Every year, as the holidays approach, I hear people asking for a good place to let their kids volunteer. Perhaps a local soup kitchen or church. Not everyone wants to publicly help though and it can be difficult to find a good location and time that works with your schedule. It’s also good to teach children to give without expecting the praise and gratitude. My daughter loves knowing she helped someone even when they will never know it’s her.

So, besides tossing a few dollars in donation boxes, how else can you get children to help people in their community?

By doing a simple, private act of giving.

This can be very fulfilling for you and your children. Did you hear of people being “booed” on Halloween? A thoughtful, albeit sneaky, friend makes up a bag of candy or surprises, runs to their friend’s front door in the dark, rings the bell and bolts, leaving the “boo bag” of candy anonymously for the recipient. Well isn’t that a lovely idea at Thanksgiving time? We all know someone who could use a little financial assistance this holiday season. For many people, it’s hard to ask for help and can even embarrass them to accept it. Life is expensive. Bills come first. Food and toiletries add up and often don’t leave any money for extras. Why not have the kids leave a little basket “from a friend” on their porch?

Kids will have fun finding things to buy and you can tailor it to the individual family:

  • If it’s an older person on a fixed budget, perhaps some food (cans and boxes), magazines or books, or flowers? You could include pretty napkins or something festive for their table too.
  • For families with children, age appropriate small toys, books and seasonal items like hats and gloves would be a lovely surprise. A box of cookies will bring many smiles. Hot chocolate, new mugs and marshmallows could add a festive feeling on a cold weekend when the family may not have enough money to go anywhere.
  • If there’s a single mom,maybe add a hand cream, book or body spray for her. Single dads may love a magazine, book, gas card or new hat?. A small gift card to a local 7-11 or gas station would be very helpful.

The ideas are endless. Put together a few baskets with the kids, make anonymous cards signed “from a friend” or “from someone who thought of you today” and the kids will leave feeling happy they helped someone. This idea can be done year round, of course, but at Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s often very needed. For Christmas, stuff stocking with gifts and hang on someone’s door. If they celebrate other Holidays, find an appropriate basket and do the same.

Here are a few other suggestions to consider including:

  • Grocery store gift card
  • Gas gift card
  • Gloves and scarves
  • Lip balms
  • Flashlight and flameless candles (in case of power outage)
  • Box of greeting cards
  • Book of stamps
  • Family DVD’s
  • Playing cards or small games
  • Warm socks or slippers
  • Soaps and body wash
  • Pens and pencils
  • Notebooks
  • Tissues
  • Cough drops
  • Pet toys or treats
  • A box of holiday lights or ornaments
  • Pot holders and towels

Do what you can, with what you have. Teach kids that giving is always in style and not just seasonal. The reward they receive – that feeling of knowing you helped someone – is priceless.