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Awesome easy suggestions for ways for kids of all ages to give back - love the library book idea!

{Happy Family Habit #13} Involving Kids in Giving Back

It is better to give than to receive.  And there’s no time like the present!  Even young children can learn the joy of giving.  Why is this important?

It’s important because we are raising our kids in a me-me-me culture.  Kids are bombarded with messages about satisfying our own needs and getting what we want.  Immediately.

Slowing down to focus on others balances all of the ‘me’ messages.  Sometimes, we put off the idea of service or giving because it just seems so overwhelming.  I don’t have time to go to a soup kitchen this afternoon and I have a feeling you don’t either.

Instead of thinking about grandiose ideas of giving, start small.  Start with ideas that even a two year old can do.  We like to think about it as an acronym, SALT (Serving And Loving Time.)  It’s just a break in the day when we serve and love others.  And there are a lot of people that need it!


  • Toddlers can do simple projects like drawing a picture for the elderly.  Churches sometimes have lists of ‘shut-ins’ (the elderly that cannot leave their home).  You can also contact your local nursing home.  Many times the elderly are all alone and a card made especially for them will brighten their day.  You can either visit them in person or mail the card.
  • Sidewalk messages are an inspiration to those who might see them.  Take some brightly colored chalk to sidewalks in your neighborhood to write a ‘you are special’ message to a neighbor.  You never know when someone is having a bad day and could use some cheering up.
  • Toddlers can also do clean-up projects.  When you are at the park or the beach, make a goal to pick up 10 pieces of trash and throw them into the trash can.  You’re serving your city and also teaching toddlers the responsibility of throwing trash in the proper place.

Elementary-Age Children

  • When children are able to write, you can start writing letters of encouragement.  These letters can go to the elderly or people that serve our community, like the postman, firefighters or military personnel.
  • We also like to spread some goodwill by leaving a note in our returned library books.  It’s a simple way to give back that only takes a few minutes.
  • If you have a little more time, you can put together blessing bags for the homeless or start a sock project.  Moving a little closer to home, we can make treats for our neighbors.  The kids like to help me back muffins or cookies, so we double the recipe and surprise someone in our neighborhood.

Tweens and Middle Schoolers

  • As children get older, they understand more serious topics, like cancer.  Writing to cancer patients is a meaningful way for older children to give back
  • They are also able to help with tasks that require skill.  If you have elderly in your neighborhood, you can rake their yard or a drop by to ask them if they need anything the next time you are going to the grocery store.
  • My kids like to have lemonade stands in the summer.  They definitely understand the concept of money, so we can use some of their earnings to give back.  Talking about some ideas helps them get behind the plan.  You can send the money to organizations that help orphans or even something as simple as paying for the person behind you at Starbucks or McDonalds.  Imagine your surprise if someone anonymously paid for your meal when you were out.  It’s so exciting to see kids light up as they see how their actions impact others.

Let’s start today.  Get inspired!  Pick an idea and get going, because there’s no time like the present.

Question of the Day

Do you have any other ideas that you’ve done with your kids?  How did the kids respond as they started to learn about giving back?



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Kristin is a former teacher turned children’s photographer in southern California. Visit her website to read all about her adventures in photography, cooking, and her love of style.