Category Archives: Heart of Giving

Heart of Giving: School Supplies

Free back to school clip art of black board with apple message.This is the time of year when many organizations are collecting school supplies for those in need.  Our church is one of the many.  We read through our church bulletin together and I explained the need to J.  He’s so excited about going to school with his backpack in hand and wanted other kids to have a backpack too.  The bulletin announcement had a list of sugggested supplies. J and I used that list to create our own picture list on ppt.  I read the item, typed it into clipart and J chose which  picture to use.  This made even list-making an activity he could participate in.

To add some math practice, include how many of each item is needed.  Then have your little one read the list and count the correct number to place in your shopping cart. Of course I didn’t think of that while making our own list!

We printed our picture list and headed to the store to make our purchases.  J “read” the list and called out the next item needed. Of course his favorite was crossing off each item with his highlighter! When we got home I set out all the supplies for him to fill the backpack with and it now sits by the door, waiting to be brought to church.  I plan on having J turn it in himself.

This is a great act of service to get kids involved in since they so easily relate.  Do a quick search for those collecting school supplies in your area, maybe a local church, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, etc.  As a former teacher I know all you really need to do is call up your local school, and ask them for a list of supplies needed.  There were always students in need on the first day of school.

Teaching the Joy of Giving

The joy of receiving comes pretty naturally to all of us doesn’t it!  In light of that, we’ve focused our attention on teaching J the joy of giving.  In fact J really hadn’t figured out that he would receive gifts on Christmas too… until this weekend 🙂  We made shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, homemade cookies for teachers and neighbors, he wanted to bring stickers to his friends to the Christmas celebration at Bible Study last week, …  I’ve been so proud that he is starting to think of ways to give on his own too! 

Honestly,  I’m learning how to teach this as I go.  But I’m finding it really it isn’t as difficult as I had anticipated.   We focus on the smiles on faces or the laughs we hear when we give, the way it makes someone else feel.  We try to vocalize how we feel when we’re given something to add more opportunities for J to make the connection behind the purpose of giving.   J is starting to notice.  He came home from Bible study so excited because the other kids in his class were “so happy!” when he gave them stickers. 

So this year I decided J was old enough to go shopping himself.  I started with dad first, asking J what gift he wanted to give daddy for Christmas.  His first response was cars and trains.  Of course! Those are J’s personal favorites so why wouldn’t dad enjoy those too?

So we had a lesson on how to give gifts. Think about what the person enjoys doing.  What do we see daddy excited about?  This wasn’t easy for my 2 year old to grasp.  But he eventually got it!  I was so proud when he finally started listing things that Daddy liked and decided on the perfect gift.  An orange!  He was so thrilled with the idea.  And it’s true, my husband loves oranges.  So we took off to the store to buy an orange.  

J wrapped up the orange and he placed it under the tree.  J has been THRILLED with his choice and COULDN’T WAIT to give it to daddy.  In fact when dad came home from work the night of our shopping trip, J ran up to him with a “Happy Birthday!!”  I got you orange!!!”  Obviously he’s still a bit confused.  It’s a work in progress.   He wanted dad to open the gift right away, but slowly caught on when I convinced him to keep it a secret until Christmas.  Each day since, he has retrieved the gift for dad from under the tree and carried it around, telling me all about what’s inside.  He gives it a place of honor, separate from the other gifts.  It’s so cute to watch. 

I love that his focus is not on the gifts for him that wait under the tree, but what he gets to give. 

Today was actually our family’s day to exchange gifts.  Schedules just made this most feasible instead of waiting Christmas morning (which is fine by me actually since now we can focus even more on Jesus’ birthday).  J ran straight to get dad’s gift.  His excitement was still there and was thrilled to see dad open (and eat) his present.  Can you tell? 

Tonight during our bedtime prayer, long after all gifts were opened, J of course was thankful for the gifts he received.  But, I love that he wasn’t focused on just that.  He also remembered in prayer, getting to give dad a gift too and how happy dad was to get  his orange.  I think teaching the joy of giving is a process that takes time and lots of practice.  I definitely think it’s worth the effort to start working even when our kids are young.  

There’s still plenty of time!  Ask your little one what they would like to give their mom, dad, or grandparents for Christmas.  I would suggest having this conversation before hitting the store.  Encourage them to think from another’s perspective.  It doesn’t have to cost much, the price of an orange can go a long way in teaching a very important lesson.

Now on to see what J wants to give the rest of the family!

Teaching Thanksgiving to Toddlers and Preschoolers

This is really the first year I included lessons on Thanksgiving prior to Thanksgiving day. The majority of what we do comes in day to day conversations.  I’ve used books, pictures, activities, games, and videos to give J a visual image of the different aspects of Thanksgiving.  You don’t have to do ALL of them, one book or one activity is enough to jump start many conversations throughout your day.  In my experience, those conversations are where they learn the most.  They are often asking questions and therefore paying close attention to the answers.  It’s all really simple and easy to do.  

Here are a few resources I used to help me introduce the history and purpose of Thanksgiving to J (at 2.5 yrs old). You might have seen most of these links on my Thanksgiving index post, but I wanted to highlight a few that have been helpful for us in teaching.


Thankfulness List – “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. —Psalm 9:1” You don’t have to WOW them with fancy crafts, the beauty of a toddler!   I wrote the scripture on construction paper, we talked about it and then taped it up where near where he plays.  There’s a cup of strips nearby to add new things as inspiration strikes him.  My goal is to help him learn how to recognize things he’s thankful for all throughout the day and to thank God right then and there.  This means we stop whatever we’re doing to add to the poster.  It’s worth that tiny effort.  I review the scripture each time and we say a quick thank you prayer for that particular “wonderful deed” God did (or allowed in J’s life). 


“If I Were a Butterfly” – This is an adorable song that kids love about being thankful for how God made us.  I played this song for him (used just the audio from youtube since the pictures weren’t great IMO) and had pictures of the different animals up on the computer.  I just copied the pictures real quick from google images.  He could follow along with the song by pointing at the different animals.  Now we sing it together all the time.  Sometimes we pull the pictures out again and he can choose which animal to sing about next, sometimes he calls out a random animal and I make up a verse about it.  We make it a fun game this way. 


“Let’s Celebrate God’s Blessings On Thanksgiving” by Lise CaldwellI loved how this book incorporates the history of Thanksgiving, applicable scripture and the modern day Thanksgiving our little one’s will experience.  (I found it for $2 at our local Christian Bookstore)

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Thanksgiving: With Turkey, Family, and Counting Blessings“Celebrate Thanksgiving with Turkey, Family, and Counting Blessings” by Deborah Heiligman – I like to use non-fiction books as well as fiction, just to get J used to seeing both type of books.  This is a book published by National Geographic that takes you from Pilgrims on the Mayflower to the Thanksgiving parade to pumpkin pie.  I wouldn’t buy this book, but it’s a helpful library check-out this time of year. 


“The Story of Thanksgiving Basically” – This is a cute cartoon video that tells the BASIC story (with some humor) and does a decent job connecting it to our lives today.  It’s no more than 2 minutes long, so will easily keep the attention of young ones. 

This is America, Charlie Brown, The Mayflower Voyagers – this video is longer than the first one I linked to, but does OK at telling the story in a way little ones can understand.  (the link will bring you to part one of the story; here’s part two)


Pilgrim, Pilgrim – This is a create your own coloring book about the pilgrims.  It’s told in a similar fashion to Brown Bear, Brown Bear.  I was surprised at how into coloring J was on this activity.  We just added a few quick staples and were done, nothing flashy.  We now have a good review book. 

Crafty Canned Food Drive – I love this (scroll down to the bottom of that link to see the canned food “craft”).  This is so simple, yet a great way to incorporate the lesson of WHY we give and be a witnessing tool as well.  You can bring this back to the history of Thanksgiving by explaining how we can be a blessing by bringing food to others, just like the Native Americans blessed the Pilgrims. 


Thanksgiving through pictures – J loved this game and still asks to play a full week later.  You can choose whichever Thanksgiving images you want to reinforce whichever aspect of Thanksgiving you want.  I made both cards for the historical aspect of Thanksgiving as well as images of things J will actually see when the family gets together. 


Thanksgiving Worksheet Packet – These are printable worksheets that add Thanksgiving imagery to basic skills like letters, writing, colors, sorting, and counting. They are really well done.  We won’t be doing all of the pages, but I’ve chosen a few that will challenge J.

Shoeboxes En Route!

We dropped off our shoeboxes today.  Look at the excitement on J’s face when we were ready to load them in the car and give them away! 

You have until Monday, November 22th to drop off your box. No worries, you have plenty of time! You can find a drop off location near you by typing in your zip code here.  If you haven’t started but would like to get your little ones involved, you have time!  It really doesn’t take long to put them together, even on toddler time. 

If you haven’t heard about this great opportunity to teach your little one the blessing of giving, check out my other posts here and here.  Or check out Operation Christmas Child’s website

christmas shoebox

Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child? Check!

  I wanted to post about our experience filling boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  This really was a perfect way to help my 2 year old understand the concept of giving.  See this post if you want to know more about the opportunity to give!

PREP: We made filling shoeboxes a family event with my husband, J and myself, starting by watching the videos I mentioned in the last post.  Veggietales’ Operation Christmas Child is 3 minutes long and “Give This Christmas Away” is almost 5 minutes.  They are great videos to help show the concept of Operation Christmas Child to little ones.



We talked about how happy the children were when they opened their boxes and how happy the children that made the boxes were.  Basically we got him excited about filling a shoebox with goodies for a little girl/boy somewhere in the world, focusing on how it would make that child feel.  We talked about what type of things we should put in the boxes and had him come up with a few things on his own (cars and balls!).  Print off this list of items to consider  from Operation Christmas Child to help.   

We pulled out our shoeboxes and pointed out that they were empty!  We needed to fill them with fun things for little boys and girls. 

 SHOPPING:   We all piled into the car with J holding his empty shoebox, ready

J is ready to fill his shoebox!

 to fill it up!  For younger ones, I would really suggest bringing the empty shoebox to the store with you.  This really helped J focus while we were shopping.  We went down the aisles to look for things little boys and girls could use.  He never once forgot the purpose of our visit.  Each time we pulled something off the shelf, he placed it in the shoebox.  It was fun to watch the shoebox fill up!

 PACKING: Since we were technically shopping for 3 boxes we had some more packing to do at home.  I spread out all the loot we brought home from the store (the following afternoon) and layed out our three wrapped boxes.  I could hand J 3 sets of crayons and he would sort them into the different boxes.  We made this an event too, letting him choose which boy would get the grey and white socks and which would get the blue and white ones, …  

ABOUT US: OCC has a fun worksheet  that allows you to share a little about yourself to the little one that will receive the box.  J helped answer the questions and glued a picture of himself onto each one.  Finally, he helped place the labels on each box and they now sit ready to deliver next week! **Remember if you want to follow your box, you’ll need the barcoded labels found here. **

Your Turn! You still have time to put together your own shoebox of goodies!  I was reminded of this event last Thursday and we had it completed by Sunday with no rushing and lots of fun.  You don’t have to mail the boxes yourself, just drop them off.  Click here to find your nearest drop off location.  You can drop off your shoebox between November 15-22.  Plenty of time to join in!

Operation Christmas Child

christmas shoeboxes

I am so excited about this!  I first heard about Operation Christmas Child last year through a Veggietales video.  Of course I didn’t find out about it until the after the deadline to drop off boxes.  This year I won’t miss it!  I think it is so important to teach J a heart of giving.  That takes putting it into practice. 

So this year we will be organizing some shoeboxes full of goodies for little boys and girls around the world.  I plan to do something similar to what Amanda described here on Impress Your Kids (a WONDERFUL site by the way!!)

Since J is so young, I first plan to show him this video: Veggie Tales Operation Christmas Child story. I originally saw this on the St. Nicholas Veggietales video. 

We’ll talk about the act of giving, make a list of fun things to give other little boys and girls and GO SHOPPING!  I’ll be sure to share how everything goes once we’ve packed our boxes, but I wanted to get this info out in case others would like to join us!  The week to drop off boxes is November 15-22, 2010.  Don’t miss out like I did last year!  If you go to Operation Christmas Child  you will find all the info you need, including where the drop off locations are for your area.  This is something everyone in the family can get involved in!

ETA: I wanted to mention that they even give you the opportunity to track your box.  You can a barcode online to attach to your box to determine it’s final location.  This is a great way to incorporate a little geography and culture to the project!  This page tells more about their tracking process.

To add to the links for you to check out, please take time to listen to this song, Give This Christmas Away.  It will touch your heart and inspire you to find all sorts of ways to give this year.