Often our holiday season is filled and busy, more busy, and very, very busy: parties, donations and charities, food prep, and finding the perfect gifts for family and friends. At the heart of checking off the lists, we know what the season is supposed to be about. But in all the craziness, what do our children see?
At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we believe that the best part of Christmas time, and all of the holidays, are the presents we give away. We feel the greatest joy comes to children as we teach gratitude and the joy of giving.
A song we like to teach our preschoolers, called “The Very Best Part of Christmas Time,” composed by Janeen Brady, starts like this:
The very best part of Christmas time, the very best part I know, it’s not the tree, it’s not the treats, it’s not the lights that glow. The very best part of Christmas time, I’ll tell you any day. The very best, happiest, part I know are the presents you give away.
From what we’ve observed, children, by nature, have giving hearts. But we know what it’s like to hear the “I wants” every time you walk through the store. It’s easy for children to get “wrapped up” in the gifts. However, the holidays are the perfect opportunity for children to learn how to give, how giving feels, and how to be grateful.
Here are four simple ways to help you teach gratitude and the joy of giving to your preschooler.
4 Ways to Teach Gratitude & The Joy of Giving
1- Ask What They are Going to Give
It’s so easy to ask, because we were all asked the same question: “What do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?”. And as fun (or scary) as it is to climb onto the big man’s bright red lap and relay to him the wish list, try to shift the focus to what your child is going to give for Christmas. Gifts from young children don’t even need to cost money. The best gifts they can give come from their hearts and artistic hands.
Instead of making a wish list, help them make a give list. As they make a list of the people they love, help them think of acts of service they can do for those people.
2- Identify the Joy of Giving
Preschoolers are still identifying emotions that they feel. You can help them identify that warm glowing feeling they get when they give something by naming it joy. As they create or pick out gifts for family and friends, help them feel excited as they anticipate how the person will feel as they open the gift.
As parents, we can also model gratitude in daily conversation. “Someone helped me put my cart away while I loaded the kids in the car today. That made me feel so grateful.” Or, “Someone dropped these cookies off on our front steps. How does that make you feel?”. Try spending a few minutes every dinner or tuck-in time discussing things you are grateful for that day.
And, as always, reading a book is a natural way to start up a conversation on the topic. Here are a few links to book lists on gratitude you can check out:
When children can identify the happiness that comes from receiving, they can better identify the joy that comes from giving someone happiness.
3- Share What They Have
Sometimes it’s hard to provide our children with the opportunity to see those less fortunate than themselves. As a parent, you need to be the judge of what is appropriate for them to see. But for a child, seeing someone who has less than herself can be a game-changer for giving.
“In with the new and out with the old” can bless the lives of others. As they receive new toys for the holidays, help them pick old ones they can donate. Talk about where it is going. If they’ve seen other children who have less, they will have a better idea of who will be playing with their toys, which can bring them joy.
During the holiday season, opportunities to give are all around us. For example, you can find a Sub 4 Santa or Giving Tree. Have your child help you do the shopping and wrapping. At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we do Project Sleep Tight in the winter. Children will be able to donate a blanket, book, and stuffed animal for a child who is displaced from their home.
4- Thank You!
Having a gratitude attitude begins with saying “Thank you”. As your child opens presents this season, help them remember those polite little words. Some families choose to open presents one at a time so the giver and the receiver can enjoy the moment and thank you’s (and great big hugs) can be given.
You can also have your child write or draw thank you notes for the gifts they’ve received. Even if they dictate, verbalizing their gratitude helps them recognize what they are given and how it makes them feel.
In November, we teach gratitude as our monthly character trait. We hope you can also help them identify gratitude through the holiday season. There is nothing that brings us more joy than seeing our preschoolers find the joy of sharing and giving. Come see the joy we are having at UDA Creative Arts Preschool by scheduling a tour of our Draper, Utah facility by calling 801-523-5930.
Written by: Elsje Denison