With the Kids

How to Raise Charitable Children

Jyl from Mom it Forward is here as my guest today sharing great ideas and tips to get your kids giving and sharing, learning to help make the world a better place!


Growing up, I remember feeling frustrated when my parents dragged me from service project to service project, forcing me to give up precious time with my friends and, let’s face it, even more invaluable time sitting on the couch watching tv LOL! I was convinced my parents were service-a-holics. And what that meant for their six children, especially me being the oldest, was a life of indentured servitude… or so I thought.

Now, with two children of my own, I have realized that my parents taught me one of the most powerful lessons a parent could teach: knowledge and a love of service. So, now as I “drag” my own children from project to project, I have wondered what, exactly, it was that my parents did that helped me turn my drudgery for service into a passion.

Here are 10 tips I have extrapolated from their parenting that I hope to instill in my children.

make-and-takes-mom-it-forward-service-project_i1. Serve With Your Children. Serving side by side with your children is one of the most powerful teachers of how to serve all while bringing the family closer. While kids may complain, the bonding time you share sticks in their memories as a positive experience. When they have children of their own and search for ways in which to bond with their children, they will want to repeat the positive experiences they had as a child and the cycle will continue.

2. Talk to Your Children About Giving and Sharing. When you are not able to serve side by side with your children, share in detail your experiences after the event. Specifically, help them understand the need, how you helped to meet the need, and why your giving and sharing was so important. If you can, take pictures or video and share it with them. Your excitement for your volunteering will be contagious!

Family Service Project at Assisted Living Facility
Family Service Project at Assisted Living Facility

3. Choose Service Activities Your Children Are Passionate About. Service activities come in many shapes and sizes. Identify what is important to your children and choose activities and causes that fit with their interests. Some suggestions include animals, the environment, children will illnesses, an illness a family member suffers from, etc.

4. Choose a Cause That Taps In to Your Child’s Talents, Skills, & Abilities. Does your child play a musical instrument? Does she like to do arts and crafts? Is he good at weeding or picking up trash? Can she make homemade greeting cards? Can he sing in a group? Nursing homes is just one example of a place that allows kids to visit and share who they are with others. This act of sharing and giving boosts self esteem and helps children learn that their talents, skills, and abilities can be used for good.

5. Tie Everyday Tasks Into Service. Make service an everyday activity and giving a constant thought by reinforcing these concepts in simple things like sharing toys, taking turns, secretly doing a sibling’s chores, giving family members hugs and kisses, etc. You can do this by saying things like: “Johnny, great job at sharing your toys with Billy. That shows that you are a giving person.” To help kids recognize the many ways to serve, create a Giving Chart, where they identify either in written or drawing format things they can do on a daily basis to serve those around them.

Cousins Creating Treasure Boxes (Gratitude Charts)
Cousins Creating Treasure Boxes (Gratitude Charts)

6. Show Gratitude. Helping kids recognize and show appreciation for things they are grateful for is an important aspect of service. Involve your children in gratitude activities such as keeping a gratitude journal or art book; going on gratitude walks; keeping a Daily Gratitude Chart on the refrigerator where you, as a family, can list your blessings; and having activities such as sitting in a circle and sharing what you are grateful for about the person sitting to your right.

7. Add an Aspect of Giving to Holidays & Events. The Christmas and Hanukkah season is a terrific and natural time to give to others, but you can add a touch of service during many other events as well. For example, many people are now donating their birthday gifts to charity.

Kids Bowling to Help Fight Poverty in Africa
Kids Bowling to Help Fight Poverty in Africa

8. Serve even when you’re away from home. What a better way to get to know and bond with a destination location than to serve it or its community? If you’ll be away on a long trip, you can arrange a project through an organization. Nearly every major city has a homeless shelter or rescue mission, for example. For shorter stays, simple tasks like picking up garbage at a park and smiling at strangers on the street can make a big difference. Before going on a trip, plan as a family by answering the question: What can we do to give back to the towns and people we’ll be visiting?

Decorating Tree at Center for Abused Children
Decorating Tree at Center for Abused Children

9. Do Unto Others as They Need You to Do Unto Them. What’s valuable to teach your kids about service is that everyone needs to be loved in different ways and that finding out and meeting their needs is most important. While some people need your undivided attention, others need a quick smile or hug. Still others may need a meal brought in (and yes, kids can and should help with that!) or their houses cleaned. When you look at a person and ask yourself and your child: What need does that person have and how can we meet it, you are getting at the heart of selfless service.

10. Emphasize the Role of Money in Charity. Giving includes all sorts of things, many of which do not cost a cent. A child can donate old toys, clothes, or art supplies to organizations that need them. But, since charities also require money to operate, volunteer opportunities and causes that require money offer a wonderful way to teach children about its value. For example, just as you can teach kids to save by reserving a percentage of their allowances for a savings account, you can also have them put aside a specific amount for a giving account. Turn this into a craft activity where they get to decorate three cans or envelopes, labeling them: “Spending,” “Saving,” and “Giving”.

For some great child-oriented service projects, read here.

(Top photo used with permission from Flickr.)

Thanks, Jyl. As I’ve had the opportunity to serve along side Jyl and with my kids, it’s been very rewarding. I can’t wait to jump into another service project with the whole family again.


  1. Thank you for writing such a great post. I really liked what you had to say and I will put it into practice.

  2. Thanks, Jyl. I am excited to begin getting to know more about mom-it-forward. You are doing some incredibly fantastic work here. I love how you serve all year long….not just at holiday times. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Satsuki, thanks for your comment. I loved to include my little ones in helping me make meals, pick weeds, or clean other’s houses. Even though their contribution was minimal at best, it was major for them and their abilities. The key is to make it fun.

    Also, if you take them along to marches and walks, even if you are just pushing them in the stroller, it starts helping them see that this type of activity is important to you. I know the March of Dimes often has bounce houses and clowns and other kid-friendly things at their events, which even a 2-year old will appreciate.

    Finally, basic teaching moments like sharing and giving and hugging and kissing can be reinforced with simple phrases like: “That was giving” or “That was kind.” He or she may not totally understand, but the repetition of these phrases will rub off. You can even act out “giving” type activities with toys and dolls to show that “billy the bear” is sharing with such and such. It’s amazing what they pick up on!!!

    Good luck! :)

  4. Wonderful post, I’ll be repeating your line Do unto others as they need you to do unto them….if you don’t mind!

  5. There are some wonderful suggestions in here. I talk a lot about charitable acts and involve the kids where I can but there are some great ways here for me to include them even more. And, I’d love to give them “wings” to find a charity that really speaks to them and help them do something for it rather than have them help me with something I care about (which may or may not sync up with them).

  6. Do you have any ideas for a mom and toddler to do? My babe’s 2 so the whole listening to direction bit hasn’t quite kicked in yet. I’d love to find activities that would work with her age-appropriate abilities though. Any help or suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated. (In case you can’t tell I enjoyed volunteering in my pre-mom days.)

  7. I love your story about the 12 days of Christmas for a family your family knew personally in need. Great ideas here Jyl!

    Hi Marie!

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