How do you encourage your children to give back?

This holiday season our children are very focused on toys and gifts. For themselves. More than any other time of the year, we are asking them what they want. My kids have already written letters to Santa, made phone calls to Santa, and tried to find him in person just to make sure that he knows their secret wishes.

At the same time, we know other families are in need and we want to offer our help and change the conversation back to giving instead of just getting. I’d love to hear how you volunteer with your own children, too.

Here are four ideas for including your kids in holiday giving:

Grocery run for the Alameda Food Bank.
The other day, my first grader and I went on a special grocery trip to Safeway. Armed with a $50 gift card that I received a few weeks ago (Thank you Safeway!), we trolled the aisles with a food donation in mind. He made all the healthy shelf-stable choices and we worked together to add up the totals. He put all our purchases on the belt and made the transaction himself before depositing our contribution into the collection bin. He was proud to read the words on the side of the bin and to see that our food picks were needed.

Diaper donation.
Children understand diapers. They see their little siblings wearing them and they know what they’re used for. Whenever you purchase diapers with your little one in tow, buy an extra pack for a family in need. Explain what’s going on. Make the deposit together. In the East Bay, there are different collection bins in family friendly locations like Mr. Mopps Toys and Baby World.

Toys, toys, toys.
There are a few wonderful ways to put toys in the hands of families who cannot afford to buy their own. Let your child choose a new unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots and drop it off in the many collection bins in Alameda county. I also try to encourage my children to find some toys that other families can use and we move them on to the preschool or Goodwill. Truth be told, this is hard for them.

Loveys and comfort for homeless children.
Project Night Night offers a very hands-on but convenient approach to helping other families through its program. See how local mom Becky and her girls helped 72 families through Project Night Night by selecting and collecting a security blanket, children’s book, and a stuffed animal to those without such comforts.

Cash.
My son has a “give” component to his allowance, and we discuss giving money to the charitable organization of his choice. He has given to his school and preschool in the past, but any of the above organizations are also a good bet for future giving.

How do you encourage your children to give back to their community?