The sooner your child starts giving back the better. "Even preschoolers benefit from being involved with a cause," says Ellen Sabin, author of The Giving Book. "It helps them realize they can make a difference." These ideas will get you started.
Follow her interest. If your child loves baseball, have her donate some pennies from her piggy bank, and then you can write a check to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Once she's a little older, try asking what she'd most like to change about the world, and choose an appropriate charity to work on together.
Volunteer. Try a project you can work on together at home: Project Linus (projectlinus.org) has you and your child make a blanket and then donate it to a child in need; and The Box Project (boxproject.org) lets you send clothing, food, and supplies to a needy U.S. family.
Share your stuff. Have your kids sort through their old toys and clothing to decide which to donate. But don't push them to say goodbye to their faves. "Taking things away when a child isn't ready will cause her to view philanthropy with a sense of loss instead of empowerment," says Carol Weisman, author of Raising Charitable Children.
Make a donation basket. Each time you shop at the supermarket, pick up a nonperishable item (such as a can of vegetables or a box of cereal) and store it in a bin; when it's full, you can bring it with your child to a local food pantry.
Try these games. Boom Boom! Cards have each family member select and complete an act of kindness, then pass the card to someone else. ($15; boomboomcards.com) The World Repair Kit packs tons of charitable ideas -- and fun stamps for each you complete. ($25; worldrepairkit.com)
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Originally published in the November 2010 issue of Parents magazine.