Time to Play: Teaching Children to Give

When I was a little girl, money was tight. Not just tight – think choosing between food and electricity, tight. We learned fast where all the best food pantries were and how to buy a loaf of bread for 20 cents. When Christmas came around, my mom’s heart sank because she knew there was not going to be a single gift under the tree.

Then, a week after Thanksgiving, there was a knock on the door. Three rosey-cheeked, grinning ladies were holding a real tree and there were wrapped gifts in boxes on my porch! The next 20 minutes was filled with laughter as they helped us set up the tree and put the gifts under the tree.

It did not matter what “charity” they were from. To this day I could not tell you. What matters is that this is one of my favorite Christmas memories. I learned the joy of receiving and always made it my goal to give back to the angels that gave to me.

I have three children: Lizzie, 4 years old; David, 2 years old; and Lucy, 11 months old. Every Christmas, I want my children to learn the joy of helping another child have a happy holiday.

First, I share my story with my kids. Then, we go to the store together and go shopping! We walk up and down the toy aisles, picking out holiday gifts for children that won’t have a gift this year. Then we put these brand new toys in the donation box and make a cheer!

Sometimes we grab an angel tag off the angel tree at our local mall. These tags have needs and wants written out by boys and girls in financial difficulties. We take these angels and purchase gifts for them. Reading the angels makes it more real.

Finally, I take my children through their toy room at the end of every year. We go through the shelves and toy boxes and fill containers with toys they don’t play with anymore. We talk about how blessed they are to have so many toys and how some children don’t have nearly as many. The conversation goes something like this:

Me: “Wow, darling! Look at all these dolls! Did you know there is a little girl out there that doesn’t have any dolls to play with?”

Lizzie: “Uh huh.” Thinking. “What does she play with, Mommy?”

Me: “Well, I suppose she plays with something. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could share some of these dolls with her? Maybe you can give her a few!”

Lizzie: “Yes! That will make her happy, won’t it Mommy?”

Me: “Yes, Lizzie! I can just see her opening her gift. She will be so happy Lizzie! Then she might take these dolls to show and tell and be so excited to have pretty dollies to play with!”

I lead by example. I involve my kids in my giving back. I hope that one day they will keep this giving up and never take anything for granted.


MamaDweeb writes about parenting her 4 yo daughter, 2 yo son and 11 month old daughter. She lives in the Kansas countryside and is always looking at the bright side of life. She is also a contributing author at Rusty and Rosey, Perspectives with Dr. Greene and The Picaboo Blog and fills up the rest of her free time as managing editor of 5 Minutes For Parenting.

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