In my ongoing effort to simplify our life, we have been giving a lot of things away and I love the attitude it’s creating in our home. We are trying to keep what we truly need and donate everything else so it can be used by others. The kids are realising that *stuff* is made with a purpose, we don’t need to keep it merely for the sake of having it. Sometimes you outgrow things or don’t have a reason for them anymore, so it’s time to pass them on.
Generosity is not only about material possessions though. We can be generous with our time (serving the family by doing the laundry), our knowledge (helping your brother learn a new skill), and our love (using kind words as often as we can).
Here are some thoughts from several mothers about how to teach this important virtue:
“We teach generosity in a very concrete way by recognizing when we are abundantly blessed – for example, recognizing when the amount of toys in the house is more than we need and sorting through to give some away. We do this about two times a year. Part ofhow we go through this process is to emphasize that we have generous family members who give us gifts, but not every child has that and we can share what we have with others.” – Jaimi from The Stay-at-Home-Mom Survival Guide
“It is the daily, simple acts of sacrifice that seem to make the biggest difference in teaching my boys to be generous. My husband will point out how he will sacrifice a turn so the boys can have one and he’ll say, ‘It makes my heart feel good to help you out.’ And, the boys start imitating that behavior. When we can show our children the value of being generous, of sacrificing for another, and how their sacrifices bless or even provide basic necessities for others–then they get how being generous doesn’t need to be painful. A step further, they see how happy the other person is and that makes the experience much more memorable.” – Sheila from Pennies of Time: Teaching Kids to Serve
“To teach generosity, we talk about the good feeling we get from sharing with others. We also sponsor a child in Africa and we talk about her often, as well as write letters to children whose sponsors cannot write to them. This opens up the dialogue about how we can be more generous to others in need. Children are so generous naturally, they just want the opportunity to give.” – Erika from Urthmama
“One of the best stories I ever heard about generosity was from my cousin. Each month she would take her sons on a ‘do good’ day. They would take homemade dog treats to the humane society, homemade crafts to the children’s hospital, and donate food to the food bank. Her little boys learned so much about generosity that come time for birthdays they both asked for people to donate to the human society instead of gifts. What an incredible way to teach kids to be generous to others.” – Lauren from The Military Wife and Mom
I believe that conversing about character traits while engaging in hands-on activities and exploring themes via storytelling are also powerful ways for children to understand and eventually exhibit the traits. Here are some resources that can help with this:
Story: Stone Soup
What other thoughts or resources do you have about how to teach generosity to young children?
To browse more character building activities on my website, click here. You may also enjoy my ebook with 100+ activities in an easy-to-use checklist format, Playing with Purpose: Character Building Made Fun, or my book for families How to Build Character at Home.