Teach Them To Give


Teach Them To Give | Duluth Moms Blog

This is my first Christmas as a mama and I am so excited! I can’t wait to have family Christmas traditions and make every Christmas morning special for Grace. One thing I want to instill in Grace, however, is that Christmas is not just about what she gets from Santa. I want to raise her to always be thinking of others and to be compassionate towards those who are less fortunate.

The holidays for most (especially children) are a time of great excitement and joy. There are extra baked goods around, family get-togethers, fun decorations, delicious food, and the promise of gifts on Christmas morning. But for others, the holidays can be a time of sadness or loss. Some people are not able to be with their family or friends, or some are mourning the absence of a special person at their Christmas dinner table. And still others are mourning the Christmas they wish they had.

So, one of my holiday traditions will be to do a reverse Advent calendar. An advent calendar is a little display (they come in all kinds of forms: little houses with doors on them, a Christmas tree with little boxes or bags to open- just check out Pinterest for some ideas on how to make your own!) with little treats or gifts to be enjoyed each day starting December 1st and ending on Christmas Eve. A reverse Advent calendar is the opposite- your child puts something, like a canned food item, IN that display (or basket) to give to charity on or after Christmas Eve. I love the idea of giving to someone else every day of December leading up to Christmas.

Children (and even adults) are easily excited at the idea of getting a gift, but I want my children to get just as excited about giving to others. I want to teach Grace to look out for others, especially those less fortunate, and to show them love or service rather than pity or duty. There are other ways to show your child the goodness of giving during the holiday season, and there are plenty of opportunities within your own community.

The most well-known is to donate or volunteer to ring the bell for the Salvation Army. I have done it with my mom when I was younger and it really can be something fun if you have some hot cocoa or sing Christmas carols instead of just standing there shivering. It’s a great opportunity to explain to your kids what the donations are for and who they help, and why it’s important to help them. Click here to see how you can ring a bell in your neck of the woods.

You can also volunteer to serve dinner at a homeless shelter in your community. I think it’s important to show children that Christmas is not the same for everyone. Their experience of opening gifts in new pajamas with cinnamon rolls in the oven is not what everyone wakes up to on Christmas morning. And I think it’s important for adults too, to put a face to the homeless. They are often ignored or scrutinized, when all they need is a hand up and a smile. You can also feed the hungry overseas by packing food with Feed My Starving Children. You can find more information on their website about finding a packing location near you.

If time is a commodity in your home and you don’t think you could schedule in something like that, you can also participate in Operation Shoebox, in which you fill a shoe box with items to send to a service member abroad. I did this once as well, and it truly is a great thing. What an opportunity to teach your children about our brave and selfless service members! Many service men and women don’t have the liberty to see or speak to their loved ones during the holidays, and even if they do, getting a package from your family will make their day and help them feel appreciated and remembered. Help your child to understand the meaning of sacrifice by going to their website here to find out more about packing a box for those fighting for our freedom.

You may have also heard of Operation Christmas Child. This is a similar idea as Operation Shoebox, except they go to children in third world countries. Your family can pack as many boxes as you like! You can choose whether you are packing for a boy or girl, and of course get to decide what you send them. Their website has suggestions for items these children may need like toiletry items as well as suggestions for more fun things. You can also track the box you send so you know where it goes and when it arrives! What a cool way to get your kids involved in giving and help them to think of people across the world from them!

Macy’s is sponsoring the Make-A-Wish Believe campaign. Your child writes a letter to Santa and places that letter in the designated mail bin at your local Macy’s. For every letter received, one dollar will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation up to one million dollars! If your kids haven’t written to Santa before, now is a great time to start!

There are many other opportunities out there besides these, so do some research and get your family involved in giving this holiday season! You can go as big or small as you want to with these ideas because every little bit helps someone else and broadens the heart of your family. You could even do something as simple as baking cookies for your neighbors, or doing an outdoor winter clothing drive on your street to donate to The Goodwill or the Salvation Army, or going caroling at a nursing home or assisted living apartment. Do something to brighten up other people’s lives and it will brighten yours as well!

Making the holidays special for your children doesn’t always mean buying them the best present. The holidays can be a time of giving as well as receiving. I can’t wait to teach Grace about what it means to love others more than herself and to think of ways to improve the lives of people around her. By teaching our children kindness, love, and generosity, we teach the world those same ideals and make it a better place. So, let’s go do some good!


  1. Thanks so much for sharing, Katie! I too have struggled in helping my children learn the true meaning of Christmas and not to focus on the gifts received at Christmas. This year we decided to only give each other homemade gifts. They’re ages 7 and 11 and it’s been great to see what they come up with and the thought they place into each gift for a family member.

    We also have taken the time each night in December to write down 3 things we’re grateful for. Christmas Day we’ll read them to remember the abundance of things we’re blessed with.

    I love the suggestions on how to give back and can’t wait to implement several of those suggestions next Christmas!

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