“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” -Pablo Picasso
What does the month of December mean to you and your family? For many it is a time to celebrate the closeness of family and friends and also a time to look beyond that circle to those in the community and the world who are in need.
It is never too early to learn about sharing, helping and caring for others. Families and schools around the world are finding that taking even some small action for those in need is comforting for young children. Plus it teaches them the joy of giving at a time or receiving. From the simple process of collecting coins, out grown clothes or toys to baking cookies for people in need…it all empowers children to have a feeling that there is something they can do to help and to give.
Around the world there is often a focus on consumerism that trickles down to our children. It is important for you and your child to take a moment to remember that the true essence of the life is HELPING and GIVING.
How does your young child understand this? Through participating in simple acts of kindness and giving. Young children learn by doing. You can tell them the importance of helping but until they experience the joy it brings others and themselves it will only be a concept, not an action. Amazingly, young children are very good at looking at both the big and little picture of the holidays. While every child wants to receive a gift, they also delight in the pleasure of giving and sharing.
It is important to help your child not only notice how you help others, but also what the effect of your helping has on yourself and others. This is how your child learns the “cause and effect” value of sharing and giving. If your child can see how helping can make BOTH the giver and the receiver feel good she has taken her first steps on the road to learning the essential emotional skill of empathy.
Provide simple jobs your child can do to help around the house. Perhaps he can be in charge of setting the table for meals. This is not only a good “helper” task; it is also excellent mathematical practice in counting and matching the correct number of forks to the number of people at the table!
My Mom had me empty the wastebaskets. I felt so proud to be able to do that for her. And she always found at least one step in the cooking I could do … even if it was just stirring batter forever! Little jobs give a big sense of pride and maturity to your child. He feels “big” if he can help you and others. So instead of doing all the simple tasks like table setting, cooking and cleaning yourself (even though you can do it faster and better) … invite your child to do it. You will be teaching important social and cognitive skills.
Start your sharing and giving activities within the family and branch out to the outside world. Here are some FUN activities to try with your child.
Make a Coupon Book: Family gifts don’t have to cost money…they can be a playful gift of service. Invite your child to suggest things he or she can do around the house to help. Your child can draw pictures and you can write up their comments on the coupons. Staple them together and don’t forget at least a few coupons for a few kisses and hugs….
Send a BIG HUG: Do you have family far away? Send them a child drawn hug they can wrap right around themselves! Trace your child’s outstretched arms onto a roll of shelf or freezer paper on the floor or table. Trace around the hands and connect straight across the arms (leaving out the body and head) to make the hug. He can help you cut it out decorate it before it folded up and sent in a large envelope with directions for wrapping up in it after opening!
And a Big Kiss too: Your child may enjoy sending a kiss in the mail too. This is a supervised activity since she will be using old lipstick. Show your child how to make a kiss print on a piece of paper and then invite her to draw a picture of her around it!