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10 Good Ways To Give Back During the Holidays

Photo by Brian Powell / Stocksy United
Photo by Brian Powell / Stocksy

It's easy for young children to associate the upcoming holidays (Christmas! Hanukkah! Kwanzaa!) with...presents, presents, and more presents!

Of course, it's a joy to give gifts to our kids, but many parents also want to show their children the deeper meaning of ideas like “gratitude” and “generosity” during the holidays. One of the best ways to learn these concepts? Get out into your community and practice gratitude and generosity as a family. Here are a few easy ways to give back and to live the true spirit of the season in your community.

1. Teach Kids Generosity by Helping a Neighbor in Need

During the holidays, cold weather, slippery streets, and crowded stores can make it harder for some members of your community to get around. If you live near seniors or people with disabilities, give back by offering to shovel snow, help with grocery shopping, or drive them to a doctor’s appointment.

You can even sign up to visit a local senior center to play games with residents who may not have their own holiday visitors. Even these simple acts of kindness can help children learn about empathy and community-mindedness.

Photo by RapidEye / iStock
Photo by RapidEye / iStock

2. Shop for Canned Goods to Donate

While your kids may be too young to serve food at food pantries or homeless shelters, they can help shop for canned goods to donate, and help gather donations from neighbors. Simply drop off a shopping bag to neighbors with a note saying you’re available to pick up donations on a specific date. offers an easy way to find your local food bank, anywhere in America.

Photo by debibishop / iStock
Photo by debibishop / iStock

3. Help out Pets in Need

People aren’t the only ones who need food assistance when they’re struggling. Pets in need can use your family’s help, too, and children often want to help the doggies and kitties.

Like the canned food drive above, your family can organize a pet food drive and shop for pet toys at local discount stores. The food and toys can be donated to an animal shelter or a homeless shelter that accepts animals with their owners.

Photo by Milles Studio / Stocksy United
Photo by Milles Studio / Stocksy

4. Make a Simple Painting or a Drawing for the Neighbors

Even if you don’t have the time to make a plate of cookies, everyone can appreciate artwork from a neighborhood child. Even an easy handprint in holiday colors shows neighbors you’re thinking about them.

5. Participate in a Fundraising Walk

If your community hosts a walk to raise money for a good cause, bring the family along. Areas with cold winters often host indoor events when the weather is rough. Young kids can come along in a stroller and donate money from their piggy banks. The best part? The whole family gets a workout while giving back!

Photo by avid_creative / iStock
Photo by avid_creative / iStock

6. Give to the Troops

Give back to members of the service overseas by donating care packages to Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends food, entertainment, letters, and other goodies to active troops and veterans.

7. Share Storytime

Get in touch with your local children’s hospital and library to see if your family can help out by reading to children in need. Kids can also organize a children’s book drive amongst a play group or school class and donate the goods to a family shelter or children’s hospital.

8. Gather up Coats, Gloves, and Hats for a Shelter

While parting with toys can be hard for children, parting with their outgrown clothing is often less emotional—and when the temperature drops, all children need warmer clothes. Have your child (and the rest of the family) round up outgrown jackets, coats, and other cold-weather accessories, and deliver them to a local family shelter. You can even get your office, church, or book club involved—because who doesn’t have a spare coat they could pitch in to the cause?

9. Donate to a Children’s Charity

While very young kids may not grasp the full gravity of children suffering around the world, you can help your elementary-age children select a charity and talk together about its purpose and mission. While the issues may be hard to talk about, a recent study found that when parents talk to children about charitable giving, children are more likely to be generous themselves.

Photo by Saptak Ganguly / Stocksy United
Photo by Saptak Ganguly / Stocksy

10. Write Thank-You Notes for Presents—and Just Because

Helping your child write notes of gratitude for gifts they receive is a great way to practice writing and language skills, and you can take the activity a step further by writing thank-you cards to people who give in other ways, like teachers, mail deliverers, or babysitters.

If kids are too young to write, the act of saying what they’re grateful for while you write it down is also a great tradition! According to a study from Harvard, people who write down what they are grateful for become more optimistic and feel better about their lives. Now that’s a great gift to give the whole family!

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