Christmas Giving with Kids

I’ve been on a quest to try to figure out ways to give & serve with the boys. The problem is that they are 5. And have the attention span and body control of puppies.

Every November I come up with a list of giving activities. I plan on doing  Random Acts of Christmas Kindness. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read this post and this post about RACK. So inspiring!) And by this time every December, I feel like a complete failure for getting consumed with shopping, holiday parties, decorations, and of course sickness.

So far, we’ve enjoyed loving our neighbors by filling the Operation Christmas Child boxes., donating winter coats to One Warm Coat, and buying toys and food for Full Gospel Tabernacle in Far Rockaway, NY. But my favorite Christmas giving tradition that we’ve started is to walk around town center, delivering poinsettia plants. (And by “tradition” I mean that we’ve now done this two years in a row…) It all began with a poinsettia fundraiser for their preschool. But since we don’t need a bunch of plants, we decided to spread the love around town.

christmas giving

The boys decided to give their plants to the Post Office, the Police Station, the Fire Station (though it should have occurred to me that no one would be there since it is a volunteer department, so we left it by the door. They probably thought there was a bomb inside.), the town Cafe (the only restaurant in town), the Library and the Dry Cleaner (of course, so they could get lollipops).

It is such a small way to put a smile on someone’s face, and brings us even greater joy to deliver these. It was wonderful see the boys confidently and happily hand over the plants, saying “Merry Christmas, this is a gift for you!”

Maybe some year, we will be able to do daily Christmas giving. Or maybe I’ll take the pressure off of myself  to just enjoy the season,  give however we can and continue our giving activities throughout the year, instead of jamming them all into Advent.

How do you give with your kids during the Christmas season? I’m always looking for ideas and inspiration!

Start the conversation with kids

Teaching kids about giving can begin at the breakfast table.

What encouraged me, as a mother, was how important it is to the guys at Impact Foods that their granola be used to “start the conversation” about giving. We are responsible for teaching our children values and compassion. The benefits of purchasing Impact Foods granola can extend beyond the point of sale, and can carry through as you eat the yummy granola. We should use the opportunity of sitting around the breakfast table to talk to our children about hunger and the importance of giving. We can point to this very tangible product and talk about the children that are being fed as a result.

As parents, we are responsible for teaching our children values, boundaries, compassion, etc. One sermon illustration I so clearly remember focused on the self-centeredness of human nature. As the pastor said “no one had to teach my kids to hoard and fight over teddy grahams”. But the loving, thoughtful, compassionate qualities need to be honed and taught.

(yes, they use plastic Red Sox baseball hats for bowls…)

So, this morning, as the boys and I ate our yogurt, blueberries and (Impact Foods) granola, I started asking them questions. I started the conversation. Or at least tried to.

I asked them if they knew that there were a lot of people in this world that didn’t have food to eat. “Yes, mom, that’s why we bought that food the other day to give away.” Yay!

I asked them how they would feel if they woke up and didn’t have any food for breakfast. “You could just go to the store.” But then I had to explain it is a blessing to be able to go to the store and buy food. And so on.

Then I told the boys about how the folks at Impact Foods feed a child every time we buy a bag of granola. To which they replied “Then let’s buy lots and lots and lots of this granola!” I couldn’t agree more.

It should not go unmentioned that the granola is delicious! The boys all had seconds. Which is sadly ironic. We were happily indulging while talking about malnourished children. All the more reason I am thankful for what the folks at Impact Foods are doing.

Want to start the conversation? And feed a malnourished child (not to mention your own) every time you buy a bag of granola?

My (failed) adventure in teaching kids to give

I think it’s safe to say that giving is important to me. (Hi, here’s my blog about it.) But that doesn’t mean I’m good at it. Parenting is the same way. It’s important to me, but there are times that I overwhelmingly feel like I’m failing. Put the two together and it leaves you feeling pretty low.

Upon picking the boys up from Vacation Bible School today, they handed me a list of Offerings they would be collecting this week. Awesome! I was so excited to see that giving would be incorporated into their daily lessons. And since one of the most effective ways for the boys to learn to give is by doing, I wanted to incorporate them into the process. I reviewed the list to see where we could start…

Monday – hugs and handshakes (Okay, we’ve got that covered. Give Love. Something 5 year olds are great at!)

Tuesday – non-perishable food items

Wednesday – spare change for Blood:water mission

Thursday – clothing

Friday – first aid items

So off we went to the pharmacy to pick up the first aid items. First the boys fought over who got to carry the basket. Before we even entered the store, a stranger stopped and said “You’ve got your hands full”, something I hear constantly. If you’re keeping track of things not to say to a triplet parent, add this to the list. It is not encouraging. So after much yelling to the boys to stay with me and to put things back on the shelves, we finally made it to the first aid aisle.

I took this photo while the boys were fighting over As Seen on TV toys and were begging me to buy them all. Clearly this whole lesson on giving was sinking in. Oh, and they broke off two large price signs in the process.

After more frustrations, we made it out alive and headed next door to the supermarket to buy the non-perishable food. I didn’t want to just take something from our pantry. I wanted to talk to the boys about giving while picking out the food and focus on the people we were buying for. Instead, they each grabbed a child-size cart, raced through the store, kept slamming them into each other and the back of my heels. Needless to say, I heard about 10 more “You’ve got your hands full” comments. Fighting, yelling, packages being knocked to the ground, no one was listening to me. I was done. They lost their treat for dessert. My heart had turned from excited and encouraged to done.

As we got home, I asked the boys to help package up the food so they could take it to VBS tomorrow.

This photo looks like they are helping, but in reality, they were hoarding food, fighting with each other saying “the cans are miiiiiiiiiinnnnneeee”. I couldn’t even get the third boy to help. Imagine the loving, giving heart they are learning when I yelled “This is not about you! It is important for you to want to give!”

So there you have my very real parenting fail in my attempt to teach the boys the importance of giving. I am off to ask them for forgiveness for losing my temper and try again.

My encouragement comes from a conversation I had earlier today with one of the founders of Impact Foods (much more on them later). Here was a 26 year old, who started a company because he wanted to give back. Why? His mom taught him the importance of philanthropy and loving others by volunteering at food banks, giving back through the community, etc from a very early age. My hope is that these small things I’m doing with the boys, albeit covered in failure, will add up over time.

Here’s to hoping the spare change for Blood water Mission and clothing donations go much smoother.