December can be a tricky time. While we all want children who understand concepts of unselfishness and service, Christmastime too often ends up with a lot of emphasis on “What do YOU want for Christmas?”
One of the ways I have tried to help children get a hands-on feel for service is by turning our preschool Christmas party into a service party. (Details and links can be found in this older post.) I took a preschool social studies approach, including projects that represent expanding spheres of social connection: family, neighborhood, and city.
At the service party there are several activities going on at the same time (and parents are there to help). As service to family, the childern can decorate cookies to bring home and share. To serve a neighbor, they put together a meal to share wtih a neighbor who may be in need, sick, or lonely. To serve others in the city, they help make simple fleece scarves or blankets to donate to a local homeless shelter.
The children really seem to enjoy the activities, and I enjoy taking a break from focusing only on what they want out of Christmas. I hope they really get a sense of the joy of service as they take part in each activity.
I enjoyed reading about the Random Acts of Christmas Kindness blogger Tracie carried out with her daughters. From taping quarters to vending machines to handing out Starbucks gift cards to strangers, I really think my boys would get a great deal of satisfaction sharing with others and seeing the reaction or anticipating the reactions as they carry out these various acts.
There are other simple ways. By involving children in the service we already render — delivering gifts to neighbors, shoveling a neighbors walk — we give them the opportunity not only to experience the joy and satisfaction in service, but also build their own sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem. All with an unselfish act.
How do you encourage the children you love and teach to serve in meaningful ways?