Teaching Kids to Give Back

Start young to raise generous, civic-minded children.


Eva Trachtenberg’s children learned about charity young, as soon as they could understand the concept.

“The first time it came up was after a holiday and [my son] received some money,” the Saskatoon mother of four recalls. “I said, ‘We should donate it,’ and he didn’t know what that meant.”

From then on, she took every opportunity to talk about different charities and what they do: from the organization that helps their friends with juvenile diabetes to why the hospital was displaying an incubator at the local Walmart. She also enrolled her son in the group 100 Kids Who Care YXE, a youth branch of a charitable giving organization that Trachtenberg had joined herself.

Research shows that Trachtenberg’s approach is an effective one. According to a study by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Vanguard Charitable, philanthropic priorities are strongly shaped by family behaviours. So parents and grandparents who give and volunteer are more likely to influence the next generations to do the same.

According to the study, when we give, we create positive change in our communities. Being a donor is good for our mental and physical health and it reminds people how much they have. Trachtenberg says she wants her children to “know that there are other people out there who are less fortunate and need our help.”

Here’s how to get your kids on the charitable giving path early.

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    Start talking

    By three or four years old, many children are ready to understand the basics of charity. In fact, it’s never too early to talk about giving. At the grocery store, hockey rink or shopping centre, you can easily find opportunities to talk about and demonstrate donating and helping.
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    Be age appropriate

    Bringing a six-year-old to a shelter to serve Christmas dinner may be more of a hindrance than a help. It’s important to tailor the activity to the child’s abilities. This could mean helping make cookies for a charity bake sale or shovelling an elderly neighbour’s driveway
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    Make it easy

    Involve your kids in something you already do, such as donating their old toys and clothes to charity. Explain that these clothes will help families in need and ask your child how they think the boys and girls receiving them will feel when they see their new things.
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    Let them decide

    Set up a charity jar and let your child decide how much of her allowance to donate as well as who should receive the proceeds. By being part of the decision-making process, your child will feel more ownership and pride in helping out

It doesn’t have to be complicated, but teaching children early about charitable giving can help them become lifelong philanthropists. Even if your kids are older, it’s never too late to get in the habit of caring for others. Start now: both your family and your community will reap the rewards.

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