Gifts That Keep Giving

How do you reinforce the importance of giving when these get all the attention?
How do you reinforce the importance of giving when these get all the attention?

“How do I teach my kids about being charitable when all they talk about is the pair of skis or that pair of Lululemon leggings they just HAVE to have?”  Sound familiar?  The items on the wish list may be different in your house, but this is a common question for parents at this time of year.


The first thing to remember is that it takes time to build awareness and sensitivity to the outside world.  Some people are just wired with this circuitry at an early age.  But most aren’t.  The best way to help your kids develop this sensitivity is to keep the conversation going throughout the year. Kids will tune in when they are ready.  In the meantime, try different things and don’t be hard on yourself (or them) if you don’t hit the mark with your efforts.  The most important thing is that you show them that it is important to you and that you provide opportunities for them to learn more when they are interested.

Here are some gift ideas that keep the conversation going.


There are books for all ages that teach about giving.  Some are stories with lessons and others are more focused on providing the reader ideas or information.  Here are some favorites:

Youth Books on Giving

  • The Giving Book – A workbook that creates conversations and provides advice about how to give back.
  • Miss Rumphius – A wonderful story about a woman who had a goal to travel the world, live by the sea and do something to make the world more beautiful.
  • When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars – Lessons on greed and generosity told with straightforward words that are brought to life with beautiful oil on wood paintings.
  • The Giving Tree – Often the first book that comes up for this topic, this list would be incomplete without the Shel Silverstein classic about a lifetime relationship between a tree that gives and a boy who takes.

Teen Books on Giving

Other ideas

Help Them Donate – Give your kids an amount of money that feels reasonable to you and help them decide.  Offer to match (or maybe even double) whatever additional money they want to add from their savings as an incentive for them to increase the total amount donated.  Help them figure out what to do with the money.  If they’re interested, take them on a site visit to the organization.  Give them a chance to volunteer.

Share an Experience – Talk with your kids about an experience that inspired you to make a donation and why you made that choice.  Try to think of an example that your kids can relate to.  The conversation will help them understand you, and it gives them a chance to imagine themselves doing the same.

Play a GamePhil and His Family’s Adventure in Giving is a game that provides an opportunity to learn about giving while also playing a game together.  The game also provides questions that can be used any time to continue the conversation.


If you have a favorite book, game or conversation-starter that isn’t on this list, please send them along.  Let me know what’s working for you.  And also, feel free to be in touch if you are feeling stuck.

One last thing to keep in mind: if you are planning on presenting this as a holiday gift, think about finding the best time to do that.  When there is a stack of unopened gifts, you may have a tough time getting anyone to pay attention.  Perhaps the night before the main event or after the gifts have been opened give you the best opportunity to create the right moment.

Good luck!

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2 Responses

  1. Sarah Burnette

    Thank you for this article. The timing is great – I’ve been struggling with this issue with my youngest who is really like an only child since he’s nine and his older siblings are in their twenties and not living with us. I am always horrified by his lack of desire give ANYTHING away even if he no longer wants or needs it. I get upset with him.
    I especially appreciate your observation on how some people are just “wired” with the sensitivity to the outside world and their needs. I never thought about that as giving has always been a part of my DNA and I get jazzed when I have an opportunity to give – even at as early as 3, my mother said I’d give away my toys and stuffed animals to other kids that I thought needed them. In grade school, I’d bring home a list of things I thought some of my classmates needed like new sneakers, a warmer coat or mittens without holes in them. Now this was the 60’s and we weren’t exactly “well off” but relatively speaking, I thought we were. Today, my three sisters remark about how poor we were grown up. Interesting take on things. My dear Mother, always counting out change in the grocery store always obliged my wishes. I wish I could thank her now for that. As for my son, I will be more sensitive to his lack of “wiring” on this matter and perhaps I can impart the joy that comes from giving.
    Merry Christmas~

    • Jamie Forbes

      Thanks for your comments, Sarah. The good news is that kids continue to learn and evolve. Yours will undoubtedly benefit from observing everything you do. Best of luck!

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