This whole "celebrating the holidays with kids" thing is on my mind. I'm especially thinking about ways to celebrate the holidays without religious or commercial observances. As part of my job, I help plan and run mini-camps for kids during school breaks. One of our camps happens to be during winter break, and my activities will revolve around how different cultures approach winter and the lack of light.
In doing my research, I keep running across fabulous websites with good suggestions for celebrating the holidays with kids. They likely won't work well for my camp, but I think the suggestions bear redistribution. After my recent post on raising charitable children, other little extras have been catching my eye.
Today, I found an article on making a global wish list as an alternative (or addition) to the santa letter. Seems to me that this would be an excellent way to springboard a family discussion about positive actions toward achieving these global wishes. For example, if your children are particularly concerned about ending world hunger, you might research charities like OXFAM, Heifer Project International, or other organizations. Children concerned with the environment can learn about Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, or the World Wildlife Fund. You can even look for charitable giving opportunities in your own backyard, like your local nature center (hint hint) or historical society.
Furthermore, this is a potential opportunity to delve into economics and business sense. Many national charities (and perhaps local ones too) publish information about where dollars go when they are donated. Talk to your kids about how organizations use the money; why can't every cent donated be used directly to buy food for the poor, environmentally sensitive land, or fund patrolling rangers to protect against poaching?
As your children get older, encourage them to begin their own work to raise more money for causes they believe in. Reader's Digest recently profiled a 12 year old girl who raised $50,000 to build a school in Vietnam. Perhaps your own 12 year old is not that ambitious, but perhaps she or he can weed yards, rake leaves, or shovel snow for neighbors with the goal of donating the money to a good cause.
The idea here is to move Christmas/Hanukkah/etc away from a present glut and toward a more thoughtful, reflective holiday. Yes, a present or two is nice for your children. But so is learning to share the season. Family Fun (the website with the global wish list idea) has a bunch of fabulous ideas within the same article, including building a toy workshop to refurbish your old toys before giving them away to charity. What better way to clear some space on the shelves before adding new presents? And, again, this fulfills multiple purposes. You remind your children to share, you encourage them to reuse the items rather than trashing them, and you get a good feeling from passing along something you are no longer using. Overall, by implementing more community- and world-minded implements into your holiday, you begin to raise mindful children who understand that there is a whole world around them.
I stumbled across an awesome article that details 6 ways to raise a charitable child. The basic message is simple: be a good role model, and get your child started early. What I particularly love is the idea put forth by the parents in the article. They suggest that you make donations in your child's name, but be sure to make age-appropriate donations to organizations that are interesting for the child.
Therefore, good donations for young children include "adopting" an animal at the zoo or giving money to the Humane Society.
The key to age-appropriate donating is making sure that kids are able to connect with their giving. As children get older, you can help them choose appropriate charities. Political or abstract giving (say, to world hunger) is better for teens, and giving to public schools or third world nations might be good for children in upper elementary.
Still, tho, the main point is to set up a culture of generosity within your household. Sit down with children, and make sure they understand where your charitable giving goes. And allow kids to participate in how the family's money will be spent.
For my part, I have a couple of organizations that I support when I'm able. Due to my internship, my giving has dropped somewhat this year, but I try hard to still give something. I've already donated to the nature center where I work, and I have several more causes that will get my money sometime in the next few months, including
* The Nature Conservancy (conserve land throughout the world, including in your own backyard)
* Heifer International (buy animals and training for third world citizens)
* Donors Choose (public school supplies for low-income schools)
* Habitat for Humanity
* various nature centers/zoos/etc via "adopting animals," but typically done spur-of-the-moment, so I have no links
So, what are your favorite charities? Where do you choose to donate money?
In honor of Darwin Day, we EEB kids had a party last Saturday night. Everyone dressed up as their favorite adaptation. Fun times were had; I'm down for anything that involves face paint :-) I dress up as leaves (long time readers will realize that this is quite similar to my Halloween costume). What can I say? I think leaves are one of the most beautiful things in the world.
Photos behind the cut, with more photos at Flickr (including a pic of me with my cute date ^^)