The little girl smiled, greeted every customer who walked by, and shook the bell – even though her cheeks turned red from the cold.
She may have gotten cold but she learned a valuable lesson about giving back to others that day. Even though she looked to be only 5 or 6 years old, she was already doing her part to help her community. During this holiday season, take advantage of the many charitable activities going on so you can teach your children the importance of giving back to others, thinking of other people instead of themselves and the joy of giving.
Salvation Army Bell Ringing
As this little girl demonstrated, bell ringing for the Salvation Army can be an easy way for even young children to give back. Children love ringing the bell. They are good at attracting donations, too. It’s hard to say no to a cute child standing by the red kettle.
However, you may want to limit your child’s bell ringing to an hour at the most. Some children don’t have a long attention span. For very small children, a half hour might be enough. You know your child better than anybody so use your own judgment on how long you want to volunteer with them.
Toys For Tots Toy Drives
Take your children shopping, and let them pick out toys for other children in need. They know what they like so they will be able to pick out toys other children like as well.
Be sure to explain that some children may get few or no toys for Christmas unless they get help from other people. Ask your children how other children might feel if they didn’t get any toys for Christmas. What can they do to make them feel better? You’ll be teaching them a lesson in empathy as well as compassion.
Food Drives and Holiday Dinners
This is the time of year when many charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army hold a holiday dinner for people in need. Other organizations sponsor Christmas food drives or distribute baskets filled with food and gifts.
Even small children can help set the tables at the holiday dinner. They can make sure there’s a salt and pepper shaker on every table. Or they can hand out napkins. Older children could scoop mashed potatoes, beans or gravy for those attending the dinner.
Children can help pack Christmas baskets. They can be in charge of adding the box of mashed potatoes to every basket. Or they can stick a festive red bow on every basket.
No matter what kind of volunteering you do this holiday season, be sure to bring your children along. You’ll teach them valuable life lessons and have fun together – even if your cheeks do turn red from the cold.
This article was based on my many years of volunteering at Christmas time.
More by this contributor: Four Tips to Help Children Develop Empathy.