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  • Abby Hayes

10 Ways to Give Back as a Family This Holiday Season

ONE WAY TO HELP YOUR kids learn that the holiday season is about giving – not just getting – is to engage them in service projects. Even toddlers can give back to others and their community with a little help from you. You can find specific service opportunities in your community, or give back on your own with a family project.

Here are 10 ideas to get started:

1. Bake cookies or casseroles. Cooking with kids isn’t the most mess-free option, but this is a really easy way to involve your kids in giving back with their time. As a family, pass out homemade cookies to your local fire department or police station, or take some frozen casseroles to an elderly neighbor or single mom.

2. Pack stockings for homeless people. Buy some cheap stockings, and have kids pick out practical and fun items to stuff in them. Some ideas include granola bars, water bottles, toothpaste and warm gloves or socks. Keep the stockings in your car, and hand them out to homeless people you encounter on your daily commutes.

3. Clean out the toy box. The holidays are a great time for kids to donate some of the games, clothing or other things they own – and clean out some clutter while you’re at it. Even preschoolers can pick a few lightly-used toys to donate to kids who don’t have any. As an alternative, take kids shopping for new toys they’d love, but will donate to a local shelter or nonprofit.

4. Visit a nursing home. As a family – or with a group of your kids’ friends – visit a local nursing home. Call ahead to schedule your visit. Take cards and decorations to brighten up nursing home rooms, or sing a few carols for the residents.

5. Adopt a family. Many local organizations and religious groups can help you sponsor a family in your area to shop for over the holiday season. Use some of your family’s designated holiday money to buy or make gifts for another family in need.

6. Donate to a food bank. Even little kids enjoy picking out food items at the grocery store. Take your kids on a special shopping trip to pick up their favorite nonperishable goods for a local ministry or food bank. They’re always in need of extra food around the holidays.

7. Baby-sit or wrap gifts for donations. Older kids and teens can offer baby-sitting or gift wrapping services in exchange for a donation. The money they earn can sponsor a local family or be donated to a favorite charity.

8. Take lunches to people who work over the holidays. Police stations, fire stations, hospitals and even retail stores are full of busy workers on holidays. Make some delicious sack lunches to take to the workers in your area who don’t get a break over the holidays.

9. Host a party. Sometimes hospitality is the best way to give back. Host a holiday party with your kids’ help, but focus on inviting those who are often forgotten, such as the new kids at school or neighbors and co-workers with no family nearby.

10. Tackle a bigger cause. Older kids are especially sensitive to the world’s injustices. Talk with your kids about problems – whether local or worldwide – that they’re passionate about. Then, do some research about the issue to find practical ways to help. Assist your kids in sponsoring a bigger fundraising event to help tackle this issue.

If you want to raise compassionate, selfless kids, the best place to start is by modeling compassion and selflessness. The holidays are a busy time for all of us, and by taking time out of the season to serve others together, you’ll teach your kids an invaluable lesson.

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