I try to be a giving person. I’m no Mother Theresa, but helping those in need has always been at the top of my list of priorities. We all have the power to make the world a better place and we can each use what we have to offer to share with others. Naturally, I think it’s important to teach generosity to my two-year-old son so that he too will carry through life a generous, giving spirit. It’s so easy to incorporate generosity into our daily lives to teach kids to have a giving spirit.
The Spirit of Giving begins at home.
I’m not sure why I feel a strong pull to give back. It’s clear by looking at our society that this is not how everyone feels. Some give on occasion when prompted by their surroundings–like the ringing of the bell by the Salvation Army volunteer outside of the grocery stores. Others don’t seem to have an ounce of generosity in their bodies.
My family was never overly involved in philanthropic ventures. To be fair, we didn’t have a lot ourselves to share with others. But there were distinct parts of my life that encouraged giving in small ways. Those ideas and moments ultimately shaped who I’ve become.
I was encouraged to give my old toys to Goodwill.
I was advised to help others whenever I could.
It was always said that no matter how small the gesture, it’s the thought that matters and even a small gift could be a great help to someone in need.
These might not be elaborate forms of giving, but they come from a true place of care for others. A sincere desire to help and give to the world. It was in these small ways that I was encouraged to be a generous and giving person. Now it’s my turn to do the same for my son.
It doesn’t have to be difficult to encourage and teach generosity, even with young children.
Children have a natural generous spirit. They light up at the joy others express when they give. To cultivate and encourage generosity, we need only to foster that natural desire to make someone else happy.
I know Zachary lights up when he gives something to me and I thank him enthusiastically. He grins wide, his eyes sparkle, and he kind of hugs himself as if he as this sudden burst of extra emotion he doesn’t know what to do with.
And he doesn’t just act this way when he gives me something tangible. He is extra happy when he gives me a big hug and can tell that I’m happy. He absolutely loves making me, and everyone else, happy!
That’s what giving really is at its core. The ability to make someone else happy. To spread joy, ease the burden, and spark a light in someone’s life. We all have that ability. We just need to teach our little ones to keep that feeling and continue it as they grow.
Here are five simple ways to teach generosity to your toddler.
1. Volunteer some time to walk and/or play with the dogs at your local humane society.
There are lots of dogs looking for love and the workers at the shelters can’t give enough time and attention to all of them. Explain you’re going to go help bring some joy into the dog’s life until they find their family by spending some time with them that day. After all, animals deserve generosity and care as much as humans!
2. Donate old toys at Christmas time.
Let kids help choose what to give (within your guidelines). Have them narrow down their toys by getting rid of a few things that have that are similar. Explain that there are some children who don’t have as much and would love to get an old toy that they don’t really play with or have more than one of.
3. Make the spirit of giving within your family normal.
This can be super simple. Making a painting for grandma, giving a cherished toy to a younger sibling or relative, and helping Dad with dinner so mom can relax are all great ways to teach generosity within the family.
4. Let kids help with a project (even if it takes longer and is more work for you) and thank them joyously when the job is done.
Kids love to help. Not only will you foster their own self-esteem and teach them new skills, but you’ll teach them generosity by encouraging them to help people whenever they can.
5. Encourage them to play with a new kid at the park, or their bored sibling.
Bringing happiness to someone can be as simple as playing with someone who needs a friend. Making an effort is a great way to teach generosity. It shows that generosity doesn’t always have to be the giving of things or money. Just like spending time with the shelter animals, giving of our time, love, and friendship is an amazing way to give to others. And for little kids, it’s often what they have the most to give!
We all want our kids to be generous, loving, giving people. They start out with the natural desire to be this way, but as they grow up, it slowly fades. Responsibilities and urgent needs take over and giving to others is pushed to the backburner. But it doesn’t have to be.
By actively trying to teach generosity, we can encourage our little ones to be giving often. As they grow, they’ll remember what we taught them, and it will compel them to act out what they’ve learned. The more we encourage and teach, the more likely they are to stick with it throughout their life.
What do you do to encourage and teach generosity to your kids? Let me know in the comments!