Helping children give to the less-fortunate at Christmastime

Several of you asked about this in a recent Q&A, so I thought it deserved its own post.

While Mr. FG and I encourage our children to delight in giving presents to family and friends, we also encourage them to think about giving to people who don’t have as many physical blessings as we do.


Our kids live pretty happy-go-lucky lives, and their day-to-day schedules don’t naturally make them privvy to the suffering experienced by so many people around the globe. So, it’s our job as parents to make them aware of the fact that not everyone has the same blessings they do…two parents, food to eat, water to drink, warm clothes, a warm house, and plenty of toys, among other things.

Because if they know, their hearts will likely be stirred to give.

For example, several years ago, Lisey read an article about people so deprived of food, they have to eat cookies made of mud and vegetable shortening. After reading that, she came to me and said, “Mommy, if I ever visited there, I would bring my bank to buy food for them.”.

The Advent Conspiracy videos are a good resource for kids who are old enough to read (and for adults too!).

(email subscribers, you’ll have to click over to my blog to see this video)

And we help our kids look through the Heifer mailings and Living Water mailings so that they can see people in need.


Simply being aware of people in need isn’t needs to be followed by action (though sadly enough, just thinking about people in need does sometimes make us feel like we’ve accomplished something.

To help our kids translate awareness into action, we try to model giving. Mr. FG is a natural born giver (much more than me), and for the last few years, he’s been asking for a donation to Living Water instead of a gift, or he’s donated his cash gifts to Living Water. This has not gone unnoticed by our children, and without us even suggesting it, they’ve started to ask for a donation to Living Water or to Heifer when it’s Christmas or when their birthdays roll around.

On Sonia’s last birthday, as one of her gifts we gave her money so that she could pick something out from the Heifer catalog. She chose to send a flock of chickens, and almost a year later, she still is delighted when she thinks about how her chickens are helping a family survive. And I’m delighted to see how that her heart is so thrilled to give.

We also have participated in programs that help us get presents to children in need. We’ve participated in the Angel Tree program, which gave us the opportunity to deliver presents to a child whose parent is incarcerated. And we’ve filled shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. This is an especially fun project for children because they get to pick out all sorts of toys and candy to stuff in the shoebox.

One of Mr. FG’s pastor friends runs a ministry that feeds the homeless, and we’ve helped him buy thermal bags for the people he ministers to. They cost $2 each, which is a great price point for getting kids involved.

Oh, and remember my Ebates/Haiti idea? I didn’t get enough referrals to get the $500, but I did get enough to receive the check below.

So, I’m going to send that off to Living Water. And since we had some extra money leftover this month, I’m going to double the donation and also send a donation to Heifer. :) Thank you to all of you that participated!

Do you have any other good ideas about helping children learn to give generously?

Today’s 365 post: The fishies are working again!


  1. Kate says

    It’s funny, because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing with my daughter. We’ve bought for our Angel Tree child for this year already, we’re giving my parents goats from the Oxfam Unwrapped catalogue this year.

    I also discovered that our handfuls of loose change can be really valuable…I was in my bank the other day, and learned that they were collecting loose change, from all countries, for Unicef, and among other things I was stunned to learned that to vaccinate a child against polio, it costs all of 16 cents, so we’ve challenged ourselves to keep all our loose change to give to Unicef, simply because making massive changes to a persons world doesn’t have to cost a lot.

  2. says

    We did Heifer in my family when I was growing up, and it’s a tradition that I’m continuing with my kids. We also do Salvation Army bell ringing, we volunteer at a local organization for women/children, and our church does a “baby shower” for underprivileged mothers who need items for their children that we volunteer for.

    It’s always a LOT of fun to volunteer at this type of thing and it’s great to know that we’re helping people in our own community (not that it isn’t fun to give to people far away…).

  3. says

    Making kids aware of the less fortunate it very important. We always give to the salvation army and toys for tots. Some years a little more then others but it’s always a priority of ours.

    I like to take my kids to the toy store and give them a budget to pick out a gift to donate to toys for tots. They enjoy the shopping aspect of it and they know its going to a little boy or girl that normally wouldn’t receive a gift.

  4. psmflowerlady/Tammy says

    Our school has a Relay for Life Team and my kids have gotten very involved in that as well as on non-school RFL teams and often participate in fundraising (working concession stands, etc.) as well as donate. Hoops for Hearts is another one. It seems like our school does a great deal for medical type charities and the kids just take it as a given that we should help. We always do a Secret Santa and the kids really enjoy selecting gifts – even though they don’t participate in the funding. Several weeks ago, we sorted through several years of very gently used gloves, scarves and hats and armed with several end-of-year-sale blankets took cold weather supplies to a location where we heard some homeless got a Sunday meal. That was an eye-opener for all of us. Several years ago, one of my daughter’s friend’s dad was in a serious car accident that resulted in several months in a regional hospital. He had coached the girls’ softball team and the girls with the support of the parents held several fundraisers to help the family with hotel bills, gas and other expenses of that extended stay. It was awesome to see a group of kids respond with such energy and kindness to a friend in trouble – I think they were in 5th grade @ the time. One additional thing I try to consider is how to get my kids involved beyond just giving money. We live in a pretty rural, economically depressed area and some kids just can’t give money and I hate when the schools focus so much on donations – I much prefer if they focus on the kids “doing” so that everyone has a chance to learn generosity and compassion. I agree that kids should learn to give at home and try to do that with my kids, but not every parent teaches that lesson and if the schools only focus on financial giving then we send the message that the only way to help is with money. My opinion is that the giving of time is even more of a blessing than that of giving of money. Oh – and I would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention how many times my son has shoveled the driveway of our neighbors for free (but MOM – why can’t I charge them?) because it’s the neighborly thing to do.

  5. Jen says

    We love GospelforAsia too! I need to head to their website right now and find something for our family.

    In the past, we have also bought gifts for a need family we know, wrapped them all up, and dropped them off in the dark, rung the doorbell then run/drove off. The KIDS love to do this and they are very special memories for our family and hopefully, a tradition they will continue when they have their own families.

  6. Shana says

    Our church ( is HUGE on the Advent Conspiracy, and I cannot say enough good things about it. We participated in Operation Christmas Child this year at their Denver warehouse ~ we sorted through the already packed shoe boxes, and prayed over each one.

    I appreciate the way that you and Mr. FG work tirelessly at instilling these values to your own children. Very nice job :)

  7. Diane says

    FYI – I saw the thermal bags (the type I usually see at at Trader Joe’s) when I was at the Dollar Tree last week. If this is the type you’re referring to – large plastic/foil bags with plastic handles that snap closed – this might be an opportunity to stretch your giving dollars.

  8. Emily says

    Awesome post. Just awesome. My parents raised me this way, too; we did all the usual charitable stuff at Christmas (S.A. bell ringing, Angel Tree, Christmas Child boxes, etc.) But one Christmas, we decided we wanted to do something bigger, and more long-term, so we started sponsoring a Compassion child. We sponsored a boy from Rawanda who was just my age. We were his sponsors for years, and we wrote so many letters back and forth. I don’t think my parents realized then what they were stirring in my brother and in me. Today, my parents, my husband and I, and my brother all sponsor multiple Compassion children. Can’t wait until my two little boys are old enough to start having these conversations at Christmastime. Keep up the good work, parents; your kids are watching and learning! I’m proof of that :)

  9. says

    Dear Hubby and I both believe that the Holidays are a time to teach our children about gratitude and service. We want them to realize that they are blessed beyond measure. We cut our own Christmas tree every year, we always buy extra tree tags so that we can take Christmas trees to those in need. We also take our children to the Dollar Tree to pick out ornaments to go on those trees. We participate in our Church’s Angel Tree every year. Each member of our family picks an ornament off the tree. As a family we go buy the presents and wrap them. I stock up on basic canned goods and pantry staples (like cereal, toilet paper, laundry soap) on sales, and we then donate them to our local Food Bank and Salvation Army. We have also provided Secret Santa with other families in our neighborhood to help other neighborhood families that are struggling. We also remove snow, take treat baskets, and visits several little widow’s in our neighborhood,as well.

  10. Patti says

    I belong to a volunteer group that has a re-gifting program. Instead of giving to disadvantaged kids we let these kids “shop” for their parents from a collection of items that are donated from our members. The items might be new gifts that the person never used or very gently used items. We set up a store with like items grouped together. The kids love getting gifts for their parents. After they shop we wrap the gifts with paper and ribbon carefully chosen by the child. They sign the gift tag and then go for a snack. I think that even poor kids believe that it is good to give and that given the chance they will.


  11. Fudgie says

    That is what I learned in church. Do onto others as you would have done to you. The Toys for Tots program is good too. Congratulations on the E bates. That should help with gifts. Take care.

  12. Pam K. says

    There are several “frugal” ways I find to donate to less fortunate members of my community. When school supplies are dirt cheap in the summer pre-school sales, I buy up bunches of those (5 boxes of crayons, 3 bottles of school glue, 20 Bic pens, etc, each for $1). For about $10, I got two full bags of school supplies, which I donated to the Salvation Army, who fills backpacks with supplies to give to kids for free before school starts. I kept in mind your post when you were buying up so much flour earlier this year, where you said flour goes on sale at this time of year. Our museum has a competition with a nearby town’s museum in December to see which town can donate more pounds of food for their local food bank, so I bought 40 lb of flour for $11.90 and added a lot to our town’s pound total! Our local grocery store has a donation box for the food bank by their door, so every time I go to the store, I try to find one good bargain on sale to buy and donate to this box. Our church donates clothes to the crisis pregnancy center, so when I see baby/toddler items on sale for a dollar or two at the end of the season in the stores, I pick them up and save them for the month we donate at church. Our church also has a mitten tree at Christmastime. You can get two pairs of one-size-fits-all stretch gloves for $1.40 at our local discount store, so only $11.40 buys gloves for 40 cold hands there! We also hang warm socks and hats on this tree, so I watch for bargains on those year round, too. When you keep your eye out, it’s easy to accumulate LOTS of things for not much money to keep less fortunate children and families well supplied, fed, and warm!

  13. says

    This is so nice to hear! I was raised a giver as well and am actually writing about my Christmas donation at my blog, Tiny Tables. My friends and I are all struggling 20 somethings, but we’ve all pooled our resources together to give Christmas (needs and wants) to a child who has been affected by HIV/AIDS. We’re having a blast collecting everything we need.

    Read all about it here,


  14. says

    My Ruby (then aged 5) saw the news footage of the Haiti earthquake and decided to do something about it all on her own. She bought some old fashioned wooden clothes pegs with money from her piggy bank, drew faces on the ‘heads’ of them, cut circles of scrap material with a smaller whole cut in the middle to make dresses for the pegs. She tied them in the middle with embroidery thread, wrapped a pipe cleaner round the necks to make arms and stuck some wool scraps on the head for hair (some blonde, some brown). She sold them to friends, neighbours, teachers and family for 50p each. She raised over 50GBP and was so proud when she sent the cheque off to the aid appeal.

    I could not have been more proud of her :-)

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