Reposted from 12/16

Teaching children to be generous and caring can help ensure a peaceful and supportive environment where all children grow and develop to their maximum potential. This is not only a great environment for children, but also for the adults that work in it… win-win for all! The following excerpt from ‘4 Ways Children Learn the Art of Giving’ provides some wonderful information to help get children started on their journey of ‘giving instead of getting’.

 Excerpt from ‘4 Ways Children Learn the Art of Giving’

by Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD

 “The following are four ways you can inspire children to become givers, shaping their lifelong values about giving, family, and citizenship:

1. Give Voice to the Meaning of Gift Giving

You can help children become more mindful about gift giving simply by encouraging them to think, voice their thoughts, and then act on them. Engage children in open-ended questions that dig more deeply into the meaning behind giving, like:

  • If gifts could talk, what would they say?
  • What gifts have you treasured most? Why?
  • What does a gift really mean?
  • If there is an art of giving, what does that art look like for you?
  • What is a gift you would never return?
  • How do you measure the value of a gift?

2. Turn Your Family Values into Action

Discussions about giving can lead to identifying and articulating family values. Turning those values into action is a key to shaping children’s personal art of giving. Decide as a family how your values can be transformed into holiday gifts for family and friends. What kinds of gifts shared between family members and close friends are most meaningful? Decide on gifts that will bring this meaning to you and your children’s lives. Don’t be afraid to make changes from previous years and adapt to changing economic times.

3. Connect the Art of Giving to Stewardship

It takes the combined efforts of families, schools, and communities to raise caring citizens and stewards of the planet. Families play a vital role when they help children connect the art of giving to lifelong citizenship. There are thousands of ways children and families learn to give throughout the year that shape a child’s identity and personal art of giving. We are stewards to each other and the natural world around us. You can help children discover the daily ways they act as givers to their parents, siblings, neighbors, the earth, and those in need around the world by recognizing their small but significant gift-giving actions. Parents can bring meaning to these actions through family conversation starters like:

  • How is doing chores around the house connected to giving?
  • What does it mean to leave a flower or light a candle in remembrance of a person who has died? How does this action connect with giving?
  • How can we practice our family values by cultivating the art of giving in our home?
  • What do we most want from our family relationships? How would those wishes be gifts to each of us?
  • How is recycling (and other conserving behaviors) a gift to the earth? Why should we care?

4. Engage Children in Community Giving Projects

Children mostly associate the holidays with being receivers of gifts. But according to studies in human development, it is gift giving that reaps the biggest psychological rewards. Even very young children can be involved in family projects that help others in your community. Take time. Let your children be creative. Allow children to feel the power of giving. It’s that feeling that lasts a lifetime.


Although the above excerpt is directed at parents and family members, the message can easily apply to early childhood education and care programs. Often, child care educators and providers are considered extended family members to the children in their care. Each early childhood program has their own set of values that guide the programming and activities. Family values and program values need to be similar and supportive of each other.

Guiding children in expressing compassion and empathy towards others through day to day activities will help them develop life-long practices of caring for others. Help the children in your care learn that when we care for each other, we all are cared for!