It’s something all parents (I’d hope, anyway) want their kids to be able to do – to give. To give of themselves, to give things they love, to give to people they love, and to give to people they’ve never even met. But how do you start teaching and nurturing that gift in your child? And when? I think the answer to when, and maybe even how, varies by child. But here’s what I did with Becca this year that seems to have started planting the seed.
She’s super into money – sorting coins is really fun for her. She doesn’t really understand or remember the values of the coins, but she understands the concept of what it’s for, and that it all adds up to equal stuff purchased at the store. Before she was born, we were given a large piggy bank for her, and over time, the coins (and a few stray $1 bills) have added up. We dump loose change into her piggy bank (and now her brother’s as well) randomly. So, I got out her coin sorting tray one day, and we dumped her piggy bank contents out on the floor. She was super excited to help me sort, and decided she would find all the pennies, and leave the silver ones for Mommy. That’s fine. We had fun with the activity, and it was great fine motor practice for her too – picking up and sorting through all those coins.
Then, we sat down and made a list of all the people she would like to buy a gift for for Christmas. She thought of most of the people on her own, though she did have prompting for a couple of them.
The next day, we went to Dollar Tree on a mission. She had her list in hand, and we talked very seriously before we got out of the car about what the expectations were for this trip. We weren’t there to buy things for her. We were there to buy specifically for the people on her list. She had a bag of quarters (and a few $1 bills) to cover her gifts and the tax. We also took three extra dollars just in case she thought of someone last minute, and also so that she would have to count out the money to the cashier.
She did a fabulous job. She got a bit “grabby” a couple of times, and I had to remind her to allow ME to take the items off the shelf for her. But I was super impressed with her thoughtfulness. She’s a very deep thinker anyway, so it was the perfect place for her to stop and think about what each person on her list would enjoy. A game for a friend, a craft for another, a candle for one family member, an airplane puzzle for another. A sudoku book, a little stuffed animal, she had a thoughtful reason for each and every gift she selected. And then we got to the checkout, and she was so proud to tell the cashier she was spending HER money to buy gifts. We had the bag of quarters pre-counted, so I handed the cashier the bag and said “This is $7. She’ll count the rest of it for you.” We had practiced at home, so she knew to start with $8 in her counting. She counted out the $1’s and I handed each $1 to the cashier as she counted it. She was excited that she got to keep some, too. (I hadn’t told her I brought extra.)
Here she is opening her bag to get her $1 bills out to count them.
She was SO proud of her receipt showing she had bought presents with her very own money.
When it came time to wrap, I had her help me wrap the presents that were going to my family in Tulsa for Thanksgiving. I’ll be perfectly honest and say that having her help wrap was very stressful for both of us. She did enjoy having me help her write on the little labels, and sticking them on the packages. She was so happy on Thanksgiving (“Thanksmas”) morning to get to give her gifts to Granny, PawPaw, and Daddy!
Since we learned from the first wrapping experience, I decided to do something totally different for the rest of her gifts. The two for friends, we put in gift bags. The gifts for family, I wrapped (while she watched) in brown paper, and then she used wet chalks to decorate the boxes. I helped her write who they were to and her name, and then we put them under our tree. She is so excited about having her gifts for family under the tree!! And I know she’ll be really excited about giving them as well.
There is nothing like seeing the excitement on your child’s face as she eagerly anticipates Christmas morning… but there’s really nothing in the world like knowing that a lot of that excitement is about GIVING her gifts that she bought. Because THAT is what Christmas is all about – remembering God’s Gift to us, and giving our gifts to others.