Kids Giving Back: Easy Christmas Break Ideas

December 19th, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Actually, it has been looking that way since early November, most places you go. But with Christmas now less than a week away, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas break for families with school-aged children, and I can't help but think of these lyrics from the song I've probably now gotten stuck in your head:

A pair of hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Barney and Ben;
Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jen;
And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again!

Kids eager to open those enticing packages waiting under the tree, and then growing bored and restless as those longed-for vacation days wear on—that's the scene in many houses by the time New Year's rolls around.

But there are things you can do to make those days meaningful and more fun than trying on new clothes and playing a new game over and over again. Families can use this time off of school to practice random acts of kindness and generosity to share the Christmas joy we celebrate even after the radio stations have stopped playing carols and neighbors start taking down their lights.

Trade boredom for an opportunity to bless others with these eight simple, fun, kid-friendly ways to delight friends and strangers alike and to help those in need.

Christmas-Break Kindness (for Kids!)

Tape money to a vending machine. Include a note saying "This one's on us. Merry Christmas!" What a nice surprise for someone to find the exact change they need when wanting a beverage or snack.

Send real mail. It's not just about etiquette or nostalgia. It's about bringing joy to others. People love to get mail—a personal note in the pile of bills and catalogs. Help children write sincere thank-you notes for gifts they received, and send letters to far-off relatives. If the child isn't old enough to write, take dictation and have the child draw a picture.

Donate used toys and clothes. Part of cultivating generosity in children is helping them recognize their own abundance and others' needs. Especially after receiving new items for Christmas, talk to children about how fortunate they are to have what they have. You may have made donations of new items before Christmas, but there is also great value in teaching children to give things of their own away for others to enjoy.

Serve those who serve. Help children "see" the often-invisible service providers in your daily life by giving a flower or candy cane to the clerks at your grocery store, mechanics who change your oil, or the maintenance worker at your church or apartment building. Make cookies for your church nursery workers, pediatrician's office, local police station, or firehouse.

Chalk it up! Use sidewalk chalk to decorate your street with a message of appreciation for your garbage collectors or encouragement on your neighbors' driveways.

Raise money for a good cause. Have a hot cocoa stand at the end of your driveway, or do odd jobs like hauling away dry Christmas trees, taking down Christmas lights, or shoveling snow, to raise money for charity. Go buy toiletries or canned goods to donate, so your child can see the tangible benefits of their fundraising.

Go visiting. Take cookies, flowers, or children's drawings to homebound persons or nursing home residents. More outgoing children will enjoy making conversation, and the presence of any child can brighten the day of an isolated or elderly person, even if the child is shy and prefers to color or play with a sibling during the visit.

Prepare for future opportunities. Sometimes acts of kindness and generosity fall by the wayside when school and work are in full swing and our schedules are jam-packed. Use Christmas break to make a stockpile of handmade cards that you can send throughout the year, or to pack gallon-size bags of toiletries, granola bars, and bottled water to keep in the car and give to homeless persons you see.

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