December is a funny month. Children develop a huge case of the gimme-gimmes while simultaneously opening their hearts to do what they can to help others. It’s a paradox for sure. But we have found that when children are guided to focus on opening their hearts and looking for ways to help others, the gimme-gimmes get a little less loud — and certainly less grumbly.
Children naturally want to help others, but as they’re still learning about the world, they don’t always see the needs that are there. (Heck, us grownups are still learning about the world and don’t always see the needs that are there.) With some guidance from parents and teachers, preschoolers can put their natural desire to help to good use.
Use these ideas for how preschoolers can help others. And don’t be surprised if your child begins to come up with her own ideas as well.
1. Shovel a Neighbor’s Driveway
If you have an elderly neighbor, a neighbor who is pregnant or has a new baby, a sick neighbor, or a neighbor with a parent who travels or works multiple jobs, try to get to their house to shovel or plow their driveway before they do. Sure, you’ll be doing most of the heavy lifting as you and your preschooler clear the driveway, but your preschooler can move a shovel around. And she will be learning how to notice others and fill in when there’s a need.
This is something you can talk about ahead of time, so your child can keep neighbors in mind. When you know a snowstorm is approaching, comment to your child about how it may be hard for your neighbor to get outside and explain why. Then, ask your preschooler if she can help you pay attention to the next snowstorm and hurry over to help your neighbor.
[4 Ways to Teach Gratitude and the Joy of Giving]
2. Pick up Trash
Go to your local park, or take a walk through your neighborhood with a trash bag and plastic gloves. Pick up any trash you see. This is an easy task for a preschooler, but it provides a great feeling of accomplishment when you see how full your bags are at the end of your service outing. Take a before and after picture to really grasp the full impact.
3. Send a Letter
Preschoolers love receiving mail, and so they can immediately grasp how exciting it would be for someone they love to to get a piece of mail from them. Send a note of encouragement to someone who is struggling, a drawing to a grandparent, or a story (have them tell the story to you as you write it down) to a friend.
Some fun mail ideas:
- For a fun exchange, have your child create mustaches out of paper and send them to friends, asking them to take pictures wearing their mustaches.
- Send a “hug.” Trace your child’s hands and have your child cut them out and decorate them. Then, cut a piece of yarn that is the length of your child’s arm span. Attach the paper hands to the ends of the yarn, and now you have your child’s hug that can be sent in the mail.
- Start a story in a notebook, and ask a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or friend to continue it and send it back to you.
You can also send a letter to a military member, veteran, or first responder through Operation Gratitude. And Any Refugee is an organization that will facilitate sending postcards of hope to refugees around the world.
4. Spur-of-the-Moment Acts of Kindness
What acts of kindness can your child think up throughout the day? Can she make her sister’s bed? Can he bring the neighbor’s trash can back from the curb? Can you buy an extra can of food while grocery shopping and drop it at the food pantry on your way home? Can he be on the lookout for someone who needs a smile? Can she slip a note into her brother’s backpack?
5. Donut Drop-off
Help your child become familiar with firefighters while also showing gratitude for their hard work. Bring a box or two of donuts to your local fire station and let your child carry it in. Ahead of time, have your child make a thank you card to give the firefighters.
6. Visit an Animal Shelter
Animals that are waiting to be adopted need love and attention while they stay at the shelter, and an animal-loving preschooler is the perfect fit. Carefully supervise your child as you gently pet and talk to the animals at the animal shelter. Call ahead to find out if you can bring items like blankets or dog food.
7. Create Activity Kits
Call your local hospital, refugee non-profit, or women’s shelter, and find out if they need activity kits for children. Once you know what the organization needs, purchase the items and assemble the kits together with your preschooler.
Trying to incorporate your preschooler’s interests in how you give back is always a good idea. As you make giving back a part of your family life, your child will see more and more needs — and will have the confidence to meet them. And the joy your preschooler will feel — and share — while giving to others will be infectious.
At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we teach gratitude as a character trait during the month of November and we discuss the joy of giving during the month of December. And all year round, we teach children to notice each other and help when they can. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930 or contact us online to set up a tour.