This time of year makes me so excited! When my kids were toddlers, we began a tradition of doing "The 12 Days of Christmas Kindness" where we do 12 days of service projects leading up to Christmas. Over the years, it's become something that we really look forward to. The kids get so into it! It's a great reminder of the importance of service over gifts. Don't get me wrong- my kids still go nuts over gifts, but having them involved in giving restores so much of the balance that gets out of whack during a time when materialism is so often the focus.
The first couple of years, I had difficulty coming up with things to do with young kids. Over time, we've found what kinds of projects work well and have meaning for our family. Today, I'm sharing 33 things that you can do with your kids to give back in case you need a few ideas to get you started. I think that creating a culture of giving and service with our kids is one of the greatest gifts we can give them! Happy serving!
*Stock up on hats, gloves and socks the next time you see them on sale and drop them off at a local homeless shelter.
*Make some homemade dog treats and take to a local animal shelter.
*Take a handful of quarters and a roll of tape and stick the quarters on gumball machines all over town. Or put the quarters inside the coin return on a video game machine. You will totally make a child's day!
*Take your outgrown coats to a local shelter.
*Dress up your kids in their Christmas finery and go share some hugs at a nursing home. We usually take bananas to pass out (but check with the nurses first!). So many nursing home residents never get visitors and some kids walking around really changes the energy!
*Find a need and meet it. We are all on social media and see need daily. Did a friend's house burn down? Take supplies. Someone sick? Take a meal.
*Bake cookies together and deliver to the fire station or police station.
*On garbage day in your neighborhood, have the kids pull everyone's garbage cans back to their houses.
*On the last day of school before Christmas break, purchase a school supply pack for a kid who would otherwise not be able to go to school and talk about what a privilege it is to go to school!
*Call up a single mom and offer to babysit her children so she can go Christmas shopping. Fun play date for the kids, plus a much needed break for a mom.
*Many community organizations have Christmas parties/dinners for the less fortunate. Call one and ask if you and your children can be on table cleanup duty. Even the youngest kids can carry plates and napkins to the trash can!
*Get out the markers, crayons and paper and make homemade cards or just have the kids color pretty pictures. Drop them off at a rehabilitation center or hospital.
*Put together a care package for a missionary or member of the military.
*Deliver a Christmas tree to a family in need or take one to an assisted living or nursing home facility.
*We all know an area where homeless people tend to always be- maybe outside a certain building or at the end of an exit ramp. Make a bag of food (protein bars, pop top canned food, peanut butter and crackers, dried fruit, nuts, etc.) and keep it in the car until you find a person who needs it.
*Take rawhides to the animal shelter. Cold, winter days are long and little doggies could use something to help them pass the day. Kids also love to play with animals!
*Find an area in town that is dirty and littered and clean it up!
*Sponsor a child and write a Christmas letter to that child.
*School supplies are often on sale around this time of the year or get put in bargain bins for people to use as stocking stuffers. Load up on these and send them to school with your kid. Teachers spend way too much of their own money on classroom supplies and this would free up some extra income for them around the holiday.
*Adopt a Salvation Army angel or pick up a food angel at your local grocery store to provide a Christmas meal to a family in need. Shop together as a family.
*Send a phone card to a soldier so that they can call their family for Christmas.
*Have your kids do something nice for you or for each other. Clean a brother's room, make a sister's bed, help mom or dad wash the dishes.
*Drop baby supplies (diapers, wipes, formula) off at a crisis pregnancy center. Most of these places also take used baby clothes and equipment to help out new moms if you've got baby items lying around your are no longer using.
*Play games with a purpose! Send your kids to www.freerice.com and let them play for a while. They learn by playing trivia games and correct answers send rice to feed hungry people around the world.
*Go through the cabinets and send canned goods to a food pantry or backpack program.
*Take a giant can of ground coffee beans (and some cookies!) to a homeless shelter.
*Buy a few decks of cards or some games that can be played in bed and take them to a children's hospital.
*Give the kids a broom and put them to work sweeping the porches of the widows and the elderly in the neighborhood.
*Take crayons and coloring books to the waiting room at the hospital.
*Cover pine cones in peanut butter and bird seed and take care of the wildlife in your backyard for the winter.
*Ask your kids' teachers if any students in the class are in need of books at their house. Have your kids pick out a few they no longer need and send them to school and let the teacher send them home in another child's backpack.
*Take chalk and drive around to your friends' houses. Have your kids write kind words about the friend on their driveway. It will wash off during the next rain but make their day in the meantime!
Most of all, have fun with this and watch how it changes the focus of the season!