Teach Your Kids the Gift of GivingOf course kids love getting presents at the holidays, but what truly makes the season special is the genuine sense of goodwill all around them. That's why now is the best time to show a child how to spread that warmth by helping others. Yes, it's great for the needy, but it's even better for your kid. Read on to learn all the ways that volunteering boosts your child's self-image, plus strategies for keeping him motivated and projects he can dive into right now.
When Your Child Gives, He Gets...
Courage to initiate change.
When a child improves someone else's life, he sees that he can change the world around him -- and even himself -- for the better, says Cathryn Berger Kaye, author of The Complete Guide to Service Learning. For 6-year-old Cleo Payne of Pelham, NY, volunteering at her local park has shown her the big impact of a small gesture. "A park is nice and relaxing, but if it's all messed up, no one wants to come there," she says. "I like burying the bulbs so there can be flowers again."
Compassion for all beings. Helping people in need lets kids flex their caring instincts. Same goes for working with animals. "The kindness, understanding and patience that kids learn in caring for pets segues to gentleness with peers," says Charlotte LeFrank, program coordinator at the Child Abuse Prevention Council in Windsor, Ontario. Danny Gottfried, 12, of North Andover, MA, recently spread the kindness message at his "ASPCA birthday party" by asking friends to bring toys for the animals at a local shelter rather than gifts for him. "The animals were so bored, and I have a whole room of things to play with," says Danny, who has two cats adopted from his local ASPCA.
Enthusiasm for teamwork. Working with others toward a common goal shows kids that sharing responsibility can have a bigger impact than going it alone. Take 7-year-old Natalie Antupit of Seattle. To aid tsunami victims, she spearheaded a fundraising bake sale at her school. "I liked working with my friends, and it was easier with people helping," she says. "It made me feel really good to help people I didn't know."
Powerful pride. Volunteering is a win-win experience for kids: Every little bit they do helps, and that, in turn, is a great self-esteem booster. "Realizing they did something to make someone else smile is priceless," says Spaide. "You can't match that feeling."
IDEAS TO GET THEM INVOLVED:
Children who love animals can...
- Bake dog biscuits or cat treats and deliver them to a local animal shelter. Or visit the animals to give them much-needed love. (Go to www.aspca.org to find a shelter near you.)
- Teach a young neighbor to ride a bike, tie his shoelaces or tell time.
- Tutor younger kids after school.
- Organize a litter patrol for the schoolyard or neighborhood playground.
- Help plant flowers at a local park.
- Make holiday greeting cards and give them to the elderly at a senior center.
- Help paint a hospital, shelter or community-center mural. (Go to www.artistshelpingchildren.org for local projects.)
- Lead storytimes at libraries and shelters.
- Collect books and magazines from neighbors and deliver them to shelters, day-care centers and hospitals.
- Visit a convalescent home and take wheelchair-bound patients for walks.
- Go to a homeless shelter and play with the kids who live there.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.