While the emphasis today seems to be more on receiving than giving, there are ways teach your children the true meaning of the holidays. Begin by asking your children “What are some ways we can give to others – our family, our friends, our neighbors, our community, our world – during the holidays?” Encourage them to generate some ideas of their own. Here are 12 ideas for teaching your children the true spirit of giving:

1. Host an ugly holiday sweater party on December 12th. Save the Children’s Make the World Better with a Sweater campaign is asking both adults and children to wear a holiday sweater on December 12th and donate $5 to children in need. You can receive a free holiday sweater party planning kit online.

2. Bring some holiday cheer to your local nursing home. Contact your local nursing home and ask if there is a day and time that works for you to volunteer with your kids. You could help serve a meal, sing some Christmas carols, or just sit and keep some of the residents company.

3. Clean up a local park. Spend an hour or two cleaning up a local park. Bring work gloves and garbage bags.

4. Visit an elderly neighbor with cookies in tow. Make some Christmas cookies and bring them to a neighbor. For extra cheer, bring a thermos of hot cocoa to share!

5. Preserve Grandma’s holiday memories. Give Grandma or Grandpa a call and take some time to interview them on their favorite holiday memories. What was their favorite gift as a child? Did they ever experience hardships during a holiday season? What were some of their cherished holiday traditions? Remind your children that giving the gift of time and attention to friends and family is priceless and cherished.

6. Donate food to a food pantry. Go to the store and give your child a bag to ask her to fill up with useful items for a local food pantry.

7. Sponsor a child. You can make lasting change in this child’s life by helping provide nutrition and health, childhood development and education – all for less than $1 a day. You have the opportunity to write letters and emails to your sponsored child and to receive correspondence from them. For more info, visit sponsor.savethechildren.org.

8. Shovel a neighbor’s walkway or driveway. Don your winter gear and shovel the drive or walkway of a neighbor in addition to your own.

9. Create activity boxes for children in local homeless shelters. Fill shoeboxes with coloring books, crayons, a deck of cards, easy crafts.

10. Don’t forget the animals! Help out your local animal shelter by gathering old rags, towels, bags of dog/cat foot and treats and bringing them in for donation.

11. Take your kid toy shopping … for another child in need. Give your child a budget and ask them to choose a gift for a child in need. Donate your wrapped gift to your local Toys for Tots.

12. Find a volunteer opportunity that fits your family’s interests: Volunteer Match is an online resource that will match you or your family with a local organization in need of help.

Do you have any other ideas to share?