Our modern culture can make it hard for kids to understand the beauty and importance of generosity. And no time is more difficult to fight the battle of “I want!” than at Christmas:
- The enormous “kids’ gift guides” come in the mail, encouraging kids to add stickers to their favorite items.
- Every mall, carnival, and festival Santa asks the kids one question: “And what do you want for Christmas?”
- The bright and flashy commercials that suggest kids “add this to their Christmas list.”
Now, I am not anti-capitalism, nor do I admonish these people and companies for doing their jobs. It’s a supply-and-demand market—simple as that.
But I do think we parents can show kids just how wonderful it is to give just like Jesus did.
Here are three fun ways to bring kids into the joy of giving.
#1 SECRET ELF
My cousin Sarah told me about Secret Elf-ing about five years ago, and we have done it consistently for the last four years.
It’s easy, and doesn’t have to cost a ton:
- Select someone who has had a recent tough spell (death in the family, illness, financial worries, relationship troubles… we all exist in these places at some point).
- Determine what kind of treats or goodies they prefer (coffee/tea, chocolates/cookies, nuts, candles, warm socks, fun mugs, etc.) and stuff a basket full of their favorites.
3. Have the kids make cards including one that explains what they are up to. We keep them anonymous.
4. Be sneaky-sneaks by escaping out of the back of the car, dropping the basket on the porch, ringing the doorbell, and running back to the getaway car before the recipient sees anything!
What I love about Secret Elf is that it allows the kids to give without expecting any praise or credit. Plus, it’s really fun for boys to be stealthy and pretend like they have a secret operation.
2. SET UP A MAKESHIFT TOY SHOP WITH FRIENDS OR FAMILY
Again, I take no credit for this idea; this was all my friend Nicole.
She and her kids set up a homemade, ticket-based reward shop in our neighborhood to help offset the frustrations that come with school Zoom. We parents contributed dollar-store finds that the kids used their earned tickets to buy.
In November, we switched it over to a Christmas gift shop so that the kids could buy and wrap presents for their siblings (and for the parents, too! They had a parent gift table).
The kids made their selections for each sibling, and the older kids helped the younger ones wrap them up before they left the “shop.”
Nicole made the shop safe during COVID by only participating with families she knew did not have symptoms or recent travels, and by spacing out the families in different blocks of time. The shop was outside with hand sanitizer and optional masks.
There’s nothing cuter than kid-wrapped presents, right?
What I loved about our neighborhood shop was watching the kids think through the gift choices in terms of their siblings’ preferences and tastes.
3. SPONSORING A CHILD OR FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS
It’s important for my kids to understand their privileges and to give them perspective about how other people live.
A few years ago, we took our kids down to the Povarello House in downtown Fresno to give them an image of what it means to be homeless. They had heard us talk about others not having homes, but they hadn’t seen it for themselves until that trip.
My kids watched their dad help volunteer at the Povarello House Christmas event, helping homeless kids make ornaments and arranging for homeless moms get their toenails painted.
It was a small effort, but it seems my sons now have improved perspective when I mention that some kids in our city are not getting Christmas presents.
Our church arranges for impoverished children to make Christmas wish lists, and this is the first year that we haven’t been to church during the Christmas season due to COVID (so we’ll be increasing our Salvation Army donation for this current situation).
But in years past, we have had such a great time getting the kids involved in selecting a child, shopping, wrapping the gifts, and even using chores to help “pay” for some of the gifts themselves.
All this said, we don’t chide our kids for wanting a toy or looking forward to the presents on Christmas—it’s a natural kid thing to eagerly await gifts.
We just want to mix in the joy that comes from giving because we have the greatest model for giving: Jesus.
What did Jesus give? His wisdom. His guidance. His time. His comfort. His love. His life.
To live like Jesus means to give.
with His love,