We all know the adage, “it’s better to give than to receive” but suggest that to your 8-year-old and you may be met with an eye-roll or an incredulous “what are you talking about?”
Teaching gratitude and the importance of giving back is a fundamental parenting rite of passage. For children under the age of 6, it starts with saying “thank you.” It can feel like Groundhog Day having to remind kids to utter those two words day in and day out. Thankfully, as children get a little older, they become more able to not just independently say thank you, but to understand the meaning of gratitude.
In award-winning journalist Deborah Norville’s best-selling book, “Thank You Power.” she writes about how gratitude – both appreciating what you have, and giving to others, is a powerful force.
“When a child grows up being guided to regularly take note of the ‘good things’ in his or her life, they are able to tap into the power of gratitude and use that to be more resilient, more energetic and more positive. Research has even proved that the ‘good feeling’ one gets from counting one’s blessings improves cognitive function — you’re smarter!” Norville says.
And giving back feels good. Community service projects or simple acts of volunteering help build character, cultivate empathy and teach children a sense of social responsibility.
Volunteering as a family can inspire and ignite a passion in young kids for community service showing them that they can make a positive difference in the world. Whether it’s helping out at an animal shelter, a community garden, a senior citizen center or a children’s hospital, volunteering provides teachable moments and a tremendous opportunity for kids to appreciate what they do have.
“As the old Nike ad read ’Just do it.’ Don’t over think it,” Norville says. “Kids imitate their parents. If they see the joy YOU get from whatever charitable efforts you take part in, they will naturally want to experience the same joy!”
Coming up with community service projects may seem intimidating – but here are some simple tips that can easily get you thinking and giving.
For younger kids:
- Pack up gently used clothing to donate to your local shelter or charity thrift store
- Decorate holiday cards for service members overseas
- Bake cookies for your local fire station (slice and bake cookies work just as well!)
- Decorate re-useable grocery bags and fill with non-perishable food items and donate to a local food bank, church or synagogue
For older kids:
- Donate gently uses books, and DVDs to a local children’s hospital
- Collect towels and pet toys to donate to an animal shelter
- Host a bake sale or hot chocolate or lemonade sale and donate the proceeds to a charity of the child’s choice
- Help an elderly neighbor by raking their leaves, taking out their trash or shoveling snow
For the more ambitious:
- Start a coat drive at your school or local library
- Launch a green service project in your community to help clean up your local parks or playgrounds
- Sponsor a new toys drive to give to a local children’s charity or children’s hospital
- Adopt a manatee, or another endangered animal. By raising money, children can “adopt” an animal and help get them off the endangered species list.
As we begin this season of giving and giving thanks, Ganz Parent Club wants to invite parents and their kids to participate in the Ganz World Give Back Challenge.
We’re inviting members to launch a community service project between now and Christmas. Members (both parents and kids) can share their good deed stories with our online community. On our site, we will profile the top three projects and reward those members with Ganz gift baskets delivered to your doorstep. We are looking for charitable giving or community service projects that make a difference in your immediate community or in the world.
We’re asking for written submissions of 1000 characters or less, to describe you and your child’s social action project – what you’re doing and that impact you are making.
We will profile winners online throughout January. Contest runs from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Day 2011!