Helping your child select gifts for friends and family will teach her to be generous and get her mind off of her own wish list.

girl with a pile of presents
Credit: Alexandra Grablewski

Raising a Giver

During this hectic season, probably the last thing you want to do is take your kids holiday shopping -- major chaos! But allowing your child to pick out gifts for her family and friends will help her learn how to be generous and thoughtful. It will also take the spotlight off her own wish list and teach her how much fun it is to give to other people. The secret is to brainstorm before you hit the mall, says Carol Weisman, author of Raising Charitable Children. "Learning how to focus on others is so important, so talk to your child about each person she'll give a gift to: What do they like or need?" (See some conversation starters on the next page.)

Encourage her to be creative, and don't worry about the perfect present -- if she wants to get Grandpa a silly fish tie, let her. He'll know that she picked it out herself, and it will mean that much more to him. A great way to choose gifts without stress is to shop online; if you want to take her on a special shopping trip, head out in the morning before the stores get too crowded. When you're done, put her in charge of wrapping -- with your help. She'll be so proud and excited when she gives her gifts.

Present Perfect

So how do you get a 5-year-old to stop thinking about her wish list and start thinking about what other people really want for the holidays? Print and save these conversation starters.

  • What is your sister's favorite color?
  • Could we do something nice for Grandma, like make a coupon promising to help her with her grocery shopping?
  • Do you think the lady who delivers our mail would like some homemade cookies?
  • Who are your brother's favorite toy or TV characters?
  • What do you think Mom needs? She has lots of socks, but she has only a few warm sweaters.
  • What does Dad like to do on the weekends when he's not busy?
  • Can you think of Grandpa's favorite movie or sports team?
  • What does your babysitter like to do?

This is also a great time to talk about your budget. Don't set a concrete limit -- just steer her in the right direction. For instance, if your daughter knows that her brother loves to play the piano, she might suggest getting him a brand-new one. Just say "That's out of our price range, but do you think he'd like some new sheet music?"

Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the December 2007 issue of Parents magazine.

Parents Magazine