November 7, 2019

Teaching Kids the Importance of Giving Back

My guide on conveying the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of philanthropy and gratitude to children. It’s always been my strong belief that giving back to others is an essential part of the human experience. Helping others in need and learning how to express gratitude and thankfulness not only tells those around us that we care but when we all do it—the world becomes a better place!

A guide on conveying the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of philanthropy and gratitude to children.

It’s always been my strong belief that philanthropy and giving back to others is an essential part of the human experience. Helping others in need and learning how to express gratitude and thankfulness not only tells those around us that we care but when we all do it—the world becomes a better place! I’m so thankful that the adults in my life not only taught me the importance of this but showed me how to put them into action. Now, I’ve put together this resource to help others get started on explaining to their little ones the ‘why’ behind giving back, as well as the ‘how.’

The ‘Why’

We’ve all grown up having our parents or an adult figure telling us what to do without fully explaining the ‘why’ behind it. We know it’s essential to teach kids that charitable work is important, but we can’t just let them go through the motions. By fully understanding the purpose behind it, kids can develop emotional intelligence, empathy, tolerance, sympathy, compassion, a sense of duty and responsibility, and so much more. Children learn valuable skills and lessons that can translate into other areas of life, as well as future careers. It can also offer precious opportunities for you and your little ones to bond together and with your community. Volunteerism and philanthropy teach children that one person truly can make a difference and that there is a benefit to sacrifice if it helps another person in need. According to KidsHealth.org, “If volunteering begins at an early age, it can become part of kids' lives—something they might just expect and want to do.”

The ‘How’

It’s one thing to tell a child that they should be philanthropic and give back, but it’s another to put those ideals into action! Kids need to be provided with hands-on tools to help instill these concepts—be it a craft, volunteering or just writing a nice letter. Your extra material items, time and money are all valuable assets when it comes to giving back. Imagine the feeling a child will get seeing how their kindness positively impacts someone—it’s that kind of experience that can give kids a deeper and more meaningful lifelong connection to empathy, compassion and a desire to help others.

So how can we show them? Here are a few of my favorite ideas to get you started:

  • Write letters of thanks to the people in their lives: One of the best ways to get started is by writing letters or drawing pictures for people in our village — including friends, family, neighbors, as well as folks like the school janitor, bus driver, babysitter, and more. Heartfelt and handwritten ‘thank you’ notes are so special to receive (even if the message needs some translation) and can hugely brighten a person’s day. Even a simple drawing can send a compelling message. It’s also a great entry point for kids to learn about expressing gratitude, extending sympathy, and learning how rewarding it can be to make others feel special.
  • Donate old toys/clothes: Kids grow so fast—too fast. And that means there is always an abundance of quickly outdated items around filling every corner of the house. However, not all children are so lucky to have this problem, which means passing along gently-used toys and clothing still in good condition can greatly improve another child’s quality of life. Whether it’s old baby clothes and toys, or backpacks, shoes, coats, bikes or even bedding—this small action is easy to do and transformative for those on the receiving end. It’s the perfect way to show the importance of sharing, putting outdated items to better use than trash, and giving to others less fortunate. Local shelters, churches, schools and resale shops are a great place to start. You can also ask friends and family if they could use any of the items!
  • Create a thankfulness-themed craft: Crafts are a great way to convey life lessons because they so boldly visually represent what we’re talking about. Whether it’s creating a thankfulness-themed turkey handprint cut-out for Thanksgiving, constructing a tree to hang on tags with things we’re grateful for, or playing a DIY game with gratitude in mind, here are seven of my favorite crafts to teach thankfulness.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen, food pantry or other community groups: Volunteering is a great way to be a positive role model because it’s an opportunity to see the importance of serving others in real-time. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to show your little one that we do things for others not to get something in return, but because it serves a bigger purpose of helping mankind. Plus, volunteer opportunities are almost always in our local communities, meaning we can make a direct impact on those around us! Start by checking with your local schools, business chambers, park district, shelters (for people and pets!), places of worship and community centers and ask what opportunities are available. Find something that sounds fun and low-maintenance to start — be it cleaning out your cupboards or serving soup. You can even ask your kiddo if they have any ideas on how to volunteer! I guarantee there is something you and your child can do.
  • Donate blood: While your child may not be ready to donate blood themselves just yet, lead by example and take them along the next time. According to the World Health Organization, donating blood truly saves lives, helps those with debilitating disorders, and is “the most precious gift that anyone can give to another person.” Ask the technician to explain some of these positive outcomes and you’ll also get the benefit of a trained medical professional speaking with your child about science! You can find a local blood drive here.
  • Raise money for a cause: This concept is easy and flexible, with so many options available. You can set up a lemonade stand and donate your proceeds (it’s never too early to start a social enterprise!), launch a crowdfunding campaign through GoFundMe, ask for collections door-to-door or by leaving a jar at a local business, or so much more. Raising money to give it away teaches math and sales skills and it is a powerful lesson for children in being charitable and caring about a cause.
  • Help a neighbor or relative in need: I love this idea because it’s so simple and it directly involves supporting the people around you—aka your village! This could include shoveling snow or helping to pull weeds for an elderly neighbor or grandparent, getting mail or pet sitting, or helping to fill in any gaps for those in need. Maybe Auntie broke her foot and needs help getting groceries—that’s something you can do! This shows kids that it’s important to take care of your family, friends and community—and that when you’re in need, they’ll take care of you.
  • Create a gratitude journal: This is one of my absolute favorites because it works for both children and adults, and can be customized to fit your needs. All this requires is paper and something to write with—you can use a notebook and pen, or make it festive with crayons, markers and stickers. The idea is to set aside time each day to reflect on what in your life made you grateful that day, then write them down. I like to start with three to five items, but sometimes will pick a ‘Top 10.’ These can vary day-to-day! While one day’s gratitude entry may include “mommy and daddy,” another could include “ice cream.” It’s all about teaching the meaning of the word ‘gratitude’ and showing perspective. This works especially powerful on bad days when the struggle to find something to be thankful for is real!  

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