Helping Our Community Raise Curious, Creative, and Confident Children
Gift Giving for Toddlers & Preschoolers
Fostering generosity from an early age
Exchanging gifts is a major part of celebrating the holidays for most American families, and the act of giving and receiving gifts can offer a lifetime of memories and deep feelings of connection and joy.

In fact, psychologists have found that giving a gift is a universal way to show interest, appreciation, and gratitude, and it strengthens bonds with others. Giving also gives children a sense of self-esteem and pride, says author Ellen Sabin. "It makes you realize that you and your actions matter."
Helping children experience giving in a season when they're surrounded by messages about getting is challenging! 
Toddlers and preschoolers are just beginning to emerge from their normal ego-centric development. They are starting to see that others have needs and interests, sometimes different than their own, and sometimes the same. This is the beginning of empathy. 

Remember that being able to put one's self in other's shoes is an advanced skill. Be patient with little ones. Gift giving can be a great opportunity practice by asking young children to think about what things other family members, teachers or friends like. Then it follows, what could we give them to help them do what they like? 

Here are some tips:
  • Start small when the kids are young. Be aware that young children still need help learning to share. If you are baking or buying a small gift for someone you love, you may want to give your child a small gift as well until she’s developmentally ready to understand the joy of giving without receiving. Remind her that the person who receives the gift will feel similar feelings of happiness as she does when receiving the gift.

  • Involve your child in selecting gifts. Help her think about who she wants to give a gift to and what they may like (not just what she likes.) If she’s making or buying a gift for her brother, talk about his interests together before deciding what to give him. If you’re donating money to a needy cause together, let her decide what cause is important to her to help her feel connected to the act of giving.
     
  • Do something fun, like cooking or an art project. Even very young children can draw pictures for relatives or bake cookies to donate to the local homeless shelter. These are perfect ways to have fun while thinking about others.
There is joy that comes from the experience of being a generous person.

Keep it going year-round
  • Plant the seeds of giving all year long, not just at the holidays. Help your child put away part of his allowance or birthday money to give to others. Volunteer together on the weekends. Talk about those in need at the dinner table. There are dozens of small ways to cultivate generosity throughout the year.
  • Give experiences, not just material possessions. As a gift, spend special time together doing something your child loves. A night at the theater or an afternoon at the zoo will enrich your child, help you stay connected as a family, and last as a memory much longer than any toy.
  • Get your extended family and friends involved. Ask your loved ones to invest in their relationships with your children through special experiences instead of investing in their toy collections. Your child will thrive through love and connection, and your house won’t get as cluttered with more things.

Resources:

Mindful Gift Giving in Families Shapes Values
https://www.rootsofaction.com/gift-giving-families/

Teaching preschoolers about the importance of giving and being kind.
 
Gail Innis: Michigan State University Extension. 2013.
www.msue.anr.msu.edu/news/teaching_preschoolers_about_the_importance_of_giving_and_being_kind

Lessons in Giving: Raise a generous child who thinks about others. 
Interview with Dr. Carole Weisman on Scholastic.com.www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/parent-child/lessons-giving

The Psychology Behind Gift-Giving. Darice Britt. 2011.
www.source.southuniversity.edu/the-psychology-behind-giftgiving-61911.aspx

Gift Giving for Kids, PBS  http://www.pbs.org/parents/holidays/gift-giving-kids/

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