Teaching kids to be charitable shouldn’t be reserved just for the holidays. Instead, you can instill philanthropic values all year-round, starting as early as ages three or four and continuing through the teen years (when kids are notoriously more in the “gimmee” stage).
In fact, it’s actually good for kids of all ages.
“It’s actually been proven scientifically that giving increases self-esteem and self-confidence,” says Nancy Phillips, founder and president of DollarSmartKids Enterprises, Inc. and creator of Zela Wela kids books. “By witnessing their ability to help others locally or globally, kids realize they have the power to make a positive difference.”
Here are some tips to help you raise do-gooders, starting today:
1. Start at the right age.
Kids are natural givers, says Phillips, so start teaching them about charitable donations between the ages of three and five. “They are very generous in their formative years, so that’s the perfect time to start teaching them that giving comes first,” she says. Even before they’re old enough for an allowance, parents can discuss how money can be used to help others.
Even older kids can be taught new habits, says Phillips. Think about generous acts you can do as a family, like volunteer trips, Habitat for Humanity and soup kitchens. “Teens still have the majority of their lives ahead of them, so these things can be so impactful,” she says.
2. Get the right tools.
“Teach your child about the benefit of saving for themselves, but consider a different piggy bank for giving to others,” recommends Cathy Pareto, President of Cathy Pareto & Associates. Sites like Tykoon help kids put money toward saving, spending and sharing. There are also many ways to DIY a three-part piggy bank.
Other great teaching tools include charity-focused books and websites. “Read them stories about giving and sharing, and make them aware of young kids doing amazing work in their own community,” adds Pareto. And don’t forget the simple act of giving when cleaning out closets. Ask them whom they might like to donate their old clothes or toys to and why.
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3. Check out after-school programs that give back.
When evaluating after-school programs or summer camps, look for ones that have a “give-back” component to help reinforce the value and importance of charity. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are a great example where kids learn to serve others. “They realize that giving back is part of our world if they see good things going on around them,” says Phillips. Not only that, but this creates positive peer-pressure and inspires kids to want to be around others who are also doing good in the world.