While opening presents on Christmas morning is definitely a highlight of childhood (and parenthood — I mean, just look at my oldest squeezing that bear!), one of the best gifts I can give my sons is a sense of selflessness and the desire to help others. But teaching little kids about giving back can feel daunting because it’s sometimes hard for them to understand community needs in the abstract. So, the holidays are a great time to plant the seed for lifelong giving — they can learn by doing.
For the past three years, my son has enjoyed participating in his school’s toy drive for deserving children. It’s become our annual tradition to head to Target, where he’s empowered to select all the presents he wants to give to another little boy and girl. And I get excited to see him so excited about picking the perfect present to brighten someone’s day.
This year he handpicked the notebooks from the TOMS for Target collection. Just like the company’s famous one-for-one model, Target and TOMS are giving blankets, meals, and shoes to Americans in need for every purchase made. He chose the trio of books for another budding artist (and its attention grabbing arrow motif — what can I say, he’s a boy at heart), as well as scooped up a snuggly blanket and knit mittens. In addition to the other toys and goodies he picked out that day, I loved how easy TOMS for Target made it for him to understand the impact of his gifts! The sweet illustrated tags showed him that three other people would also get a blanket from the Red Cross, kicking off a great conversation between us about the spirit of giving during Christmas.
Our fun continued after the car ride home. Like most five year olds, my son has very particular ideas about everything – including wrapping the presents for his toy drive. So, he painted his own decorative paper and gift bags by drawing his holiday landscape and using watercolors from Yoobi (another great brand found at Target that provides school items to classrooms in need). I think his personalization really adds a special touch to the care packages he’s going to deliver.
Thinking about more ways we can celebrate this holiday cheer, I thought it would be a great idea to host a give back party instead of a gift exchange with family friends. To do this, I’d ask our family friends to bring a few items off a suggested donation list. Here, you could contact a local charity or community organization to find out exactly what they need. Or you could follow the approach we took when shopping for gift items at Target, where my son gathers goodies according to the rule “something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.”
When guests arrive, they can place their gifts that give back in designated bins and make their way to a hot cocoa bar. I suggest one for adults (wink, wink) and one for the kiddos. Together, kids and parents can sip and nibble on their treats while they decorate wrapping paper and bags at an art station. Once the bags are prepped, guests can gather and craft care packages by taking one item from each designated bin. As the host, I’d then deliver all the gift bags to our charity of choice. It would be a merry afternoon with a caring mission.
I think friend, writer, and blogger Katie Hurley recently said it best on her Facebook page, “Family to family, person to person...open your hearts and spread kindness. Little by little, we can all make a difference in this world. All we have to do is try.”
How do you teach your children about giving back during the season?
Thanks to Target, a store we shop at (all the time!) and adore, for sponsoring this post and supporthing the work of Salt & Nectar. The Toms for Target Collection is currently in stores and can be enjoyed by all. Of course, all opinions are 100% are own. Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and beyond.
- The Other Sarah