Around Christmas time, I know there are many moms who think, “I want my children to learn that Christmas is a time for giving and helping others (not just getting presents!); however, I know my house is about to be bombarded with new toys!” One answer to this discord is to make a tradition of donating some of your child’s gently used toys a few weeks before the holidays. This helps children participate in and be a big part of the act of giving, as well as make room for the influx of new toys that is inevitable in many homes each Christmas. The process of donating toys may look very different depending on the age(s) of your children, but the general approach is the same:
1. Talk with your child about the whats and whys of giving
As with any new situation with children, talking about it with them can help them understand what is going on and why. Children don’t inherently know that others live differently than them, so explaining the differences in how they live (with lots and lots of toys to play with) and how some others may live (few or no toys) may be necessary before diving right in to giving away some of their possessions. This opens the door for your child to understand why they are giving some of their toys and how it helps others.
2. Assist them in choosing which toys to donate
Asking your child to go into their playroom amidst dozens of toys and come out with several to happily give away can be overwhelming. You may need to help break down the process into something more manageable. For example, you could gather all their toys and sort them into categories (all cars together, all dolls together, etc.) This can help them physically see just how many of each type of toy they have and help them understand that they may not need so many and that it could be time for another child to enjoy some of them now. Once the toys are organized, have them toss out worn or broken toys. The toys they are giving should be in good condition so that another child can enjoy it, not a way to hand off toys that no one wants. From this point, it might be helpful to choose, along with your child, a goal for how many toys you would like to donate. Once you have decided on, say, 5 toys, begin talking with him about which toys would be good ideas to pass on now. “This was one of your favorite toys when you were three. You are six now! Do think another three-year-old would really like to enjoy this toy now?” or “I know you really love trucks. Seven trucks is a lot to have all to yourself! Maybe there are some other children who don’t have any trucks who would love to play with one of these trucks.”
Line up toys in an organized way before helping children decide which ones to donate
3. Help them focus on their blessings and all the things they DO have
With all the focus on “getting rid of” their things, children can forget about all the things they DO have. And not just “things;” put the focus on how fortunate they are to have all their family and friends, as well as things like warmth, laughter, love, and so much more! In addition to focusing on all the blessings in their lives, it is okay to acknowledge that the giving part can be hard at times. It is a good time to talk about these feelings and help them understand why yet another toy for them can be a lot more meaningful for a child who lives in need.
Be sure to acknowledge your child’s progress each step of the way as they learn more about what giving is, why they are participating, and they difference they are making in the lives around them by making the choice to give. They are doing very big things with their hearts and in their communities by choosing to give this holiday season!
An extra tip:
I have seen the idea floating around Pinterest to have Santa send his toy sack to your house one night for the children fill it with their toys that other children can play with now (donate), and Santa takes the toys back to his workshop to fix up and give out on Christmas Day. Michael’s craft stores have some adorable and inexpensive large felt sacks that would be great if you want to incorporate Santa into this tradition. We aren’t involving Santa for this particular tradition at our house, but I must admit the sack is a great size for donating several toys and makes the process a bit more festive anyhow!