6 simple ways for kids to give back during the Holidays
Family-friendly volunteer opportunities that teach kindness and generosity.
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During the holiday season it’s really easy to get wrapped up (no pun intended) in shopping and hunting for all of the hot, highly coveted toys of the season. With all the focus on stuff, kids can forget that the holidays are about giving back, not just receiving.
According to a study by psychologists at the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, kids are happier when they give rather than receive. Even toddlers have been shown to display greater signs of happiness when sharing their own treats and toys. Sharing and giving supports healthy social and emotional development in children, and is an important lesson to begin teaching at a young age.
Here are six age-appropriate ways kids can volunteer during the Holiday season, and create some magic for those in need.
To encourage your kids to donate clothes they’ve outgrown and toys they no longer play with, supply your child with a colorful—and seasonal—gift bag to fill. Before you and your child begin to sort through crammed closets and overflowing toy bins, keep the golden rule of donating in mind: Only donate goods that you and your family would also use. Donate clothes that are clean, in good condition and aren’t dated. Be sure to check your child’s toys for any breaks, missing items or dead batteries or anything that could be a safety hazard.
Before bringing items to your local church, shelter or donation center, call ahead to ask about what items they are accepting or really need. It’s possible some organizations can become quickly overwhelmed with donations over the holidays and may not have the space for an overstock of inventory. Some charities that raise money through consignment sales may have a particular set of standards to ensure that items have maintained a resale value.
Through its Holidays For Heroes program, American Red Cross accepts donations of gift cards to chain restaurants, iTunes, Google and Amazon, toiletries, new clothing, individually wrapped snacks and monetary donations for the active military and veteran community.
Most nonprofit organizations prefer monetary donations so they have the freedom to use funds strategically and directly help those they serve. To include your children in giving a monetary donation, assign a list of age appropriate chores for them to earn money. Have a special giving piggy bank for them to set aside some earnings to donate to a charity of their choice. United Way’s Guide To Charitable Giving offers great tips on how to make a monetary donation.
3. Send Holiday cheer
Homemade cards and decorations are a wonderful, hands-on (and budget-friendly) way for your child to give some Holiday cheer to those in need. Kids in the hospital can feel isolated while being treated and miss their usual holiday traditions. Cards are an easy but impactful way to remind children that they are not alone during this time. Contact a local children’s hospital to find out if it is accepting holiday cards and decorations for its patients. Holiday cards can also be submitted through organizations like Color-a-Smile and Cards For Hospitalized Kids.
Homemade cards can also be sent to active military personnel, veterans and their families. Visit Operation We Are Here for a full list of organizations that accept cards and gifts for the military community. Be sure to include a number of different greetings for those who don’t celebrate Christmas.
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4. Make and bake
Volunteering at soup kitchens or serving food could provide safety risks for young children, but that doesn’t mean that your family can’t find other ways to provide food for those in need this holiday season. Contact a local food bank or shelter to see if you and your family can assemble and package sandwiches or other easy-to-carry meal items.
Work with other families to host a bake sale to raise money for No Kid Hungry, an effort that partners and funds anti-hunger organizations. If you are collecting food, make sure all food is unused, sealed and hasn’t expired and meets the needs of the organization.
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5. Help furry friends in need
There are many ways your family can help dogs and cats in adoption shelters this holiday season. Contact your local shelter to see what supplies it could use or if it has a wish list. Your child can help coordinate a drive for pet toys or fleece blankets and even newspaper. Your family can also share photos and info of animals who are seeking forever homes on social media or hand out flyers in your community.
6. Be a kindness elf
You don’t have to volunteer, coordinate a drive or donate money to do good. Teach your child that everyday is an opportunity to help others. Purchase a Be Kind Advent Calendar for your child to open up during the month leading up to Christmas.
Get silly with your own little Santa’s elf and find fun “do good” pranks, like refilling an expired parking meter or purchasing a vending machine snack and leaving the dispensed item so it can be found by the next user. Challenge your children to see how many people they can greet with a smile or open the door for while out holiday shopping.
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