giving back

Service: How to Teach Kids to Serve Others This Holiday Season

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‘Tis the season for giving! While this statement conjures up images of Yankee Swaps, Black Friday crowds, and the old man in the red suit, it also means helping those less fortunate than ourselves. Some families have a holiday tradition of volunteering at a soup kitchen. Others make yearly donations to a favorite charity or non-profit. I used to partake in these activities prior to having my son (two years ago today!). With tighter finances and a young child underfoot, I have had to be creative in my quest to serve others while teaching my son to do the same. Here are a few (tested) examples of ways to serve others this holiday season, for parents and children of all ages:

Family standing in "let's play" t-shirts

How to Teach Kids to Serve Others This Holiday Season

Packing / Collecting / Dropping-off Donations

Once my son was able to grasp and retrieve objects, it was his responsibility to pack donations for our local non-profits (check out his latest packing job for Hurricane Sandy Relief here). Pre-schoolers can hand-deliver donations, making the experience more personal. Older children can organize their own collection drive at scouts, school, or church and gain valuable leadership skills while helping others. Visit the website of the non-profit benefiting from the collection with your children to discover most-needed items and to understand how your donations impact the organization and community.

Serve Others While Learning

A great way to do good and keep little minds sharp over the holidays is to visit There you can play kid-appropriate games and give rice to the World Hunger Programme (all food donations are paid for by sponsors of the site).  Questions are geared toward the elementary school and above crowd, but even little ones can “help” an older sibling. My son is already tech savvy and clicks the correct answers for mommy. For added emphasis, read about Molly with your children to learn how the World Food Programme and Freerice are making a difference worldwide.

Talent Show / Meet & Greet

This one takes a little planning but the payoff is worth it. Our kids are talented, funny, and love attention. Some adults are lonely and looking for more than the repetitiveness of daily life. Call your local assisted living community and see if they’d like to host the children for an afternoon. Then, get the kids involved; set expectations for appropriate content, music choice (if applicable), and performance length; then let the kids create their variety act or direct their own play. View a “dress rehearsal” in your living room before and ensure the children understand their audience. Leave time for a meet and greet at the end of the visit, so the children experience the joy that their efforts bring to others. For younger children, a short meet and greet time is most effective (my son loves visiting residents at The Center for Discovery).

By teaching our kids to serve others, they learn the true meaning of the holiday season: that giving is receiving.

What do you do with your family to give back during the holidays?

That Helpful Lady is a recovering Fortune 500 employee turned stay-at-home mom and philanthropist.   She focuses on supporting charities cost effectively and with a toddler in tow. The aim of her blog is to make helping others efficient, convenient, and kid friendly. Let her help you help others and visit her at or on twitter (@thathelpfullady).

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