Teaching children charity is a parenting task we often overlook. Ideally, we model this virtue on a daily basis so our children learn from our example. However, there are many other ways we can proactively help our children learn and practice being charitable.
Random Acts of Kindness
Teach your children charity through spontaneous random acts of kindness. Being charitable is a trait. Let it become part of your everyday life so it becomes a natural part of your child’s personality. Sure, it’s a generous surprise for you to pay for the person behind you in the drive through or to leave cash behind for a stranger to find. But being charitable doesn’t have to be a grand (or expensive gesture). Hold the door for someone else. Let another drive in ahead of you during heavy traffic. Charity is, quite simply, helping others. It takes very simple actions to help those around us in small ways throughout the day.
Donate Used Items
Each season, have every family member go through clothes, toys, and household items to weed out those that you no longer need. Then, deliver them as a family to a local charity.
By donating used items, your children will not only learn charity, they’ll also learn to:
- Appreciate what they have
- Recycle or re purpose items instead of throwing them away
- Take better care of their things
Aside from seasonal purging, I also like to have my kids sort through their toys before occasions when they receive a lot of gifts (e.g. birthdays, Christmas).
Host a Giving Party
A friend of mine always asks the guests at her children’s birthday parties to bring donations for various charities instead of a gift for the birthday child. I love this tradition! Her children still get to celebrate their birthdays with all of their friends. But instead of collecting a bunch of toys they don’t need, they get to help an organization they want to support. Here are some suggestions for charities you can support with a donation party:
- Have guests bring non-perishable food items to donate to a local food bank
- Have guests bring dog or cat food, old towels, dog toys, leashes or collars to donate to a local animal shelter
- Have guests bring children’s books, crayons, and coloring books to donate to a children’s hospital
- Have guests bring toiletry items to donate to a local homeless shelter
- Have guests bring signed or homemade cards to deliver to a nursing home (or make cards as one of the party activities)
- Decorate a box where guests can insert cash or checks. Donate the funds to your child’s favorite charity.
One of the easiest ways to teach children charity is to be neighborly. Children don’t often have money to give, but they do have skills and tons of energy! Encourage your children to help elderly neighbors by raking leaves, weeding, or shoveling snow. When you make baked goods, remember your neighbors and deliver them as a family. Even if you don’t have a specific neighbor who needs help. Head out as a family and improve your neighborhood by cleaning up litter.
Outside of your neighborhood, there are many family volunteer opportunities. Check with these organizations for opportunities:
- Place of worship
- Animal shelter
- Nursing home
- Homeless shelter
- Food bank
Volunteering at these organizations is a great way to instill the importance of contributing to your community.
Shop for Shelters
If your children accompany you on your regular shopping trips, use those errands as a charitable opportunity. As you clip coupons and stumble upon sales, buy items in bulk that you can donate to a local food bank or homeless or domestic abuse shelter. For shelters, items that are always appreciated are:
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Diapers and baby wipes
- Clothes and pajamas
- OTC medicine
- Laundry detergent
- Cleaning supplies
- Paper towels and toilet paper
- Garbage bags
- Bed and bath linens
In addition to shopping together, have your children help box up the donations and deliver them. Sometimes packaging the items can be the most fun part! My friend Susan puts together new mom gift bags to donate to her local shelter.
Sponsor a Child
A powerful way to teach children about charity is to sponsor a child through an organization like Children International. The financial commitment is very small ($32/month), but the impact is substantial. If sponsorship isn’t an option for you I encourage you to consider a donation here.
Many of us don’t realize exactly how high our standard of living in the U.S. is. Did you know that if you make more than $34,000 per year, you’re among the world’s richest 1%? That statistic made my jaw drop! I sponsored a child when I was a struggling college student (so trust me, it’s affordable!). I grew up in a small family and, as a result, was always trying to find a way to expand my family (volunteering as a Big Sister, sponsoring a child via Children International, joining a sorority). I loved my foreign pen pal. To sponsor a child, you just have to visit their site, or you can request a free information kit. You’ll receive information on a child in need, along with more details about the program and how your contribution is used. While mom and dad will most likely be financially responsible for the sponsorship, your kids can play an active part by writing letters and sending pictures, drawings, etc. to the sponsored child. Over time, they’ll get to connect with someone from a different culture and witness an amazing transformation in someone else’s life as a result of your family’s contribution. Some sponsors even visit their sponsored children.