We're fairly simple around the holiday time. When the letters go around asking for money for teacher's gifts, we politely decline. Instead, my daughter (and my son long before her) and I will bake for teachers, coaches, and friends. It started in college when I had no money, but then it started a tradition, and people asked for them. Sometimes the friends would come over and help bake their own.
I've kept that tradition with my kids at holiday time and at school's end. We bake for special people and take the extra time to make a special, personal gift. In our house, it's not the cost of the gift, but the amount of thought and time that goes into them.
I to have tried to instill the value of giving what you can with what you have. For the past few years I have brought all seven of my grandchildren (2-10 yrs) and nieces and nephews over to make crafts or cookies plates for each household and I am pleased to have them ask me when we are going to do this. To have the kids look forward to this time and have good memories of this is more than any gift they or I have received. The kids look forward to giving the things THEY made to others. It is fun to have their suggestions of things to do and who they are putting on their list. The list just keeps growing, it is so much fun. We have started a craft bin with ideas and supplies for next year.36778
Last year when my son was in first grade, they had a long-term project in which he interviewed someone about their career. I have been a professional fundraiser for the past 14 years and, at the time, worked for The ALS Association (Lou Gehrig's Disease). My son's project happened to coincide with the "season of giving" so I took it upon myself to be interviewed in front of his classmates about philanthropy. The kids were so eager to learn about how they could help and it was a great public speaking opportunity for my son. I portrayed myself as one of Santa's elves who helped various "Santas" support others' needs. We talked about altruism, why charities exist, what I liked best about my role, and what kids can do to make a difference. We pointed out that my son's school is a nonprofit organization and that all of the events and activities were fundraisers for the school. We also discussed how fortunate we all are and how good it feels to share.
I gave all the kids pens and stickers and the teacher an ALS Association mug filled with candy. In addition to the swag, I gave everyone a little grid that showed what a donation of $25 would do for an ALS patient (for example) as well as a little handout of Giving Facts. Afterward, I received a nice thank you note from all of my son's classmates.
This year, I made a book of coupons for my son's Christmas stocking to take away from the "gimme stuff" mentality that is so pervasive. The coupons give him a sense of control and an awareness of the things we normally do together (e.g., meal at Panda Express, trip to the Bowling Alley, skipping taking out the trash/recycling once, etc.). In addition, we stress that gifts are for birthdays and Christmas; if he wants something very badly, we plan ahead and use his money from his piggybank as appropriate.
I was very proud when my son gave the $10 he received for his birthday to my charitable organization as a donation.36789
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