This post is sponsored by Heifer International but we will be donating the money back to this organization that we’ve supported for years.
Years ago when Thomas and Emily were just a toddler and a preschooler, my mother in law sent us an envelope around the holidays. Inside was the Heifer International, two $20 bills, and a note for our kids to choose how to donate the money.
I remember sitting down with our kids on the couch as we often did to read a picture book. We flipped through the little square catalog, pouring over the photos of the animals. At an age where attention spans can be short, I was amazed at how interested they were in the animals, the stories, and knowing where in the world some of the countries that were featured are. They were so passionate that my husband and I matched the gift from my in-laws to double the gift.
Fast forward to the present and my little kids have grown up into big kids with huge hearts. To this day, we donate to Heifer every holiday season and the gift is always of the kids’ choosing. Sometimes they choose to give a flock of feathered friends or contribute their money towards a share of an animal. Other years they’ve pooled their money to purchase a goat or a sheep. Some years they’ve dreamt big and thought out loud “If we only had a little bit more money we could get a….” and my husband and I have provided additional financial backing to help them make their dreams a reality for another family.
I like to think that the early days of us pouring over the Heifer catalog helped instill the importance of helping others but I also know that we have made it a priority to live a life of giving.
In honor of today being Giving Tuesday, it’s a great day to have a conversation about what giving means to you as you resolve to live a life of giving in any way you can. There are many different ways to give. You can certainly give money but donating your time or using your voice as an advocate is just as important.
Talking about giving and your family’s involvement is different at various ages and stages but the level of caring remains the same. If you’re wondering about how to start, here’s my guide on how to inspire giving at every age and stage on Giving Tuesday and beyond.
Teaching Toddlers and Preschoolers About Giving
Toddlers and preschoolers are no strangers to love and compassion but when it comes to giving, they’re at an age where they need to understand giving at a concrete level and one of the best way to start is to talk about what giving is, why you do it, and model how you can make a difference by helping in your community. These acts will go a long way towards helping them understand the impact of their actions. Families who are experienced at giving in their community can also start educating their children about global issues through picture books and organizations whose missions resonate with kids.
Here are three ways to involve toddlers and preschoolers in giving and how to talk to them in a way that will help them understand the importance of giving back.
- Let them help in ways that make sense for their age. Work with your child to clean their room and use this opportunity to talk about how items that they no longer need or use can find a good home with another family. While there will always be some favorites that remain, you’ll also be surprised at how many things they will want to share with another child. Involve your child in packing gently used toys, books, and delivering them to a community organization. Another great way for this age group to help is through a St. Jude Trike-A-Thon. Geared at preschoolers, this age group can learn about bike and riding toy safety while helping raise money to support St. Jude where no family ever receives a bill for their child’s cancer treatment, travel, housing, or food so parents can focus on helping their child live.
- Look for family friendly places where parents and kids can work side by side to help. I happen to love that our local DC Diaper Bank provides volunteering opportunities that welcome all ability levels because they recognize that it’s important for little volunteers to pitch in too. Not sure where to go? Put a call out to your local friends on Facebook or post in a parenting group for your area and chances are you’ll come up with a great list!
- Build off of their interests. Kids who love animals will naturally gravitate towards Heifer International’s Heifer International that provides a powerful lesson about how animals can help families become self-sufficient. Parents can talk to kids about how Heifer’s animals provide partners with both food and reliable income by selling or trading milk, eggs and honey at the market. Even young kids can understand the basic principles of sustainable income because the gift of animals helps families turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity.
4 Books to Read to Toddlers and Preschoolers
These four wonderful picture books that will help kids understand why Heifer’s mission makes such a difference to families around the world through sustainable agriculture programs and get them thinking about how they can help outside your community and on a global level:
- One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway
- Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier
- One Well: The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss
- The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough by Katie Smith Milway
Encouraging Early Elementary Ages (grades K-2 or ages 5-8) to Give
Early elementary ages can certainly benefit from the same lessons taught to toddlers and preschoolers but this highly social age group would also enjoy engaging in chartable acts together that not only help them connect to their communities but also make them realize that they can make a difference regardless of their age.
If you’re volunteering as a family, ask your kids if they would like to invite a friend to join you. Suggest service learning activities for your child’s Scout group or class to participate in. Working together will help keep this age group motivated and interested because they have company. Plus working together means that kindness spreads and inspires others.
Early elementary aged kids will also have their own ideas how to help. Maybe they’ve been inspired by a trick or treat for UNICEF campaign, food drive, or shoe collection campaign at school and want to try their hand at fundraising or collecting donations to support a cause like Emily did as she enters her 4th year as the founder of Ribbon Barrettes for Research, a fundraising effort where 100% of the proceeds benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Nurture the idea that any child at any age can make a difference by asking these three important questions about their social giving ideas:
- Who do you want to help? This simple question is a great conversation as you help your kids decide how they want to make a difference. Kids will always be more interested in helping with something that they feel personally invested in.
- How can we help you? If your child has an idea, ask them how you can help them. Let them be inspired and empower them to take charge and give you directions.
- Are there any friends who you’d like to invite to help? Kids love working together and since many hands make light work, let them involve their friends. After all, working together means that kindness spreads and inspires others.
5 Books for Early Elementary Ages to Read
These books reinforce the concept of giving and kindness and more fluent elementary aged readers will enjoy reading them independently:
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
- 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy
- A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams
- The Giving Book by Ellen Sabin
- Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming
Continue to inspire your elementary aged student to keep doing good deeds with a 100 Good Deeds bracelet ($30 from Macys.com and 100GoodDeeds.org). This bracelet contains 100 beads and a rubber ring you slide over a bead for each good deed completed. When the ring reaches the end of the bracelet, simply start over. Wearing the 100 Good Deeds bracelet around your wrist serves as a concrete reminder to always do good deeds but they’re also handmade in Haiti, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa, Rwanda, Bali, and India as a way to provide sustainable jobs for women in these countries.
Empowering Tweens and Teens (ages 9+) to Live a Life of Giving
Tweens and teens have the power of their imaginations to think big about ways they can help. They can harness their shopping power to consciously purchase products that make a difference, use their social media savvy to use their voices to highlight issues and create change without spending a dime, and become champions for change.
While tweens and teens give, they’re also receiving an invaluable education through the process. They can do a deep dive and learn about social issues and the root causes while developing a better understanding of diverse cultures around the world. Not only will they inspire others through their actions but their passion will help them develop lifelong skills like leadership, collaboration, communication, confidence, and good citizenship.
Teach them about shopping consciously
Tweens and teens flush with disposable income can learn that they can make a difference by purchasing items that provide sustainable jobs and economic empowerment. This age group can make an impact through their purchasing power since their money has the power to transform lives, families, and entire communities. This year we’re buying #LOVE hats at Kmart for $5 in support of St. Jude and artisan made gifts from Haiti from Artisan Business Network partners like Macy’s Heart of Haiti. For a list of gifts that give back, visit Nicole Melancon’s comprehensive 2016 Holiday Guide of Gifts that Give Back on Third Eye Mom.
Let them use technology to make a difference
- #GamingTuesday is Save the Children effort to encourage gamers to give back through video game play. Today gamers can play, stream, or vlog with their favorite games and fundraise to help children in 120 countries around the world as part of Save the Children’s mission.
- Smartphone wielding teens can harness the power of their social networks and donate their time, voices, and platforms to ONE.org. ONE is unique because it only requires us to use a tiny bit of time and our voices to make a huge difference for those around our world through our phones.
Encourage them to travel
You don’t have to travel far to realize that how different places outside your community are. Visiting another part of your state can be just as eye opening as a trip to another country. Through travel, you’re teaching your child to become a citizen of the world and inspiring them to look outside themselves and think about the world beyond your community. Encourage them to explore traveling on a school-organized trip even if it means your heart tells your otherwise. Look into trips designed just for students like those through National Geographic Student Trips.
If you love to travel like we do, involve your kids in selecting your next destination. Enlist their help in planning your itinerary to visit places beyond the touristy areas to learn about the people and culture and always Pack for a Purpose to make your travel more meaningful.
As you travel you’ll see that meaningful learning happens thanks to connections made through experiences. Even though my husband and Thomas haven’t visited Haiti like Emily and I have, our family’s connection to the country is strong. The kids know my work there involves helping and giving back and since my first trip, I’ve made incredible connections with amazing organizations who have a long history of doing impactful work in the country.
Heifer International is one of those organizations. They were on my short list of places to donate immediately after Hurricane Matthew and are one that we give to each and every year. Even though the Heifer catalog arrived in our mailbox in October, today is the day that we will decide how to give our money towards their sustainable farming and agriculture projects around the world because today we have the ability to make more of an impact thanks to matching donations.
This Giving Tuesday, our donation will be matched dollar for dollar to provide animals and training for families that help our impact go twice as far.
We’ve been thinking about using our money to purchase goats in Haiti because I visited the hardest hit areas in the country where Hurricane Matthew destroyed homes, killed livestock, and devastated farms.
A gift of goats is a sustainable way for families achieve living incomes to send their children to school, feed themselves adequately across every month of the year; and have proper housing, water, hygiene and other essential resources. While goats are important, any gift of any animal provide partners with both food and reliable income because agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey can be traded or sold at market.
Thomas and Emily have decided to give a Hope Basket, that includes rabbits and a starter flock of chickens. This gift gives provides a family with a steady supply of nourishing food and allows them to sell the surplus eggs and offspring to earn money. Plus it allows them to pass on the gifts to others since rabbits and chickens can multiply quickly!
3 inspiring books to add to your tween or teen’s reading library include:
- Simple Giving: Easy Ways to Give Every Day by Jennifer Iacovelli
- Mountains Beyond Mountains (Adapted for Young People): The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder
- I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition) by Malala Yousafzai
By 2020, Heifer aims to help 4 million families achieve living incomes. Learn more about their programs and initiatives around the world and donate by visiting Heifer International.
This post was produced with support from Heifer International. All opinions are, of course, my own.