They’ve got allowance, cellphones and tablets, so teaching kids the value of giving to others is more important than ever. Try these nine easy charitable ideas.
1. Throw a charitable birthday party Does your child really need another (insert current obsession here)? Likely not, which is why birthdays are the perfect opportunity to turn things around. Instead of gifts, ask guests to bring non-perishable food items for a local food bank or toys for a children’s hospital, then drop off the goods with your birthday girl. Or even simpler, throw a toonie party: Guests bring one toonie for your child and one toonie for a donation—let your kid pick the cause.
2. Start a donation jar All that allowance and gift money from family should ideally be divided between jars for spending, saving and charity. Encourage your kid to set aside a portion of the money she makes—a quarter from every dollar, for instance—for a greater purpose. Spend time researching different organizations together and donate to a different one each time the jar fills up.
3. Sponsor a child It can be eye-opening for kids to learn that children in other countries don’t even have drinking water, let alone the TV, toys and gadgets we take for granted. Sponsoring a child in need through a charitable organization such as Plan Canada shows kids how giving can make a real impact— providing essentials like clean water, education and healthcare. Or for a monthly donation, Save the Children’s Guardian program gives less fortunate children access to medical care, education and nutrition.
4. Plan ahead for holiday giving Before sitting down to write his holiday wish list, ask your kid to sort through his toys and set aside a few to donate. Or take him shopping to choose something new for a less fortunate kid. Gently used toys and books can be passed on to Goodwill, community daycares and even the library, while most fire stations accept new, unwrapped goodies to donate to underprivileged families during the holidays. Bonus: Your kid catches a glimpse of a fire truck.
5. Shop with a conscience Send a message and make a difference with the things you buy. Initiatives like Me to We (founded by the Canadian Kielburger brothers) fuse consumerism with altruism (along with many other charitable initiatives), offering a range of ethically manufactured products—from handmade jewellery to clothing—made by artisans in developing countries. Half of the proceeds go to Free the Children (an international charity for child poverty), while the rest is reinvested in the enterprise. TOMS launched a similar One-for-One model with footwear in 2006, but the scope has since expanded to eyewear and coffee beans. For every purchase, a matching donation is made to someone in need: a new pair of shoes, eye surgery or glasses, or a week’s supply of clean water. Toms’ reach is impressive: More than 10 million pairs of shoes have been given out and 200,000 people have had their sight restored. Sevenly, an online “social good” company, sells clothes for kids and grown-ups, accessories and more, with $7 from each purchase donated to its feature charity, which changes weekly. Sevenly campaigns have covered causes like autism, human trafficking and animal adoption.
6. Donate clothes to Goodwill If your kid is like most others, he probably rotates the same three or four outfits while leaving the rest of his wardrobe virtually untouched. Spend time sorting through yours and your child’s clothes together and fill a bag (or two) for Goodwill. Make sure to bring your child along for the drop-off so you can teach him about this non-profit organization, which provides training and employment services for those in need.
7. Pitch in together Teach your kids that it’s possible and important to make a difference in your own neighbourhood. Spend an afternoon volunteering together at the local food bank or soup kitchen and be sure to discuss what you’re doing and why. In a country where food may seem abundant, many kids might not realize that a significant number of Canadians don’t have enough to eat. Here’s a statistic you can share with your kids: Of the nearly 850,000 Canadians assisted by food banks each month, more than 36 percent are children and youth, according to Food Banks Canada. Before heading out, be sure to check on the minimum age for volunteers—if your kids are too young, you could assemble and deliver a food basket or even start a food drive with a few neighbours.
8. Help the elderly The gift of time is invaluable. Most of us have aging neighbours, relatives or family friends who could use a hand. Cook a meal with your child and deliver it together or help a senior with something they might have trouble doing on their own—simple tasks like gardening, cleaning or washing the car are made easier and faster with help.
9. Be a role model The best way to teach your kids about giving is through your own actions. Show them that reaching out to those in need is a core part of your belief system: bring kids along when you donate blood, give change (or food) when you see a homeless person or volunteer at their school.
A shorter version of this article appeared in our November 2014 issue with the headline "5 ways to teach your child about giving" p. 36.