Here are four ways to give your child the gift of a generous heart on his or her birthday.
by Heidi Indahl
It isn’t actually my birthday, but we did have a birthday in our family this week so birthdays are on my mind. We celebrated our daughter Siena’s first birthday last week with a fundraiser for our local Ronald McDonald House. A few years back, we celebrated another daughter’s birthday by hosting a book drive for the pregnancy and infant bereavement program at our hospital. Instead of presents for our children, we collected items and raised money for other families in need.
In our case, these projects started as a way to remember and honor our girls, both of whom died shortly before or after their births. Birthdays, however, offer opportunities for doing something for others with our living children as well. Making a habit of serving with our children gives them the gift of a generous heart. Here are four ideas you might want to consider.
In and Out Rule
Before filling your toy shelves, closets, and bookshelves with new things, make it a habit to choose a few things that can be passed on to someone else. This is a good habit for any gift-giving or gift-receiving occasion.
Birthday Party for Charity
I’ve seen this one making the rounds on Facebook lately. Ask the birthday child to choose a charity or cause that is important to them and ask for donations in lieu of gifts. I’ve actually heard of kids asking for dog food for the local animal shelter as birthday presents. I imagine St. Francis would be proud.
Search for “birthday party charity” online and several interesting possibilities pop up. ECHOAGE allows you to send electronic party invitations; when guests RSVP, they donate toward the charity of your choice and chip in toward a gift or two that you specify. Kids get a nice gift, and the pride of helping others. Kids Can Give Too puts a slightly different spin on the idea: “Parents register their child’s party and choose a charity. KCGT creates a secure, custom invitation link that is sent to your party guests. Guests are asked to RSVP and make a secure online donation, instead of bringing a wrapped gift. After the party, we split the gifts between your child and your chosen charity.”
Individual charities also offer ways to incorporate giving into your birthday party.
I Love You Donations
Consider making a small donation to a cause of your child’s choice each year on their birthday. While we haven’t done these types of gifts for birthdays, I notice that when our children have a say in where we donate money and spend time doing some research of their own they are often inclined to add a few dollars of their own. If you have a large family and can’t afford to make this donation each year, consider selecting certain ages when an extra special gift is made.
Family Service Project
On birthdays we try to do at least one special activity as a family, spending time together doing something that the birthday kid (or adult) enjoys. Service projects can make great special activities. Consider volunteering at a local food shelf, picking up trash at the park, or create your own project to serve others.