The holidays are an especially wonderful time to teach kids about giving and serving others. Learning that "giving" goes beyond buying presents for loved ones and really means helping those in need can be an especially eye-opening experience for children. Even better, doing something to help others as a family can bring your family closer together and allows your children to see you modeling the behavior as well. We have 15 ways your family can serve others this holiday season all the while you spend quality time together as a family.
1. Bake Something Sweet For Those Who Serve Your Community
Who doesn’t love baking during the holidays? This is an activity the whole family can get involved with (and have fun with!) Take a day to bake some cookies and deliver them to your local fire station, police station, hospital, senior center or somewhere similar. If you are able, consider making your delivery day on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, when employees working away from their families will be especially appreciative.
2. Send Holiday Cards to Military Overseas
Military personnel can always use words of encouragement, love, and support, especially during the holiday season when they are away from their families. Take some time to sit down with your kids and write holiday cards to those who serve our country. You can make it extra fun by including stamps or stickers for your kids to decorate the cards with for a little extra festive touch! While you make your cards, take the time to explain how the military members you are writing to serve our country.
3. Prepare a Meal and Deliver It to a Friend In Need
Do you have a friend that you know will be alone during the holidays, or a friend who you know could use some extra support and love during this holiday season? Prepare a meal for them with your family and deliver it to together as well. This is a great activity for the family to do together, and even the youngest kiddos can get involved by making cards.
4. Clean Out Your Coat Closet and Take Gently Used Coats to a Local Shelter
Do you have any old coats in your closet collecting dust? Take this opportunity to show your kids that you don’t need as much as you think and that you are better off helping those in need who would appreciate your underused items. If you budget allows, you can also sponsor a family in need and buy them brand new winter coats.
5. Leave a Hand-made Holiday Card In Your Mailbox for the Mail Carrier
The holidays are an extremely busy time for mail carriers. Giving them a special treat such as a hand-made holiday card is a great way to cheer up their extremely busy days during the holidays. Have your family get creative and come up with something that will brighten your mail carrier’s day (maybe even include a little baked treat for an extra special touch!) Our mail carriers do so much for us all year long, but especially during the holidays they work extra hard to deliver all of our mail and packages. This is also a great time to talk to your kids about the importance of noticing when someone does a job well and complimenting them on their hard work.
6. Pick a Day To Help Each Other
This is a great one in that we often go about our day-to-day routines without thanking our family members for all the things they do for us to make our lives better. Show your kids the importance of gratitude for the ones we love by helping each other out. Encourage your children to pick up their sibling’s room, take out the trash and show appreciation for one another. You could assign each child another family member to help for the day, or assign each family member a "zone" of the house to be in charge of.
7. Donate Books to Your Local Library
Encourage your kids to sit down and go through the books they no longer read as much as they used to, or those that they have outgrown. Once you have compiled a stack of books, donate them to your local library. This is a great family activity because it also allows you to go down memory lane and reminisce on your kid’s favorite books all while helping others in your community have access to books.
8. Donate Non-Perishable Items to the Food Pantry
At the grocery store during the holidays with your kids? Pick up some extra food and donate it to your local food pantry. Showing your kids the importance of giving to those in need doesn’t have to be super time-consuming; you can fit it into your normal family errands.
9. Go Caroling at a Local Nursing Home
Nursing home residents are often very lonely during the holidays. Take the opportunity to show your kids the meaning of providing company and joy to those who don’t have many loved ones around them during the holidays by taking them to a nursing home and sing carols to the residents.
10. Give Baked Goods to Your Neighbors
When you’re making your traditional holiday treats with your family, consider doubling your recipe to make extra for those who live in your neighborhood. Your neighbors will love it and your kids will enjoy making more treats too!
11. Pick a Child’s Name off of a Giving Tree and Shop for the Gift Together
The next time you come across a giving tree, stop and choose a child’s name with your kids and shop for a Holiday gift together for the child as a family. Your kids will enjoy it and you will be able to show your kids the meaning of helping others feel loved and special during the holiday season.
12. Encourage More “Thank Yous”
This one may seem simple, but it’s very meaningful. During the holidays it is especially important to show thanks and gratitude. Encourage your kids to say thank you more often and give genuine compliments to those around them.
13. Volunteer to Babysit
As a family, offer to babysit for a couple who has small children so that they can have the opportunity to go on a date during the holidays.
14. Take Gifts to Your Local Hospital
Individuals who are in the hospital during the holidays would really appreciate a little cheering up from you and your family. Put together gift baskets with small gifts and a homemade baked treat and deliver it to individuals who are in the hospital.
15. Volunteer to Read a Holiday Book to Your Child’s Class
Going to your child’s class and reading a Holiday book would brighten your child’s day! It also shows your child how important it is to you that you give back. Children lead by example and this is a great opportunity to show your child the importance of giving back.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that the most valuable gift any of us can give is the gift of time. Spending time with your family will create memories and provide valuable opportunities for teaching moments.
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