As I was running from store to store picking up presents for my family yesterday, I started noticing collection boxes and signs for charities who are in need of donations and volunteers at this special time of year.
That got me to thinking…this might be the first year that all of my children are old enough to really understand the importance of giving.
With that in mind, my youngest two and I talked through charitable ideas that we could do as a family to help others.
Their input was invaluable, as they gave insight into what would be fun for children to do, yet meaningful to them at the same time.
This is a list of 10 ideas that we came up with to get children involved in charitable activities.
1 – Decorating Cookies for Elderly Neighbors –
In keeping with the jolly theme of the season, we decided to turn this fun little task into a small party.
Here’s how: Invite 3 or 4 of your favorite friends and their children to participate and assign each of the families an item to bring.
For example, one can bring jars of sprinkles, while another brings cans of frosting.
Make sure that every family has an assigned item, so that they feel like they are an important part of this project.
The host can supply baked cookies, serving trays, plastic wrap, and a light lunch with drinks for party guests.
Once all of the cookies have been decorated, split up into 2 or 3 groups and deliver the cookies to elderly people that could use a special treat.
2 – Kid’s Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt for Operation Care Package –
This worthwhile charity sends warm holiday wishes through care packages to deployed troops.
To ensure that the project really makes a difference, include a large number of people, such as a neighborhood.
To do this: Gather a group of kids and parents from your neighborhood, then divide them up into teams by which street they live on.
Using the Operation Care Package Holiday Wish List, each team runs from house to house asking people if they have items on the list to donate.
To get maximum benefit, fliers can be circulated throughout the neighborhood the week before which include items to donate as well as the pick up date (day of party).
People can even leave bags of goodies on their front porch with a note for you, if they are not planning to be home.
Use the Neighborhood Association, Book Club, Bunco group, Wine Club, and Mom’s group, to spread the word and get people to join in on the scavenger hunt fun, as well.
Tastefully decorated signs and neighborhood newsletters are also a great route to get participation and donations.
Once the items are collected, have Santa make a surprise visit and take pictures with all of the kids.
3 – Decorate a Homemade Christmas Tree for a Nursing Home –
One of my kid’s most memorable Christmas activities was decorating a tree with nothing but handmade decorations.
We made (construction) paper chains, strung popcorn garland, made (construction) paper snowflakes covered in silver glitter, dried gingerbread men and women cookies, and reindeer candy canes.
To put a special spin on this, make these items for a nursing home and take them up one afternoon to decorate their Christmas tree.
You can even take extra supplies and work with the elderly to make additional ornaments, using yours as examples.
Then everyone can decorate the tree together.
Don’t forget to take Christmas cookies and a beautiful poinsettia plant for their living area.
4 – Volunteer at a Holiday Charity Event –
Sometimes it is just impossible to plan a charity project during the season, or even months before.
However, with a little bit of online research or asking around, there are many charity events that would love last minute volunteers.
Don’t let the overwhelming thought of adding another party or project stop your involvement with charities during the holiday season.
In many instances, the work has already been done for you…just show up!
5 – Plan a Neighborhood Toy Drive –
Every year in our neighborhood Santa drives down the streets on a fire engine, while the kids clamor with excitement.
What better way to greet Santa at the street than with a brand new toy in hand for a less fortunate child?
Just pick a charity that you want to donate to…Toys for Tots is a great one to consider, then circulate fliers much like as described in #2 – the Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt idea.
As the child hands the present to Santa, snap a picture, then send it to their parents by email.
Nothing like teaching children the gift of giving, as they give to the very jolly man that has made their Christmases so bright year after year.
6 – Caroling, Candy Canes and Christmas Cards for a Nursing Home –
One day after church or the school’s choir practice, gather a group together to make reindeer candy canesand cards while practicing Christmas carols for a local nursing home visit.
Then, the following week, wear your merriest holiday attire and take your show on the road!
There is just no better way to make an elderly person smile than to have children singing songs while they read warm holiday wishes and enjoy a sweet treat.
Make sure to stop by everyone’s room, though.
Sometimes the people who most need the Christmas spirit are not able to join in the festivities in the main gathering area.
7 – Food Bank Shopping Trip –
This is a wonderfully easy project for a family, but it touches people’s lives in incomprehensible ways.
When I do projects like this, I want to get as much as I possibly can for the money I have budgeted.
If you have a few minutes, cut or print coupons and compare local grocery store’s ads.
Then gather up your family and make an evening or Saturday morning out of it.
Canned and boxed food items that don’t require the addition of many ingredients to complete the dish are generally preferred.
If at all possible, drop off the donated items as a family to the food bank.
This is an invaluable lesson, as most of our children can’t imagine going without a meal.
8 – Adopt-A-Family –
From one family to another, this might be one of the most unforgettable life experiences that will touch both your and your children’s hearts.
Find a family through your school, church, or an online search of reputable charities that is truly in need and will allow your family to personally donate items.
Then do what you can to make their holidays a little brighter.
A very small, lit Christmas tree would be wonderful to have, but if it takes away from what you are able to give them, then only presents and food would be recommended.
Families in need have much different priorities than those who are not.
Name brand toys are probably not even on their Christmas lists.
They will be happy with what you have to give. Give from the heart.
Even ask your extended family for small donations, if they are able to help out.
9 – Christmas Cards for Hospitalized Children –
Making holiday cards full of warm wishes is a perfect project for a class, a grade or even the whole school.
With some basic supplies, children can cheerfully decorate and add personal messages to cards that will help brighten the day for the most deserving of children.
Since sweets are often not allowed in the children’s ward of a hospital, a brightly decorated card from one child to another may just be what they need at this time of year.
If you can gather small stuffed animals in tandem with the card project, that would make the gift even more special.
10 – Make Treats for your Local Ronald McDonald House –
While hospitalized children often can not enjoy homemade treats, their support systems that live in Ronald McDonald Houses across the country welcome them.
After a long, hard day sitting next to their children’s hospital beds, these families return to their home away from home often looking for some glimmer of happiness.
Making trays of homemade treats for these large numbers of families will be much appreciated.
Our family’s Dreamy Christmas Cookies recipe has worked out for us on more than one occasion. You might want to give them a try, too.
By the end of our conversation, my children wanted to participate in each and every activity.
Inspired Note: While that might be quite a bit for my plate during this holiday season, I decided to immediately do one of the simplest projects I could think of.
With a budget set, we ran over to Target and scoured the toy aisles for extremely good deals on great presents.
Target carries a “Let’s Play” brand that is more than reasonably priced for children who would just love to have presents under the tree.
With two very excited kids in the car, we merrily made our way home to find the best place to donate these toys.
I hope that some of these ideas were able to inspire you and your children, as well.