Plant Seeds of Generosity with Kids

Fun Activities That Create Teachable Moments

By Lara Strain

“Give the toy back. Share with your friend.” You know the scenario if you are a parent, babysitter, teacher of young children, or even a bystander at a friend’s house — a child gets upset when another child plays with his toy. Most likely your response to the situation was, “You need to share.”

From an early age, we teach our kids to share. Share your toys. Share your crayons. Share your books. These are their first lessons in generosity. When a child takes his toy away from another child, the lesson tends to be reactive. However, using a little creativity, a proactive approach to teaching generosity can be fun and nurture kids’ periodic instinct to be kind to one another.

Christmastime Generosity

Even young kids can begin to grasp the concept of generosity. Christmastime provides a natural opportunity. Well before Christmas children often make their list of what they want to receive. But you can turn their thoughts toward what they already have and what they can give to others.

A few ideas to introduce generosity during the Christmas season might include:

  • Go through toys and decide which ones can be donated to a local charity so other children can enjoy them.
  • Introduce the concept of get one, give one — when you get something new, you give something you have away. (You also get the bonus of less clutter!)
  • Involve children in selecting gifts for family members, friends, or teachers.

Every activity will provide an occasion to talk about how the gift will make the recipient feel and how she can use the gift.

Generous Reads

Explore books that reinforce the idea of selfless giving. One example is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. In this classic a boy has a special relationship with a tree that is happy when the boy climbs her, swings in her branches, and eats her apples. As the boy grows older, even into an old man, the tree happily gives all she can to the boy — all her apples, her branches, and even her trunk.

Other ideas include:

  • The Gift of Nothing, by Patrick McDonnell is about the value of giving your friendship.
  • The Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister shares how giving away our prized possessions can bring greater joy.
  • And one of my favorites about sharing is The Pigeon Finds a Hotdog by Mo Willems. (The animated version made me laugh out loud.)

These classic selections create fond memories of reading together and a beautiful legacy of generosity that is passed from one generation to the next.

Charitable Gift Catalog

Many charities provide giving opportunities through a gift catalog — allowing you to select the item(s) that your monetary gift will fund. These are great opportunities to talk with children about helping people in other parts of the world. It is often difficult for kids to understand not everyone has the same things and opportunities that they have. By intentionally sharing about people in different cultures and places, you begin to encourage generous thinking.

When my two children were in elementary school, my mother would have them choose an item from a charitable gift catalog and give a gift in their honor. They enjoyed selecting something that would bless other children.

Here are some ways to use a gift catalog:

  • You can have conversations with kids of various ages relating to the people and items found in the catalog.
  • With very young children look at the gift of a blanket. Even your children can relate to having a favorite blanket. Theirs is a source of comfort when they feel sad or anxious. Create a story around a child pictured in the catalog. Talk about what your child loves about her blanket. And then, tell a story about a girl in another country who does not have a blanket because her family does not have the money to buy one. Imagine together how happy she would be to have a special blanket of her own.
  • Together with your children, select something to give. Choose something personally meaningful for your child. Think of ways the gift will bless the recipient.
  • As you make your Christmas list, think of who would be blessed by making a gift from the catalog in their honor. 

By seeking intentional lessons on generosity, you can help your kids grow into people with generous hearts.

Published November 6, 2018

Lara Strain has served on the Communications team for Unto. She has been an Unto staff member since June 2015.