Tis the season to think of others. While I personally believe that we should be charitable all year round, there seems to be a special emphasis on giving during the holidays. This gives us a great opportunity as parents and teachers to use the events around us to teach our children about serving others.
The best way to teach your child to be service-oriented is for you to be actively seeking out ways to serve. Our children learn primarily by example and they will repeat what they see in us.
Next, talk about why it is important to serve others. For our family, this meaning is deeply rooted in Scripture. We serve others in love (Galatians 5:13) because Jesus was the ultimate servant, laying down His life as a ransom so that we could experience freedom from sin and eternal life (Mark 10:43b-45).
Finally, ask your child to think of ways to serve. Brainstorm together a list of service projects around your home, for your family, and in the community.
Important note: I try to communicate to my children that serving is not easy. I would prefer to be at home with my feet up. I like having my stuff packed away in closets. Material possessions and the warmth of our home brings me feelings of comfort and security. However, Jesus did not have a comfortable, secure life. He gave in the most uncomfortable way. Likewise, we should give to others.
Ideas for Young Children
- Make homeless blessing bags
- Color a picture to give to community helpers
- Make a thank you card for the church custodian
- Clean out their bookcase and donate books they have “outgrown” in good condition to the church or local library
- Help box canned goods for the local food bank
- Deliver flowers to the residents of a nursing home
- Dust (knick-knack free surfaces) for a busy or sick relative
- Pick up litter at a local park
- Make a silly video (with some parental help) to give to an elderly relative
- Help do the dishes
Ideas for Older Children
- Walk the neighborhood with a wagon to collect canned goods for a local food bank
- Collect coats and blankets to give to a local shelter
- Design and laminate bookmarks to leave in the local library
- Write a play with friends or siblings to perform at a nursing home
- Clean the yard of an elderly neighbor
- Push stray carts to the designated holding areas in a supercenter parking lot
- Sew teddy bears to donate to a local children’s hospital
- Write a letter to mail to military serving overseas
- Read books aloud to younger children at the local library
- Volunteer a few hours at a local pet shelter
- Collect personal items and baby necessities for a local women’s shelter
- Gather items to have a silent auction benefiting a local hospital
- Bake cookies to hand out at a local soup kitchen
- Hand out homeless blessing bags to an area shelter (with adult supervision)
- Go caroling at a local hospital or retirement community
- Volunteer at a local food bank to help put together food baskets
- Donate time to babysit for a couple that needs a date night
- Help a younger sibling clean their room
- Make ornaments for the Christmas tree at a nursing home