By Cheri J. Meiners, M.Ed., author of the Learning About Me & You, Learning to Get Along®, and Being the Best Me!® series
Children love the holidays! With the allure of food, decorations, activities, and gifts, holidays are great times to celebrate with family, friends, and even strangers. As you reach out to others during these festive times, children see your example and have generous instincts themselves. Talk with them about ways they might reach out to others, and why their efforts are needed and appreciated. Through sharing and giving, children can develop compassion for others as well as gratitude for what they have. They can experience a sense of belonging that comes from being a giver as well as a receiver.
Here are a few ideas to help your child reach out to others with kindness this season.
1. Prepare and Give Treats
Children love to be involved in baking or purchasing treats to share during the holidays. They’ll enjoy being around food and you as they help you prepare and wrap a gift plate of cookies or baked goods. And then, when they deliver the goodies, they can notice the delight of the person receiving them. This positive experience can motivate them to keep giving on their own in the future.
2. Send a Card or Drawing
Everyone loves to receive cards and letters and to know that they are remembered. Children might write a note to a distant relative, or perhaps a pen pal. Use crayons or markers to trace holiday shapes with cookie cutters. Then, color or glue bits of tissue paper to decorate. Your child might want to add a holiday greeting by tracing your pencil lines. For a polished look, decide on the envelope size you will use before beginning the card, and help the child fold the paper before beginning so that it will fit nicely. Envelopes can also be embellished with markers, stickers, or stamps.
3. Make and Give a Small Craft
Ornaments and decorations can be a fun addition to a wrapped gift or a plate of baked goods. Your child might bring a craft to the library or playground to give to a new friend. Pediatric wards in hospitals often welcome bookmarks and small handmade items for young patients.
Choose a simple craft with your child, assemble the materials, put on holiday music, and enjoy some relaxed time together. Your child might even like to invite a friend to join in making the crafts. Here are a few ideas for crafts that use simple materials you may already have on hand.
Chenille craft wire (pipe cleaners) can be bent to form simple holiday shapes like pumpkins, wreaths, bells, trees, stars, snowmen, and candy canes. Attach a small string or ribbon to hang on a tree or window. Or, add a safety pin to pin it to clothing or a backpack.
Jar lids can be painted and make a nice frame for a photo, a cutout greeting card picture, or a drawing.
Craft sticks can be cut and glued into a tree shape. Paint and decorate with glitter, buttons, and yarn.
Salt dough. Mix up some salt dough with your children. Add two parts flour, one part salt, and one part water. Ornaments can be shaped with cookie cutters or by hand. Use a toothpick to make a hole at the top before drying so you can add a string for hanging. Then paint and embellish your creations.
Felt. Simple festive shapes like pumpkins, stars, or bells can be cut from felt. Cut two identical shapes, and help children sew the edges together using a needle and yarn. Add a string to hang them. You can also make figures like snowmen or gingerbread people, glue on a few details, and attach the felt figure to a craft stick to make a puppet.
4. Support a Donation Drive
Your child can help you count cans or boxes of dry goods as you pack them up to deliver to a food bank. Or they might choose some of their lightly used clothing that they are willing to donate. You might also take your child shopping to help pick out and wrap a toy for another child. Giving an unreciprocated gift can let children experience selflessness and feel needed. Point out that they are helping you, but more importantly, the donated items will help someone else who needs them. Children are more invested and motivated to help when they are personally involved and when they have sacrificed some of their time or resources. One website that posts local opportunities for service is JustServe.org.
5. Show Appreciation for Community Helpers
Many community helpers need to be on duty during Thanksgiving and other holidays, so holidays are a perfect time to acknowledge them. You might assist your child in making a card or treat to deliver to a hospital, dentist’s office, police station, fire station, school, or library. Let your child say, “Thank you,” and show appreciation for the community helpers who help them. Expanding your child’s comfort zone in this way allows them to become one of the helpers in the community!
6. Visit a Senior Center or Hospital
Many people, especially senior citizens in care centers and hospitals, are not near their families over the holidays. They are almost always delighted and rejuvenated at the sight of young people. You might bring a handmade card to give to someone at a senior center or practice a song beforehand with your child that you can perform together. Let your child know how much they have helped someone who might be lonely and need a friendly smile.
As you involve your child in your charitable and generous activities this season, you’ll be helping those in need, as well as building new holiday traditions and memories.
You may also like Reach Out and Give and I Help by Cheri Meiners.
Cheri J. Meiners, M.Ed., has her master’s degree in elementary education and gifted education. A former first-grade teacher, she has taught education classes at Utah State University and has supervised student teachers. Cheri and her husband David have six children and enjoy the company of their lively grandchildren. They live in Laurel, Maryland.
Free Spirit book series by Cheri Meiners:
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