responses made my day. Again and again, I was reminded of just how giving children really are. Some of their ideas may not have been the most practical (‘I could bake cakes for everyone in my neighborhood.’) or cost effective (‘I could buy a new collar and leash for every dog at the humane society and then take them for a walk.’) - BUT - they were all meant from the heart.
That got me thinking. As parents and teachers, we have such a wonderful opportunity during this season of the year to give a lasting gift to our children. We can help them to develop a tradition of giving by surrounding them with activities that will encourage them to share their creativity and love with others. You can help them to create positive memories about the joys of giving!
Giving isn’t complicated. It can be as simple as baking some cookies for a friend or helping a neighbor rake up their leaves. True giving just comes from a willing heart. I was watching a Hallmark Christmas movie recently and one of the characters said, “It’s not the presents that come wrapped in ribbons and bows that count as much as the ones that come from the heart.” YES, I do watch every Christmas Movie I can, and YES, I am a dedicated Softie; but, what a great concept for our children to grasp – heartfelt gifts count!
Sometimes what may seem like the smallest of gifts can bring lasting joy to the one who receives it. A personal example of one of those gifts is a ‘whale bookmark’ that my granddaughter made for me when she was three. It doesn’t resemble a whale in any form or fashion and it’s drawn and cut out from a piece of notebook paper; but, I have treasured it for over four years.In giving, it really is ‘the thought that counts’.
An easy and effective way to help your children begin to think creatively about giving to others is by asking them some brainstorming questions such as:
- “Can you think of some ways we could help one of our neighbors this Christmas Season?”
- “What could we do to show your teacher how much we appreciate him/her?”
- “Think of something that we could make for Grandpa and Grandma that would show them how much we love them.”
Of course, you’ll probably want to fill in the underlined parts with your families (or classrooms) suggestions. Then, after choosing some of the ideas, work with your children to help them give to others. Remember, not only do you get to spend quality family-time together, but you’re helping your children to create a ‘Tradition of Giving’.
Celebrate together as you think…imagine…create,
p.s. To help you with ‘creating a tradition of giving’, some great projects for friends, family and holiday meal settings are coming soon!