1. Get a toy, give a toy
Many children’s toy chests, bins, drawers and shelves are stuffed to the brim. This often happens when children receive toys from more than one source, such as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Create a rule that says when a new toy or game or similar gift enters your child’s room, an old toy or game or similar gift must be donated to another child. Keep donation boxes on hand for your children or other family members to use for depositing “old” toys. After you have collected enough toys to make a donation, take your children to a local thrift shop such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, and donate the toys.
2. Help your child to make an album or memory book
Your child may want to show thankfulness to the special people in his or her life by creating an album or memory book. First, have your child make a list of people that he or she loves. Then, find snapshots of each person or have your child draw their portraits. You can help your child to create a “People Who Love Me” book, using the snapshot and a word portrait about each loved one, written by your child. This exercise – a creative way to help your child realize the number of people who love him or her – also produces a wonderful keepsake.
3. Take turns voicing gratitude to meal helpers
Involve your children in meal preparation, and then, as a family, start a tradition of saying “thank you” to those who helped with the meal. If your child is too young to help cook or to carry dishes to the table, give your child smaller tasks, such as laying out the napkins or spoons. This kind of acknowledgement teaches children to appreciate not only the work that goes into preparing a meal but also the meal itself. Your child will be delighted when the helpers – including your child – are thanked!
4. Deliver the holidays to those in need
Your children may be focused on gifts they will receive during the holiday season. Remind them that not all children receive gifts during this special time of year, and that it would be nice to reach out to a local community center, church, food pantry or Boys and Girls Club. Perhaps your child could participate in an adopt-an-angel or food-drive program or donate time to help wrap gifts that others have donated to the program. Your child may not only enjoy the value of helping others, but may also feel more grateful for his or her own family and home.
5. Volunteer as a family
Your child may find delight in ringing the Salvation Army bell for an hour, or in collecting extra change from neighbors and classmates to donate to a local charity. For the major holidays, when many shelters and houses of worship host community dinners, you and your family may decide to volunteer by donating food, setting tables, serving meals or washing dishes.
6. Encourage giving and receiving handmade gifts
Encourage your child to make and give handmade gifts during the holiday season. Not only can handmade gifts be more cost-effective than store-bought gifts, but they also encourage selfless work and a caring for other people. If your child is young, have him or her make a painting on an inexpensive canvas from a craft store. Older children could select age-appropriate craft projects online. Another option is to use nature as inspiration; your child can do a lot with leaves, pinecones and a little glue, including creating ornaments or decorations or topiaries.
7. Write thank-you notes
Write thank-you notes, and encourage your child to do the same. Hand-written notes, especially when sent through the mail, are highly personal and show a particularly profound feeling of gratitude. If your child is too young to write, he or she could dictate a thank you note for you to write down. To help instill a thank-you writing habit in your child, you could send him or her thank-you notes for small tasks completed around the house, as well as for gifts that you receive.
The practice of writing a thank-you note helps your child understand how to acknowledge and be thankful for each gift he or she receives. To further reinforce the importance of thank you notes, send a thank you note in reply to each child who sends you a thank you note.
For many people in need, the holidays can be a difficult time. Help your family to recognize and be grateful for everything in their lives, and seek ways to help others.