Little Philanthropist: Teaching Kids to Donate Creates a Culture of Generosity

Sharing and experiencing this positive boost is a way to shape individual progress, both emotionally and financially.

When our children are young, we stress the importance of manners, sharing, and taking turns, but as they grow, the emphasis shifts toward more self-interest and competition. There is nothing wrong with either of those things in healthy doses, but if they completely replace the social imperative to help, collaborate, and give, we end up with a very empty existence. Simply put, part of being a healthy human being is the good feeling we get when we feel useful and helpful to those around us.

So as our children arrive at more social complexity, it’s very important we demonstrate to them what active giving looks like. We show them with our actions and the results of those actions, what it means to be generous and kind.

In some previous DiscoBratz posts like Starting an Allowance (insert link), we discuss the value of starting early with basic money management, and recommend kids divvy up their allowance between spend, save, and share. That share component is the opportunity to foster personal philanthropy.

Also in another post entitled Empathy: How to Encourage Your Young Child Towards Give and Take we look at ways we can assist the healthy development of empathy through consistency, preparation, patience, and support. So let’s now take a closer look at how our children can continue along a positive path of giving.

  • Help them pick a cause. Consider their interests and look for places where they can engage with a cause. If they love animals, try a local shelter or wildlife refuge. If they love science and math, maybe they donate to a Kickstart campaign that will fuel innovation. Whenever that “share” portion of the piggy bank fills up, count it out, and help them research a worthy project for to donate their little contribution. This teaches that with earning comes responsibility.
  • Be a Good Neighbor. You do not have to truck your child to Greece to feed refugees to get this point across (although kudos to you if you do!); you can start right in your neighborhood. Do you have elderly neighbors who are trying to manage on their own? Maybe they could use a little help with yard work. One easy way to instill a strong sense of purpose in our children is to fulfill an immediate need or solve an immediate problem. Some families forgo the extravagant turkey dinner at Thanksgiving to feed people at a local soup kitchen. Some folks get out during the spring and summer national holidays and sign up on a cleanup crew to help out at their local state park. Walk dogs at your local Humane Society, the list goes on. And here’s a bonus, it’s often really fun!
  • Ritualize exchanging. Our culture has only gotten busier, faster, and far less patient; it can be so easy to place undue pressure on getting to the next thing. It’s crucial as parents that we take a step back from this, slow down, and recalibrate our daily interactions with everyone who helps us: the cashier, the waiter, the flight attendant, and the postal carrier. Remember to express gratitude.
  • Ritualize Donating. Donation centers are all over the place, and by doing a purge, you clear out your own space and do something positive by paying it forward. During the holidays, there are often children’s toy drives, and it’s a great opportunity to hand off outgrown clothes, baby books they have moved past ,and toys they no longer need. There is plenty of evidence that having more isn’t necessarily better, and yet a young child always gets inundated with stuff in the early years between birthday parties, holidays, and grandparents. Detaching is a valuable lesson, and relating an object to active use: “You don’t play with this top anymore but another little child could play with it everyday!” is part of the feel-good reinforcement.

It’s a cliché because it is true: kindness is its own reward. If we want our children to play fairly, to respect each other, and to feel good about themselves, we have to start by showing them fundamental actions to achieve a life of generosity and gratitude. This is how our children bring out the best in us too.


About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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