5 Ways to Give with Kids
Beginning the conversation with your children about the importance of giving back may seem like a difficult one to start. However, these 5 activities offer fun and easy ways for both kids and parents to get involved and help those less fortunate.
- Lemonade Stand 2.0
I am known worldwide for my granola. Of course, my kids prefer packaged cold cereal to my cardamom infused gourmet creation, but hey, more for me! While I was explaining the concept of profit to my seven-year old, I suggested selling packages of my famous granola to friends, and donating the proceeds to people who don’t have enough to eat. She initially (and predictably) preferred keeping the money for a new Lego set, but I suggested trying the charity project first and then moving on to straight-up capitalism. (Added bonus: this is a fun way to improve and use math skills!) This is the sort of thing you only have to do once to make a point (it can turn into a big project) and has the added advantage of good, old-fashioned fun!
- Spare Change
Pick a regular day and time once a week when everybody is home and relaxed (What? That doesn’t exist because you’re constantly running late to fifteen different clubs, playdates, and birthday parties? Yeah, I get it). Set up a box or a container (if your kids want to decorate it even better). At an appointed time, make a production of everyone emptying out their pockets and wallets of the change they accumulated during the week. If your little guys don’t have any, they can make a game of poking around your night table for pennies lying around. The goal is to fill up the container and it will be fun to see how long it takes by recording the start and end dates. Once you’re done, you’ll have to separate the coins, count them, and calculate the grand total. (More math skills! Your kids will be the most generous math geniuses by the time we’re through here.) The challenging part comes with deciding where to donate the money. You may choose a broad theme (poverty, education, hunger, international disaster relief) and then have different family members advocate for different organizations. Alternatively, you can choose two possible charities and then vote on the most compelling one. In any event, it’s a great lesson how little “change” adds up to makes a big difference.
- Visiting the Elderly
One of my early memories is singing and distributing flowers in a nursing home with a few of my fourth-grade classmates. My parents helped organize these trips and made a point of bringing us along whenever they visited elderly people in the neighborhood or older family members. The upshot was that my siblings and I grew up feeling comfortable around older people, even if they looked or acted differently than the people we generally hung out with. There are many programs that will pair you up with elderly people who would like visitors; alternatively, you could also just reach out to older neighbors to see if they would enjoy visits or could use help with errands once-in-a-while. Even if your kids are not actively participating, knowing that you are is a strong first step.
- Birthday Bash!
The last invitation my son received for a birthday party was cool. The birthday party itself was standard: corny magician, pizza, ice cream cake, and party bags. But the invitation included the following line: “Jonathan is fortunate to have many wonderful toys and books. Instead of a gift, please feel free to make a donation to a charity of your choice.” I enthusiastically read the invitation to my son and we agreed to donate a small amount of money to an organization which tackles hunger and food insecurity in America. As I casually broached the possibility of doing something similar for his birthday, I saw the panic lights go on in his eyes as he saw ribbons, wrapping paper, and gifts going up in smoke. He interrupted, “Easy now, easy now” and started negotiating. We reached a deal: we would ask his friends to donate in his honor, but not – under any circumstances – his family members. Plus, I threw in a piñata to sweeten the pot. I like the idea of celebrating special events with an eye towards giving since it helps remind kids how fortunate they are.
- Giving while Shopping
Even in the age of online shopping, it sometimes happens that I find myself in an actual concrete, neighborhood shop making a purchase. It amazes me how often we’re out of milk for cereal (or, more honestly, for my morning coffee) and every year we seem to lose all the hats and gloves in our house the day before a major snowstorm. Once every couple of weeks, I make a point of buying something extra for someone who is needy. Sometimes it’s canned goods, sometimes it’s school supplies, sometimes it’s toiletries, and sometimes it’s children’s clothes. When we get home, the extra good goes into a designated box in our coat closet until the next food or clothing drive happens. My kids frequently play a role in choosing the item and understand why the box is there. I want my kids to think of giving as something we do as routinely as shopping, and this sort of ritual helps achieve that.