Starting Traditions of Giving

When we think of Christmas time, we often think of family, Santa, decorating the Christmas tree, and all the exciting gifts we want to give and receive. Kids are excited to visit Santa and tell him what they want for Christmas. Or, if you celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanza, it is likely that your children get excited about presents as well. What is sometimes not recognized by children, and even ourselves as grown-ups, is that gift giving to those who could use some help is an important part of the holidays, too!  

This year has been tough for many people.  Some people are lonely and missing their loved ones. Others are fortunate enough to have spent more time with their family, but are missing interacting with their friends and neighbors. Wouldn’t it be nice to come together as a family and help others who are less fortunate? Here are ten ideas to come together as a family and give to others:

1. Bringing Christmas to the Elderly

Make Christmas or holiday cards with your family for local assisted living homes. Gather all the supplies you will need (colored paper, scissors, glue, glitter, cut outs, ribbon, etc.) and spend the evening as a family creating one-of-a-kind cards. Visit Pinterest for creative ideas. Contact your local assisted living home and they should be able to give you a list of the residents’ first names so your family can personalize the cards. Even though you may not be able to visit the residents at this time, the Caretakers would be happy to hand them out to each resident for you.

My girls did this with their friends years ago and got to hand them out in person. The residents were so happy to receive the cards and it made their day. It’s a win-win situation. Your family will have fun creating the cards and the residents will be delighted to receive them.

2. Making Sweet Treats for Neighbors and Friends

Make cookies and sweet treats as a family to give to special neighbors or friends. We all know someone who doesn’t have time, or is unable, to make treats for the holidays. Why not have fun as a family and help someone out at the same time? Make a list of the ingredients and shop together. Bake together and make sure everyone has a task they are responsible for.Make cookies and sweet treats as a family to give to special neighbors or friends. We all know someone who doesn’t have time, or is unable, to make treats for the holidays. Why not have fun as a family and help someone out at the same time? Make a list of the ingredients and shop together. Bake together and make sure everyone has a task they are responsible for.

I will never forget when my Dad was really sick and one of his physical therapists, Carrie, knew my Mom would not have time to make cookies and treats that Christmas. Carrie and her daughter made Christmas treats and delivered them to my mom and dad. What a wonderful way to let my mom know someone was thinking about her during the holidays. Carrie and her daughter made a lasting impression on our family. We still talk about her kindness to this day.

3. Making a Dinner for Someone in Need

We all know single parents who are busy working and taking care of their children. Whether it’s one of your child’s friends, or a sick or elderly neighbor, it is fun to help out! 

Plan a dinner, shop for the ingredients, and make the meal, all as a family.  Give each family member a job no matter how small they are. Deliver it as a family, too.

What a fun way to come together as a family to help someone show them you are thinking of them and how important they are to your family!

4. Restocking the local Food Pantry

Food pantries are often busy during the holiday season. Many families are just trying to make ends meet. Why not have a family discussion and come up with a list of items that may be important for a family to have in their cupboards. Look in your own cupboards if need be. Take the list to the grocery store as a family and shop for the items on the list. Take all the items to the food pantry. If you have older kids maybe you could volunteer to help stock the shelves or help your local pantry in whatever way is needed.  The most important thing is to spend time giving back as a family.

5. The Secret Elf

Introducing the Secret Elf. Being a Secret Elf means doing a nice thing for someone else without letting them know you did it. It is important to teach our kids to help others. Talk as a family about designating a day or two for doing nice things for someone else without telling them who did it. It can be for a family member, friend, or a neighbor. Examples of this could be something as simple as emptying the dishwasher, cleaning up the family room, or even bringing in the empty garbage cans for the neighbors. The important points to stress to your children are that each person should do something they have not been asked to do, to do it without letting the other person know, and that it can be as many good deeds as they would like to do.

Helping others helps the person out while giving the Secret Elf a sense of caring and compassion.

6. Providing a Break

Provide an evening of daycare for parents who may need to shop, or just get out without the kids. Plan out activities as a family that are age appropriate for the children you may be watching. Your family can even send a note or card to let the family know you want to help.

Some great ideas for the planned activities are playing games, reading books, holiday crafts, outside adventures, or watching a movie. You could even bake cookies and help the kids decorate them so they can take them home and enjoy with their family. I know that when I was a parent with young kids, an occasional break was definitely needed.

7. Donate Clothing

Go through your closets as a family and set aside clothes that have not been worn in the past couple of years.  Find all your gently used coats, hats, mittens, boots, long sleeved shirts and pants to donate. There are so many organizations that are in need of gently used warm items for families who are unable to provide them for their children. Make sure to wash them and go as a family to deliver them. It keeps those in need warm, and will give your family that warm fuzzy feeling.

8. Helping an Organization

Find an organization you would like to help as a family. Come together and figure out what all of your interests are.  If need be, take a vote and narrow it down to one or two organizations. Then brainstorm and decide what the gang would like to purchase with the  amount of money you have decided on. 

Any organization that helps children in need is one that I am passionate about. Our town has just built a new Women’s and Children’s Shelter. We have decided that the shelter will be our family’s focus this year. We decided to buy diapers of all sizes. Since I have closed my daycare, I have many baby blankets, burp cloths, and baby bibs that are still in great condition. As a family we will be donating them soon so that babies in our area will have warm blankets and diapers they need.

9. A Week of Giving

Choose a week of helping people in your neighborhood.  It is so nice to get to know your neighbors and help them out. If you don’t know them well, this would be a great way to introduce yourselves. Come together and make a decision as a family about how many days you want to help, how you’re going to help, and who you’re going to help. Some examples could be shoveling the driveway and sidewalks, taking the garbage bins out and bringing them back in, walking a dog, watering flowers, picking up their mail, or going grocery shopping. These are all easy things that can be done as a family that would be fun and make a neighbor’s life a little easier.

10. Hot Chocolate Party

Host a socially distanced Hot Chocolate Party in your neighborhood! Whether you live in a warm or cold climate, hot chocolate with plenty of marshmallows is a must during the holidays. If you live in a warm climate, you plan a bike parade in which the whole family can decorate their bikes for all to see. If it is a little cooler outside, put together a kick ball game for the families. Those that can’t play can be cheerleaders on the sidelines!  For the coldest climate areas, bring the neighborhood families together after a big snow. You can build forts, have snowball fights, and go sledding. Serve a lot of hot chocolate and marshmallows! Most of all, be sure to have fun!

There are so many wonderful benefits to giving. The person on the receiving end feels the compassion and love! Many times, people also feel compelled to pay it forward. The person on the giving end also increases their self-esteem, can increase their mental health, and benefits from an all-around good feeling from helping others. Even though 2020 has been quite a tough year, it is still in your power to make this holiday season the best one yet!