Finding the latest toy wrapped under the tree is nice, but it's far better to give than to receive during Christmastime. Helping others and sharing the spirit of generosity is richly rewarding, and it's a wonderful idea to instill this outlook in our children from a young age. 

Here are some tips for teaching kids how to be thoughtful during Christmastime:

Help them rethink what makes a 'gift'
With all the flashy commercials on TV and the retail frenzy that takes place during the holiday season, it's easy for kids to grow up thinking that the latest or greatest material item is the only meaningful gift to give to others. It's important to help your children understand that gifts don't have to cost anything — or even be a physical thing — to make someone smile. 

giftPresents are nice, but it's important to teach kids that it's better to give than to receive during the holiday season.

You can do this by helping your kids find meaningful gifts for others, such as grandparents or the community. Emphasize that it's the thought behind the present that truly counts. 

Some meaningful gifts could be:

  • A personalized item: Often the best gifts are those that deeply reflect a person's passions and hobbies. Encourage your children to think about gifts that match these interests, or that fill a certain need someone has expressed. 
  • A homemade gift: Homemade gifts made by children will be treasured forever by their family members. They could draw a picture, paint a clay figurine, create a collage or frame a favourite photo. 
  • A gift of their time: Kids could offer to join grandparents in participating in their favourite hobby. Or, they could make "coupons" for their time: CBC Kids gives the examples of coupons for tidying their rooms, doing extra chores or making breakfast. 

Give back to the community 
One of the central values of Christmas is caring for those in need. Encourage your children to find ways that they can volunteer and give back to the community during the season. You could also set an example by signing up the entire family for volunteer or charity work. 

Children may be unaware that there are many people in need in their local communities, and they may not know what volunteer opportunities even exist. From afterschool tutoring programs to homeless shelters and nursing homes, there are so many settings and opportunities for kids to take part in volunteer work. 

Another way to teach the spirit of giving is to involve your children in collecting items for food drives and other programs. For example, you could ask them to pick out a canned good while you are at the supermarket, or to choose a toy to give to a child in need this Christmas. 

"Involve your children in collecting items for food drives."

Take the time to teach your children how charities and foundations work and that it's important to donate. Making a donation in someone's name also makes a wonderful gift, and after telling them about the tangible impacts of these contributions, your child may ask that a donation or collection is made in place of a Christmas gift. 

For example, one mother told CBC Parents how her children's birthday parties have become opportunities for giving

"At each of their birthday parties, rather than have guests bring gifts, we put out a basket and collect baby food for the foodbank," said Mary-Jo Dionne. "They come with me to deliver the baby food to the foodbank and we talk about how some kids were born into families who may not have enough money to buy food, and it's important to have compassion for these people."

Pay it forward 
Kindness should happen year-round, but the Christmas season is a great opportunity to teach kids the importance of doing small acts of kindness each and every day. Talk with your children about how valuable it is to look for small ways they can make someone's day easier or put a smile on someone's face. Encourage them to be mindful of their actions and how they affect others, and teach them the concept of "paying it forward."

One of the best ways to do this is by setting an example. Hold the door open for others, use polite manners, clean up after yourself, help a sibling with their chores: these are all small actions, but ones that make a large positive impact on others and collectively, make the world a better place. 

It's easy for children to get caught up material items during Christmastime and spend hours creating a mile-long gift wish list. But with the tips above, you can help instill a sense of generosity and thoughtfulness in your kids during the Christmas season, and beyond.