During this special time in November, families come together in person (or virtually this year) to reflect on the ups and downs of the past year. And oh what a year 2020 has been! Whereas eating meals together is always beneficial in that it strengthens family bonds, what better time could there be to explain to children that there are countless ways to show gratitude.
When it comes to giving thanks, kiddos can start around the house, community, or even show appreciation through global organizations. One of the best ways to instill a solid foundation for kids is to lead by example. Considering children are very observant, they will pick up on not only what you say, but more importantly what you do. By budgeting and practicing some of the suggested methods below, children have been proven to gain appreciation and be more generous by habit as they grow up.
In fact, “37 recent studies done by Berkeley have shown adults that volunteered reported greater quality of life.”
Three Year Olds
Three year olds will mostly share their rewards from a collaborative task equally, even when they could have taken more for themselves. For three year old children, previous sharing by a partner led to more sharing with that partner later, but for two year olds a partner’s previous sharing had no impact on their later sharing. Thus being, three year olds are capable of showing generosity and form foundational knowledge of sensible sharing.
Five Year Olds
Building on top of this finding, five year olds specifically increased the amount they shared with someone who they thought might reciprocate their generosity. They choose partners who they want to share with and are forming their tendencies of deciding who they should or should not share with by this age. Essentially, it becomes even more important to introduce the reasoning behind the acts of kindness that go beyond the bank for children four and over.
Most young children are capable of showing sincere kindness to friends and family. By the ages of three and four, they are developmentally ready to expand and show kindness even toward people they don’t know. When gathering around the table to eat at Thanksgiving, a common practice is to go around and say what you are each thankful for. To make this practice even more interactive, have a short list or better yet, a printed out turkey. On each feather, have a family member/guest write down something they are thankful for and something they plan to do to show appreciation, either with money or their time. After the thanksgiving meal, the turkey can be colored and hung up in a visible place for a reminder over the next several weeks. Introducing the money aspect of financial contributions can be layered on top after establishing the meaning behind being generous.
More Than a Donation
Donating is a great practice that can be given through time or money. Organizations can be local or global, it just takes a quick search online and a simple sign up! Below are a few examples of how you can work with your kids to give back in different ways.
The Gift of Time
Volunteering as a family with Doing Good Together and Family to Family. Volunteering is a great experience, and can be even more rewarding when bonding when spending time doing good deeds with your family.
Give back to the environment by planting trees with The Nature Conservancy or cleaning up with the Wilderness Project. Many events will be postponed until 2021, but many local organizations have signs up available to look forward to.
Contacting a local soup kitchen, Meals on Wheels, or donating baking goods. If you know your way around a kitchen or enjoy providing a service everyone needs, there are endless ways to help to provide nourishment for families in need.
Helping other kids by donating outgrown or unused clothes and sports gear. Something as simple as clothing and sports equipment can sometimes have the largest impact on a kid’s life. Passing on the gift of clothing, exercise and healthy living can help others live happier lives.
Financial Contributions as Gifts
No Kid Hungry (Nokidhungry.org) is a campaign by the nonprofit Share Our Strength, which addresses the huge problem of hunger in our schools. No kid Hungry provides nutritious food to students who need it and teaches their families how to prepare healthy, affordable meals.
DonorsChoose (DonorsChoose.org) connects donors with public school teachers who post requests for necessary supplies to complete classroom projects. Kids can pick projects and donate as little as $1 to help purchase crayons or transportation for a class field trip, or even fund a project such as building a butterfly nursery for an elementary science class in Texas.
Heifer International (Heifer.org) is a nonprofit organization which donates animals (goats, pigs, ducks, llamas, honeybees, and of course, heifers) and farm supplies to families around the world to address poverty. Donation amounts are correlated with what they can purchase, so your kid gains a sense of what his dollars are helping to buy. What kid wouldn’t get excited about giving $10 to help buy a goat in Zanzibar, $25 for a water buffalo, or $50 for a cow?
World Health Organization (COVID19ResponseFund.org) has very specific need in regards to the current pandemic. Donations support WHO’s work, including with partners, to track and understand the spread of the virus; to ensure patients get the care they need and frontline workers get essential supplies and information; and to accelerate research and development of a vaccine and treatments for all who need them.
Giving Back to Get More
Psychologists at the University of British Columbia found that young kids can certainly experience the joy of giving. The researchers introduced toddlers to a monkey puppet (or let’s say Baby Yoda for 2020), then gave both the kids and the puppet empty bowls. The researchers poured goldfish crackers in the kids’ bowls, which made them happy, as measured by a group of “emotion coders” who analyzed their facial expressions. But when it was pointed out to the children that the puppet didn't have any crackers, they gave some of their own crackers to him and became even happier than they already were.
The lesson here is that a kid’s capacity to give should not be underestimated, even at the cost to themselves. It is in our nature to give and help others; It’s our job as parents to guide them along the path of expressing gratitude and continually giving thanks year round.
Want More Ideas?
If you want to learn more about how rewarding giving can be, check out our post on tips and interactive activities for kids showing how giving leads to happiness.
Happy Turkey Day!
The Common Cents Crew