It’s that time of year—chilly weather, toasty hands in mittens wrapped around warm mugs of hot chocolate, holiday music on the radio, and your rosy-cheeked child pointing at every toy that catches her eye, saying, Oh, oh! I want that! That’s what I want, Mommy!
Regardless of which holiday you celebrate this season, chances are, a child in your life has written a wish list and is dreaming of all the goodies that await her. This is the perfect time to balance out her love of receiving with a lesson on the joy of giving. Here are five gifts that will get your kids in the giving spirit.
1. A small loan, a big gift. A $25 micro-loan might not sound very glamorous, but once you realize what it can do, you will feel pretty good about giving it. A micro-loan allows your child to give over and over again to real people whom they get to choose. On Kiva one chooses from profiles of people needing loans all over the world, for everything from building an addition on their house or financing their small business to buying feed for their cattle or schools supplies for their children. The magic happens when people pay the loan back, and you get to re-loan the money to someone else.
2. Goats, cows, and chickens, oh my! When donating to charity with small children, it’s important to make it as visual as possible. Just typing in a dollar amount and your credit card number isn’t going to impress them, because it’s difficult to picture exactly how this is helping someone. Instead choose a charity such as Oxfam or Heifer International, both of which feature catalogs of specific choices so your child can see that she is actually buying a goat or a cow for a family, for example, and explain to your child how the gift will affect that family’s life.
3. Let your child pick the charity. Choose a charity that supports something your child loves. If she loves animals, donate to a local animal shelter; if your child loves sports, donate to a charity that helps low income kids get involved in organized sports by providing equipment. Whichever charity you choose, do your research. Websites like Charity Navigator will give you reviews, ratings and detailed information about the charity. The website Universal Giving can help you find causes that match your child’s interests.
4. Shop Fair Trade. Go ahead and buy your child a gift—but if you make sure it’s Fair Trade, such as the items at Global Good Partners, then you’re ensuring it was made under conditions where employees are treated well and paid fairly, and that the products are made in a way that isn’t as harmful to the environment. (Bonus: The gift may even be good for the environment if it’s made from recycled materials!)
5. Buy a gift that gives something extra. On The Hunger Site, several cups of food are donated to charity with certain specially marked purchases. Choose Gifts That Give More from the left sidebar on their website. On Gifts That Give, $1 out of every $5 spent goes to the cause of your choosing.
Don’t forget your own community. There are a lot of charities worth supporting out there, but nothing can replace the physical, face-to-face effect of giving. Have your children go through old toys and clothes to donate or encourage them to do something for their older neighbors, such as shoveling the snow off their driveway without taking payment.