Posted by Sarah Clark, Mothering.com contributor.
My children simply love this time of year. In our house we celebrate the holidays in a pretty traditional way- tree, stockings, presents, and all the usual stuff. I love doing it and they look forward to it and singing songs and watching some favorite Christmas movies.
It is a lot of fun. It is also all to easy to get tied up in receiving the gifts and what we “want” and forget about all the other stuff. I don’t enjoy my children as much when they are all about getting and wish lists and forget about the people around them. The overarching plastic commercialism of this time of year is pretty hard to avoid.
More than anything though I want my children to learn how to GIVE and to see the value in being kind and charitable to those around them. I want them to know that they may find greater joy when they give than when they get.
So how do you teach the joy of giving to children in a commercialized culture?
Here are five simple things I have tried that seem to help. Hope they help you and your little ones too.
Take something to somebody-
In our house we do cookies. I am sure you can think of something healthier that fits your lifestyle better. Roasted nuts, healthy muffins, homemade lip balm from beeswax and olive oil, or handmade ornaments, all make great easy gifts for others and all can be made with the help of your children.
My kids love making sugar cookies then decorating them with frosting and sprinkles and putting them on plates and delivering them to people we know, friends from school or their favorite babysitter. It is so much fun going to knock on doors and drop them off. The kids simply LOVE doing something nice for other people. Sometimes as adults we just need to give them the chance and a little help.
12 Day’s of Christmas-
If you don’t celebrate Christmas you can still do this fun activity. Pick another family (it is fun if they have children too because little ones really enjoy getting these things) and starting 12 days before Christmas take them a little something each evening.
Ring the doorbell, drop off your gift and run away! My children love the secrecy of this and it is so fun to do something 12 days in a row. You can follow the themes in that old holiday song “The 12 Day’s of Christmas” and take little things like a pear or pear butter for the first day (a partridge in a pear tree), three eggs for the third day (three french hens) or whatever you can think of that goes along with the song. Or you can simply do a little gift that you think that family might need on each day. If you have chosen a family that is really in need you can give them different household staples on each day or even food that they could use for their holiday dinner.
Help Them Make Gifts-
Children love creating and sharing the things they have created. Rather than giving them money to spend on those they love, you can help them make a meaningful gift for each of their family members. Though this does take more time and effort than simply buying something it is less commercial, more meaningful, and really helps them understand what goes into a gift.
A child who has sacrificed time and effort to give to another will better appreciate gifts that they receive from others. Some easy ideas- a painting, a knitted doll or ball filled with stuffing, or some wood scraps with a hammer and nails for child who likes to build are all things that your children can help put together and give to other people in their family. A bigger project like making soap or making an easy candle can be lots of fun. Be open to ideas from your children too.
Choose A Family In Need And Make Their Holiday Brighter-
It is so easy to forget how blessed we are, isn’t it? One thing that helps remind us what we have is helping somebody who has less. Many communities have programs that you can volunteer for to help people in need. Sometimes stores have trees where you can pick a gift to buy and wrap for another child somewhere. Or maybe you know somebody personally who has lost a job or a parent and needs some extra help this year. You might be amazed how aware your children are of those around you. They may be able to pick somebody who they would love to help.
I am always amazed at the generosity of children. So often they are willing to give up some of their gifts so that those resources can go to another. Give them a chance to give to another family.
One of the easiest and cheapest things you can do is share happy music and children LOVE to sing! Take your family and maybe a few other families and go caroling to some friends or to people who might enjoy it.
We have gone to assisted living homes frequently and once to a children’s hospital in our community. This is a simple and beautiful way to brighten the day of somebody who won’t be in their “home” for the holidays.
I know it sounds like a trite old phrase, but “giving” really can be more fun than “receiving” and a lot more memorable too. I will forever be grateful for the people who took the time to give to us when we were in need and I hope I can teach my children to be as kind as those who have helped us.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday.
Sarah Clark is a mother of four children and a wife. She writes on her natural birth blog Mama Birth throughout the week and works with Birth Boot Camp as a teacher trainer, a childbirth education company specializing in on-line birth classes. She also teaches natural childbirth classes in northern California.