As my child sat with tears glinting in his eyes fearfully gripping his stuffed cow, I knew there must be a better way to teach him lessons in charity. I wanted to teach him the gift of giving, but donating toys certainly did not place joy in his heart and the struggle did not lighten my spirits either. For some children this is a great lesson, but for mine the moral was lost in the struggle. I still was left with the responsibility of sharing with my child the joys of giving to others. Fostering that in a young child certainly goes beyond monetary donations. Preschoolers are still within the realm of belief that you simply request money from an ATM and it magically pops out, if only that were the case. So I needed to find a more hands on way that my preschooler could give to others in a practical and budget friendly way.
Here are a few ideas we have found rewarding.
- Pass Along Plate:
Make a plate of cookies with your child for a neighbor, teacher, or friend. Attach a note about passing along the joy to others the next time they bake in their home.
- Food For the Food Bank:
After watching me cut coupons the past few years, my preschooler has become quite handy with the scissors as well. We collect coupons from our family members that they won’t use and stash them away to match with store sales. Often times you can get staples like rice, soup, and juices for free or very inexpensively. Part of the lesson is having your preschooler select, pay for and then deliver the food. Our church has a food pantry that shares in the community weekly and accepts donations at any time. Additionally, pet food sales run frequently and you can donate to your local animal shelter.
- Entertain at a Nursing Home or Senior Center:
When my older child was two, we spent time visiting a relative in a nursing home. One of the most rewarding times for us happened to be Halloween. We dressed our little firefighter in his costume and brought a few treats to give to the residents so he could trick-or-treat to each of them. Other times of the year you can bring in board games, sing, or deliver your child’s extra artwork to the nursing home.
The Ronald McDonald House was so wonderful to have when our first born spent time in the NICU and since that time we have tried to find ways to give back to them. One of the simplest things you can do with your child is to collect the soda tabs. Of course watch that their little fingers are safe, but you pull off the tabs and collect them in jars. Once the collection is large enough you can deliver them to participating sites.
- Change Jars:
In our house change gathers and it is a challenge to keep it safely out of our toddler's reach. My son is currently collecting change in a jar to purchase bee keeping equipment for a needy family. You can learn more about this specific goal here.
- Good Old Fashioned Lemonade Fundraiser:
Lemonade Stands are the perfect way for young children to collect for a good cause. At our garage sale this year, my son held a stand for Alex’s Lemonade. He was so proud to pass along his earnings to a childhood cancer survivor to donate to the national fund.
What are ways that you find to teach your preschooler how to give?