With all the extra cookies and sweets around during the holiday season, it's easy to forget that people in your own town are going hungry. Sign up with your child to help serve a meal at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Some organizations will ask for volunteers to donate the meal ingredients as well as prepare it: Let your little one pick out one of their favorite recipes to make and serve for those less fortunate.
Take the focus off lists to Santa, and instead teach your child how they can follow in his generous footsteps. Adopt a family in need this year, and let your child help pick out presents and clothes for a less fortunate family in your area. Explain that not everyone can afford to celebrate the holidays, but you can make sure other kids have gifts to unwrap this year by sharing.
Teach your child the importance of letting the people in their lives know how much they appreciate them. Whether it's a grandparent, friend, or teacher, a handwritten note will surely brighten up anyone's day this holiday season. This is also a wonderful opportunity for kids to practice and develop their writing skills.
While holiday baking with your little one is a special tradition, take it a step further this year by bringing homemade goodies to a local nursing home. Have your child help drop off the food gifts and talk to residents in the community -- especially those who don't have regular visitors.
Whether or not you have a family member serving in the military, it's important to teach your child about the sacrifices being made by men and women in uniform. Help your child prepare a holiday package for a service person who is spending the holidays away from home.
Give your family and neighbors the gift of song this season by organizing a night of caroling. Your level of vocal skill doesn't matter -- most Christmas carols are easy to sing or hum. Simply gather a few other parents and friends and print off song sheets to help kids learn all the words.
A few years ago, my family helped a single mom find public housing right before the holidays. My kids and their friends collected basic supplies, and we got the family a small tree. Each child created an ornament for the tree, which we set up in the family's new home. It was such a meaningful way for us to make a contribution.
-- Dana D. B.; Little Rock, Arkansas
Watch this video to learn three easy ways to transform a clear Christmas ornament into a dazzling tree decoration.
During the holidays, we spend a day making healthy brown-bag lunches to deliver to the homeless. We get a family assembly line going with my three daughters. Then we head downtown to give away the meals.
-- Rachael R. S., Santa Barbara, California
We participate in Operation Christmas Child, which benefits kids around the world (samaritanspurse.org). All year long my kids collect small supplies and goodies that can fit into a shoebox. At Christmas we fill, wrap, and send off the boxes.
-- Mariah S.; Acton, Massachusetts
We encourage our kids to come up with their own ways to give back. We reward each gesture of kindness or little project by adding a link to a paper chain that we hang up. On each link, we write the family member's name and what they did.
-- Rene R.; Ahwatukee, Arizona
Teach your kids to pay the love forward and donate some of their gently used toys to needy children.
-- Suzonne Stirling
Cheer up an elderly neighbor with a stocking full of teas and gourmet cookies.
-- Suzonne Stirling
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