A favorite tradition for our young family is to find a name on the community “giving tree” for whom to get a present. The giving tree, which is called an “angel tree” in some communities, is a tree with names of people (usually children) who have specific needs. By focusing on a specific individual with a personal need, we help our young children consider all that we have been blessed with. It helps them think of the needs of others during the holiday season.
The Who, What, and Where of Our Giving Tree Tradition
Our giving tree of choice is usually the one found in the library foyer. The cards indicate the age and gender of a child and a specific need he or she has.
To find a giving tree (or angel tree), begin with a simple google search for “giving tree” and you may find a list. Also, check with your Village Hall, local church, local community center, or local library. Local places of business may also implement such a service project.
We have done this for a few years. When my son was 5, we selected a 5-year-old boy who needed pajamas. He loved selecting pjs that he loved! Last year, my eight-year-old son chose a boy who was eight years old who needed underwear. It helped my son that it was someone his own age, and it helped him that there was a specific need indicated on the card.
“Can you imagine if you did not have underwear?” I asked him. “Don’t you think he’ll be glad to get this?”
Doing the Giving Tree with the Youngest Kids
Last year, my three-year-old daughter chose a teenager who needed a coat. Although Strawberrywas not the same age as the person we selected and although she was quite young, Strawberry enjoyed that she could help me select a coat for the girl. She did not want the girl to get cold outside. It was a simple concept that she could understand.
One of the things I am really focusing on right now for my little kids is teaching them to be generous, kind, and selfless. For little kids (I’m thinking about my preschooler here!), it is difficult to be selfless at Christmas time. It seems there is so much focus on making lists of things to get.
I love that we can consider other people at this time of year by recognizing the simple things that we have that others may need. I love that together we can consider those needs and thoughtfully purchase a gift.
We will never meet the children whose names are on the giving tree and for whom we shop. But doing so helps my young children understand gratitude and service.
In summary, here’s the scoop.
Service: Select the name of a person who has a specific need from a community giving tree, purchase a gift, and return the gift to the community center.
Cost: Moderate (from $10-$50 usually)
Time investment: a shopping trip (30 minutes) + selection of the name and delivery of the gift (time varies depending on where the community center is).
This post is the first in my mini-series, 5 Days of Christmas Service for a Family with Young Children. Check back tomorrow and each day this week for the rest of the series!