As a parent, I want to make sure my kids are happy and healthy, but I also want to try and shape them into good, kind, and caring people.
When my son was younger, he didn’t understand the concept of giving back on Christmas. He’s a very empathetic boy but I think it was hard for him to wrap his mind around the concept that not everyone was as lucky as he is. He has a roof over his heads, a warm bed to sleep in, and three meals a day. But now he’s six and I think he can finally understand that it’s important to give during the holidays.
That’s why I came up with this list and I hope it will give you some ideas as well.
1. Teddy Bear Toss
This has to be my favorite one for young kids. I did this one last year with my son and nephews. It was awesome! Many minor league hockey teams have a teddy bear toss during the holiday season. You go to a hockey game with a teddy bear, or any stuffed animal really, and when the home team scores its first goal, everyone tosses those bears onto the ice. The ice crew gathers up the bears and they’re donated to local hospitals and charities.
If you need an idea of what it looks like in real time, you have to check out this tweet from a TV anchor in Pennsylvania. The hockey team the Hershey Bears just held a world record-breaking teddy bear toss and it looked amazing!
2. Serve Holiday Food
This one is more geared toward older kids who can be trusted not to make a mess at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. As the blog Windstream points out there’s plenty to do, whether it’s serving, washing dishes or just picking up. Plus, spending time at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter is a great way to help your child understand that there are people with even less than they have.
3. Clean Out The Closets
I love this one because it serves double duty. Not only are you giving back, but you’re cleaning too! As US News reports, the winter is when coat drives and blanket drives are especially important. Winter temperatures can drop to dangerous levels leaving the homeless and elderly at risk. Not only that, but there are some kids who can’t afford a new coat that fits him or her every winter.
Have your kids clear out old coats that don’t fit and donate them instead. If you talk to your school’s front office, they probably know a group that will donate the coats to students that live in your school district. That way you know your donation is going back to your local community.
4. Clean Out the Pantry
If you’re anything like me, there’s at least three or four cans of soup, beans or something that have not been used and are the perfect candidate to be donated. Usually what happens to me is I’ll go shopping and buy something, only to discover I already have it when I arrive home.
Make a game out of it. Have your kids help you find the unused food or green beans they refuse to eat and donate them. I See Me suggests if your pantry is bare you can take the kids shopping to pick out food.
5. Visit a Senior Home
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you can also give back at a local senior center. As USA Today points out, this is the time of year when many senior citizens get lonely. Not everyone has grandchildren or family in town, so spending a few hours talking to him or her and playing a game may be the highlight of the holidays.
6. Adopt a Family
The Scottsdale Moms Blog tells you how to go about adopting a family and the joy it brings. It’s specific to the city of Scottsdale, Arizona, but there are some tips there you can use to help you find an organization in your area. Plus if all else fails, there’s always Google. Just make sure that whatever group you select is a registered non-profit.
7. Write a Letter or Draw a Picture
I like this one because it can work for younger kids and older ones as well. There are a lot of service members spending their holidays overseas. They can’t visit their families and in many cases, their families can’t visit them either. Cheat Sheet suggests that you write a letter (or draw a picture) and say thank you. Groups like Operation Gratitude will help you connect with a service member overseas and don’t forget that the US Post Office has Military Care Package Kits that it will send you for free.
8. Quick Acts of Kindness
The Minnesota nonprofit Doing Good Together suggests you teach your kids to do what they call quick acts of kindness. Sometimes holding the door open for someone or handing someone a thank you note is all it takes to give back.
Bonus: Maximize Your Purchasing Power
This one is more for you than the kids, but the website Mental Floss suggests you use your purchasing power to give back. Plenty of banks and credit cards that give you cash back on your purchases. Some even offer you the option of donating that money to your favorite charity. It’s like found money!
If you’re an online shopper like I am, you can also utilize Amazon’s Smile program. Plenty of non-profits are set up there which means you’re sure to find a cause you believe in. I personally shop through my school’s PTA Smile profile, which means a small percentage of each of my purchases is donated to the school.