With the holidays coming, it’s incredibly important to me that my kids don’t take their privileges for granted. Teaching generosity and selflessness to young children can be tricky, and I’ve found what works best is doing rather than just talking about it.

I took a photo when I was in Kenya a few years ago. It is a shot of children who are AIDS orphans, and they are waiting in a long line to be served food. It’s framed in our home, and my daughter has looked at that picture so many times, studied the kids, their worn clothing, their shoes that are sizes too big or small, and nearly broken. Being young, she asked me why they have funny shoes and I explained that they are children who I had the privilege of feeding one day, who often don’t get meals. Sometimes their tummies hurt and no one has any food to give to them. Their plight broke my heart, and it has gotten through to Sophie as well. She sometimes will talk about how we need to figure out how to give food, toys, and new shoes to the children in the photo.

She made money selling lemonade one day a few months ago, and she decided use the dollars she earned for kids in need. Here’s what we did:

We got a shoebox and decorated it together. She’s going to be sending a box to a girl her own age, so we looked for the things she loves most when we went to the store. She’s artistic and stylish, so her favorite picks were colored pencils and a small notebook to write and draw, stickers, crayons, tall patterned socks, and sparkly headbands. We also purchased a favorite book, a pair of leggings, and a cozy little plush toy. It’s important to have some items that are practical as well as fun, like leggings for girls or basic tees for boys, and new soft socks. She was able to fill an entire box using the lemonade earnings, and it is bringing a child somewhere a whole lot of joy this holiday season.

Throughout the process of involving my child in the cycle of giving and allowing her to take the lead, she’s learning the meaning of community and considering other people’s needs above her own. Sophie is imagining what gifts she would most like to open, but she’s sharing them with another little girl so she also has the chance to experience the holiday magic. I similarly understand that all parents want to provide their children with the basics and a few special items, so I can only imagine how difficult it is for a mother who can’t afford necessities during this time of year. There’s nothing that brings me more joy than to see my kids happy, and it delights me that we can help create this joy for another mother as she will watch her daughter open Sophie’s heartfelt gift.

It’s a lesson to all of us, together. It’s so easy, fun, and rewarding. If you’d like to make your own, here are some ideas of how to fill a box:

It’s best if you take cues from your own kids as to what they most enjoy, encouraging and empowering them to help others in need.

Happy Giving!

- Kate Brightbill of Style Smaller

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  • http://bfellicious.wordpress.com/ Felien Geldhof

    Loved this blog! what a great life lesson!! Thanks for sharing your story & passion.

    • Kate

      Thanks for enjoying and being so sweet Felien!

  • Jill

    Where can we send a box to? I would love to do this with my kiddos

  • Wanda

    This is a wonderful way to teach your children. We have been involved with Samaritan’s Purse for years. What a joy to fill a shoebox for a child who has so little.

  • Juan

    Juan is great! Kids are an important part of life and it brings joy to my heart to share any happiness I can with my kids and especially other children who may be in need. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to putting the gift together with my kids and teaching them life’s great lesson about giving back.

  • Terri

    Loved you story and what a great lesson to teach young children! My 2 children are a bit too young to understand this but you have inspired me to start this as a holiday tradition. Thank you so much for sharing.