Family traditions are fun, and they stick with children. That’s why you remember baking holiday cookies with Grandma or camping every summer with your cousins, no matter how many years it’s been.
Giving traditions — those that model generosity and empathy for children — can be especially memorable. When children have an opportunity to give to others, without expecting anything in return, they learn the intrinsic value of service.
A good place to start is to respond to what your child sees in the world.
Liz Ergle’s daughter Cate was around 4 and a preschooler at a Primrose school when she started asking questions about people without homes. She sometimes saw people around town asking for help. So mother and daughter filled gallon-size food bags with socks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, a note of kindness and, at Cate’s insistence, candy canes, to donate.
“Primrose paved the way for that with Caring and Giving events,” says Ergle, who is also director of communications for Primrose Schools®. “It was the first time she learned that some people don’t have everything they need, and she was eager to help those families.”
Here are a few other ideas for family giving traditions and acts of service.
Give a toy to celebrate holidays and birthdays. So many children have playrooms full of toys and books — and so many don’t. If your child is in the former group, you can make it a habit to choose one (or more) of their belongings in good condition to donate whenever they’re likely to receive new gifts, such as on birthdays and holidays.
Choose a family cause. Every family has something near and dear to its heart. You might have a loved one fighting cancer or a beloved pet from a local dog rescue. As a family, you can participate in events, such as fun runs/walks, to benefit a nonprofit that serves your family’s favorite cause.
Rethink birthday gifts. Sometimes, children might struggle to come up with what they want for their birthday. If the child is excited by the idea, you can ask friends and family to give items for donation (see printable giving party invite here) instead of a traditional gift. A 15-year-old Primrose alumna has done this since her 10th birthday and raised thousands of dollars in supplies and donations for a local school.
Show gratitude with crafts. Children can show appreciation to others through handmade works of art or handwritten letters or cards. For example, every holiday season your child could work on a homemade ornament for a neighbor, or they could send a postcard to Grandpa every month.
Whatever giving traditions grow in your family, what matters is that they feel meaningful to you and your children. That’s what turns an act of kindness into a lifetime of generosity.
For more on how we encourage generosity in children, read:
- How to Nurture Generosity in Young Children
- Primrose Students and Graduates Put “Giving Without Expectation” into Action
- Helping Preschoolers Develop Gratitude
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