Thanksgiving week feels like the kickoff of a whirlwind holiday season. I absolutely love everything about it! There will be Christmas concerts at school, parties for kids and adults, shopping for family and friends, travel to see loved ones and plenty of opportunities for fellowship.
It can also be a frantic time of year – the busyness of all that comes with the fun can leave you overwhelmed. So much so that it easy to lose focus on the true spirit of season.
I was thinking about this and how our family might be more intentional in our gratitude and giving this year. We have children ranging in age from 4-10 so we are definitely at a place where all of them can and should understand the importance of loving and serving others. But that looks very different to a child than to an adult. I know for years I did not allow myself to think creatively about this and how I might better involve them in service. We’ve always brought food to the local food pantry and donated coats or other clothes or food through our church. And we have volunteered our time occasionally. But I’m not sure my children always connected the dots and why giving and sharing mattered so much.
It truly is better to give than to receive, but it’s often hard to convince a child that that’s true. But by giving them some ownership in the process, they can experience how fulfilling it is to give and help when others cannot do for themselves. It’s a life lesson that even as an adults we need to be reminded of more often than we realize.
I feel like that message finally hit home when we took on a scarf making project* from start to finish that required time, creativity, and ownership of responsibilities. Once my children had hands on involvement, the importance of “other thinking” really made so much more sense to them. By having a hand in every detail, from buying the fleece, to measuring, cutting and tying the fringe to delivering the finished scarves, they felt a great sense of accomplishment and also excitement about the actual giving.
This project was easy, inexpensive and totally age appropriate. I have attached a YouTube video that gives step-by-step instructions if you would like to try this out with your little ones. I have also listed a few other age appropriate opportunities to give a little time and love to others this holiday season. Involve your children now and we can create a generation of givers and doers. What an amazing legacy that would be!
- Scarves – (YouTube video) We did the first scarf in the tutorial (pictures below.) It was so quick and easy! One yard will get you about 4 scarves. Fleece is inexpensive and readily available at most craft stores.
- Angel Tree – contact a local church to see if they are sponsoring children for the holidays. I know my children love to pick out a little girl from the tree to buy presents for and we do this every year.
- Toys for Tots – Find a local drop off spot for Toys for Tots and donate a toy. The Toys for Tots Program collects new, unwrapped toys to distribute as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community.
- Senior Center – Find a local senior center to visit. This is a fantastic way to bless others (and yourself) by simply sharing your time. Seniors love children and are so grateful for a visit. I know my grandmother, who will be 100 in a few months, absolutely loves visitors – the younger the better!
- Ronald McDonald House – This is a fantastic organization that helps families through difficult situations. My twin daughters recently spent an afternoon at the Ronald McDonald house with their Brownie troop. It was a great lesson in empathy for them, and they were so thrilled to be able to have hands on involvement. And I believe that their troop was such a blessing to the families staying there. Contact your local chapter to see how you might get involved both now and throughout the year.
*Thankfully, my daughters are in Brownie and Girl Scout Troops with awesome leaders who inspired this post based on some of their recent service projects. And none of us need to wait for the holidays to practice a little more selflessness and little more kindness.
What ways have you and your children given back. Leave a comment so the rest of us can be inspired!