The winter holidays are a time to celebrate with family. They’re also a wonderful time of year to instill a giving spirit in your kids! When families share charitable moments together, they build a tradition of giving that will carry through to future generations.
Some of the more traditional “giving back” activities, like volunteering or donating to charities, can be difficult to pull off with small children in tow. Especially for kids who haven’t quite grasped the concept of money, financial charity doesn’t often have the same effect as physically working on a project together. These ideas help families with kids of every age get involved with their communities, and find ways to give back during the holiday season.
1. Get involved with your kids’ schools.
One great way to help kids see the fruits of their labor is to focus on a place where they spend a lot of time: school! Get your kids involved picking out and making end-of-year gifts for their teachers. On a chilly morning, get up a few minutes early to make a pitcher of hot chocolate, and have your kids hand out cups during the morning car line. Your kids take the bus to school? Have them write thank-you letters to their bus drivers, and hand them out with a bag of holiday candy.
2. Sponsor a family for a gift-giving holiday.
The holidays can be a difficult time for families going through a tough time. As a family, participate in a holiday sponsorship through a local charity, church, or community center. Many of these organizations offer “giving trees,” where your family can pick a name off a tree or list to sponsor for the holidays. Have your kids plan a budget, find out what their friends like, and choose the items that you donate to the family in need. For an extra DIY touch, have the whole family write handmade cards to deliver with the gifts!
3. Start a holiday toy drive.
For a larger-scale project, your family can start a holiday toy drive within your community. Ask neighbors, friends, and schoolmates for donations of gently used toys, clothes, and winter supplies. When you have enough, donate the whole pile to a local charity, hospital, or shelter.
4. Do something kind for strangers.
A day of unexpected charity makes for an excellent family tradition! Choose a busy spot like a mall or grocery store entrance, and hand out small gifts to strangers, like individual flowers, handmade holiday decorations, or compliments. Your kids get to watch strangers’ faces light up at these small acts of kindness, and learn a valuable lesson for the future!
5. Make handmade cards for hospital patients.
Hospitals work hard to fill patients’ rooms with holiday cheer. Help out by making handmade cards for your local children’s ward, or volunteering to clean and decorate common areas.
6. Go caroling at a senior center.
Many senior centers receive few visitors, especially from children. Share your kids’ holiday cheer with the elderly with a day caroling at local senior centers. If your kids are readers, bring holiday-themed books to read aloud, or host a sing-along in the center’s common rooms.
7. Hand out baked goods to local workers.
If you live in an area with a chilly climate, it’s a great idea to thank local workers like mailmen, garbage collectors, and crossing guards. Make a big batch of homemade baked goods and hand them out to everyone who helps your family maintain its routine. Bonus points if you can give something warm to someone working out in the cold!
8. Cook meals for a family in need.
Like sponsoring a family’s holiday gifts, you can also donate the time and energy it takes to make meals for a family in need. Get your kids involved with your favorite holiday recipes: have them plan out their perfect holiday dinner, then get them in on making a budget, shopping for groceries, and cooking the individual components. When you’re all done, pack everything in reusable containers and deliver to a local family.
9. Host a “give back” party.
Instead of an Ugly Sweater or Grinchmas party, host a Give Back party. Invite guests over to bake cookies, make handmade cards or decorations, and bring an item or two to donate. Spend a few hours sharing holiday stories and working on crafts together, then pile into cars and drive to your nearest donation center so everyone can share in the big moment together.
10. Plan a community cleanup day.
Kids and cleaning may not seem like a match made in heaven, but you can get kids involved with a community cleanup day if you let them be in charge (well, mostly) of the planning. Have your kids pick a place that’s important to your family, like a local park, beach, or playground. Then, have them coordinate with friends to plan a day of cleanup. Bundle up in winter gear and turn the cleanup day into a festive occasion! (For bonus points, make it a friendly competition: see who can collect the most trash in a set time limit!)
11. Make care kits for the homeless.
Winter is a difficult time for the homeless. You can get your kids involved in this project by creating care kits. Fill winter hats, coats, or sleeping bags with cold-weather essentials: fuzzy socks, hand warmers, lip balm, lotion, and cleaning supplies. Complete each kit with a handmade holiday card, then donate the lot to a local homeless shelter.
12. Donate DIY-ables to an animal shelter.
Kids and animals go together like candy canes and gingerbread! If your kids are major animal lovers, get them involved in a charity project that sponsors a local animal shelter. There are many online recipes for pet-friendly baked goods, homemade toys, and decorations like pillows and dog beds. Spend a day making these items together, then donate them to a local shelter.
What are your favorite ways to give back during the holidays? Let us know in the comments!