How do you teach children about charity? If you want your children to develop a habit of life-long social awareness and charitable giving, it’s important to start teaching children about charity at an early age.
We’ve already written about the importance of teaching children about giving, but charitable giving is a different story: unlike making Christmas cookies for grandma, giving to charity means understanding that there are people in the world much worse off than you and your family, and that it’s part of your responsibility to share your wealth and resources with others.
Start by explaining charity in a way that children can understand. This list at YesKidzCan includes several appropriate picture books about charity, divided by age group. Then suggest that children donate one of their toys to a toy bank at Christmas. Once children begin to understand how charity works and the importance of sharing their resources, here’s how to instill a life-long habit of giving:
Choose foundations that are meaningful to your child
Children are much more enthusiastic about charitable donations when it is to an organization or foundation they understand. Choose foundations where your child can help other children, such as the Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation. Many children also respond positively to animal-related charitable foundations. Introduce your children to three or four appropriate foundations, and let them choose which foundation to support.
Help your children make reasonable, appropriate gifts
Some children are reluctant to give any money or possessions to charity. Others go too far in the opposite direction, attempting to give the entire contents of the toybox or piggy bank. Talk to your kids about what types of donations are appropriate. Explain that many cultures and traditions tithe, or give 10 percent of their resources, to people in need. If your child has trouble saving money, consider a piggy bank that helps your child see where his or her money goes. Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar recommends the Money Savvy Piggy Bank as a good way to teach children about saving for charity.
Make it about actions as well as donations
Giving part of an allowance or culling out the toybox is part of the charitable giving process, but it isn’t the whole thing. Make sure your children learn how to give their time and their actions as well. If your church or community organization has a clothing drive, for example, make sure your kids volunteer to sort and fold clothes. Help older children sign up for shifts at a soup kitchen. In addition to teaching kids about the importance of action, it also helps your children meet the people they’re helping.
Making charity about action as well as donation teaches two important lessons: first, that it takes arms and hands to make sure that donations get to the right people; second, that even if you have nothing to donate, you can still give your time.
Let your children self-direct future endeavors
Once your children understand the fundamentals of charitable giving, let them self-direct future charitable endeavors. Let them sort their belongings or allowance for donations, checking in with you to make sure they’re staying within an appropriate range. Encourage them to pool resources with friends and peers, such as planning a toy drive with their church youth group. The more children children feel like charity is something they choose to do, rather than something Mom and Dad are forcing them to do, the more likely they are to become life-long charitable givers.