The winter holidays are the highlight of the year for many children, and why not? Family gatherings, gifts, cookies, parties, and a couple of weeks off school give kids plenty to celebrate. The season is also an opportunity to teach kids about the importance of compassion, volunteering, and giving back to the community. We’ve assembled five ways to give back as a family this holiday season.
Military Gift Baskets
Supporting the troops is one of the most important ways kids can give back this holiday season. Explain how the men and women stationed overseas are there for our protection, and many will celebrate the holidays without any family or friends. Suggest making a gift basket for one of the troops (ask friends and family to identify a serviceman or woman who would appreciate a care package). Things to put in the package might include:
- Cookies, candy, and gum
- Instant coffee, cocoa, or powdered drink mixes
- Energy bars
- Non-perishable beef jerky
- Hard containers of chips, pretzels, and nuts
- Lip balm
- Feminine hygiene products for servicewomen
- Foot care powders
- Google-style sunglasses for desert deployment
- Cotton socks and underwear
- Books, magazines, puzzle books
- Foam footballs, frisbees, hacky sacks
- Playing cards
- AA and D batteries
- Phone cards.
Wrap everything that might leak in heavy plastic freezer bags. Remember it can take over two weeks for packages to reach soldiers in remote locations, so don’t pack anything perishable. If you really want to go all-out, include a portable DVD player and movies or an iPod loaded with music.
For many kids, the winter holidays are all about the gifts and toys, but not every child is guaranteed the joy of opening a present. Explain to this to older children and suggest the family take part in a toy drive, one of the most popular ways kids can give back this holiday season (you can tell younger kids they’re helping Santa get enough toys for everyone).
Toys for Tots is one of the best-known toy drives in the USA, and is run by the US Marines. This gives you a chance to have kids thank military personnel for their service as you drop off toys.
Spend Time at a Nursing Home
No-one should be alone during the holidays. Arrange to take the kids to a nursing home to talk with the residents and brighten their day a little. While this is one of the most personal ways to give back as a family this holiday season, it’s also a family activity that can continue through the rest of the year. The residents will love seeing the kids, and children can learn about the past by talking to their elders.
Work with a Food Drive
Food banks always need donations, but especially so during the holiday season, when non-profits have trouble keeping enough food on the shelves to feed those in need.
Food drives are excellent opportunities for older kids to give back, as they understand food is an essential item (younger kids tend to prefer toy drives). Have kids pick an item of food each time you go to the grocery store after asking the food bank which items are most needed. Kids can be encouraged to ask their classmates to get involved, or to spend some of their allowance to buy food.
Adopt a Family
Adopt a family programs combine the best elements of toy and food drives. Your family anonymously purchases gifts and holiday meals for underprivileged children and their families. Working as a family, you can make another family’s holiday much happier.
The holidays are a special time to enjoy with your children and share the value of giving back to their community.
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