By Silvia Steele
December is the ideal month to teach children about generosity and sharing! It is helpful to remember that teaching social skills will vary by age and cognitive development. Expecting your toddler to share willingly or a 3-year-old to wrap presents for others without wanting to keep something for themselves, is not always realistic. Still, parents can teach sharing and encourage generosity by flipping the focus from receiving to giving this holiday season. Here are some tips!
- Talk to your child about who will be receiving the gift and why that person is special. Explain that gifts are just one way to acknowledge others and to show our appreciation that they are in our lives.
- Discuss how special it feels to give. Talk about the positive emotions that it stirs up inside of us (warm fuzzies!) and how good it makes us feel to bring happiness to others.
- Emphasize how gifts are even more special when they are personal, and how cost is not what is important. A larger more expensive gift does not measure how much a person means to us. Emphasize how homemade gifts, simple notes or kind gestures are often more meaningful than anything that can be purchased. One of my favorite ideas for young children is to gift others “warm fuzzies.” These are loose multicolored pompoms and a heart shaped “I Love You” note, simply boxed up and wrapped!
- Give children time to process the idea of sharing. Give them choices instead of coercing them. Model sharing within simple, everyday routines. Praise your child when they share and show generosity. Sharing is a skill that is learned over time and should be taught with patience.
- Finally, books are an easy way to introduce and reinforce caring and sharing!
Thank You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt will help your younger reader learn the importance of showing appreciation of others and their unique gifts.
We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palaccio is a beautiful book for inviting discussion with children about the importance of being open to spreading kindness to everyone — however they look, wherever they live, and no matter how they are different to you.
When CJ expresses disappointment with elements of their life in Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, his grandmother patiently helps him see the beauty all around them. There are many important messages woven throughout the story — not least of all, the importance of helping those less fortunate.
Mouse & Lion by Rand Burkett is a wonderful retelling of Aesop’s classic fable of kindness and friendship between a truly unlikely duo. It’s a great resource for showing kids that even those who are small can help others around them.
Fantastic for sparking conversation with children, Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo is a thought-provoking story of compassion, as a small, empathetic girl shows great concern and thoughtfulness for those in her community who are in need.
The Rain Came Down by David Shannon is the story of an unexpected rainstorm that turns a cranky and selfish community into one filled with kindness and generosity. The tale cleverly teaches children how just one caring person can change an entire community.
In the retelling of the well-known folktale, Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth, three traveling monks teach a village about the importance of giving generously and sharing with others.