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Last year when we decided to stay at home for Christmas a world of possibilities opened up to us in terms of how to spend the holiday.
One thing I knew I wanted to include was a tradition of giving back right from the start. Miss O was only 3 last year, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t give in her own way.
When I was a kid we assembled baskets of food for needy families. It was a really special thing and I loved that feeling of helping. It made the season all that much more special.
We collect food at our Christmas Bonfire & Carol Sing, but it’s very eclectic since it comes from friends, family and neighbors all chipping in. Plus, food isn’t really meaningful to Miss O just yet. She doesn’t understand that food costs money and that not everybody has it.
What she understands is toys.
So after some thought and some (mostly) focused time on Pinterest I had enough inspiration to work with.
Here’s what worked for us.
Talk. I try to impress upon Miss O that she’s a very lucky girl to have what she has, so I started there. She’s naturally very empathetic and it was very easy to get her on board with the idea of sharing her toys with boys and girls who don’t have any. Of course, that was just an idea. Once she realized that she’d be giving those toys away and would never see them again, she was more hesitant. Having this talk on Christmas Eve was helpful since she knew she’d be getting more toys the next day.
Her choice. After she came to terms with giving her toys away I let her choose 3 things she was too grown up for. Phrasing it like that helped her think of them as baby toys, and therefore no use to her, a big girl. I didn’t put any rules on what she could or could not pick, and she ended up picking 6 things that were too babyish.
This or that. After choosing her items to give up, Miss O was pretty over the whole, “give to the needy children,” thing. But… we had barely made a dent. I picked 2 similar toys and asked her which she wanted to keep. The other went in the donation pile.
Take one back. Once all the toys were chosen I laid everything out for Miss O to see. I said that she was allowed to take one toy back that she wanted to keep. She actually didn’t choose anything, but I think it made her feel more secure about the process, so we’ll do that again.
Leave it for Santa. Finally we piled all the toys into a cute over-sized gift bag like this one*. It was actually quite full! We put the bag out by the Christmas tree for Santa to take when he came to deliver our toys, and that was it!
This is definitely a tradition we’ll be continuing. I’m proud of Miss O for being so generous. Though I help her clean out her toys throughout the year, the spirit of the holiday really helped her let go and give to others.
How you help your kids understand the tradition of giving to others at the holidays?