Each year, the Casesa family from Franklin Square visits Target to purchase carts of crayons, craft items, and decks of cards. All five members then convene at the dining room table to assemble the stockings they plan to donate to children’s hospitals.
Lisa Casesa says that kids who receive oodles of holiday gifts have trouble imagining what it is like to look forward to a few mini-goodies. Many believe that youngsters who donate their time to those less fortunate have better self-esteem, more compassion, and greater gratitude than their peers.
“A lot of children don’t understand how a stocking filled with toys could be the only thing kids get for the season,” she says.
How can you teach your little ones to love giving back this holiday season? Here are some ideas.
LET THEM PLAY GROWN-UP
Nothing teaches children the realities of poverty like having to figure out financial problems for themselves.
Long Island Cares hosts Hunger 101 events during the holidays every year. Children are given play money and told to make priorities for spending on their basic needs.
“Opportunities like this provide teachable moments,” says CEO Paule Patcher. “They sensitize children to the needs of those less fortunate than themselves.”
ADD A PLAYLIST
Whether you’re filling shoeboxes with gifts or visiting a soup kitchen, let your kids sparkle up their service by making memories while they work.
Turn up your favorite holiday tunes while kids bake cookies for their elderly neighbors, and let them each bring a friend while you deliver the cookies. The natural joy of the season will enhance the satisfaction they get from giving. And your juniors will want to continue the tradition each year.
There is no shortage of service opportunities on Long Island.
Kids can donate clothes, adopt a family, or rake leaves for their neighbors. What those they serve may be most eager for is a new friend or someone to listen to their story. Your tots will remember that family they had dinner with, or the folks at a nursing home who told them about their school days, much more than a drop-off.
And they might even learn a few lessons along the way!