Know that when you teach your children to serve others at Christmas, they ARE learning compassion, kindness and how to give out of a thankful heart, even when you’re not sure they understand! Here are some service project ideas to help others at Christmas (that even the youngest children can take part in!).
Most of us have a desire to cultivate a servant’s heart in our children, especially around the holiday season.
We have all been very blessed, and serving others goes a long way in encouraging a grateful spirit in our children.
However, it seems like November and December usually turn into two months of running around and being busy with the focus mostly on ourselves.
Rather than letting that happen again this year, I wanted to give some ideas for teaching your kids how to serve others that work for even the youngest in the family!
Serving others is just a small representation of what Christ did for us: came “in the fullness of time” to provide for our great spiritual need for a Savior.
And so what we do when we serve is that we reflect Jesus’ love to others!
But how can we help our kids understand how to do kind things for other people–especially when they’re young and we’re not sure they comprehend what that means?
Here’s a conversation you can have to help your toddlers and preschoolers understand Christ-centered giving and serving:
To start, talk about all the wonderful things and blessings that we have in tangible terms. For really young kids, they can comprehend material possessions much more than intangible items, and so try to gear the conversation in that direction at first.
For instance, what I would say is, “Jude, can you think of some things that you have that you can be thankful for? How about your favorite stuffed puppy? What else can you think of?” Just keep going where the conversation leads and and help prompt your child if needed.
Then you can say something like, “There are lots of other wonderful things you have too, like grandparents that love you and yummy food to eat. And you know that God loves you too, right? God shows He loves us a lot of times. He shows His love by sending Jesus to be born as a baby and to be our Savior. He shows us love by helping us make good choices, like choosing to listen to Mom and Dad.”
The next step is to talk about another way that God shows His love to people: by giving us love that we can share with others, and also by giving us things that we can share.
You might want to give some examples, like this: “Jude, God loves us so much and so He helps us to love other people. We can show God’s love by doing things like hugging (remember, this is a tangible example they’ll understand more easily), by telling people about Jesus and by sharing things with other people who don’t have the same things we have.”
Third, move on to talking about how your family can share and give. Young kids can understand the concept of sharing and giving pretty well, because we’ve probably as parents told them to “share” with others on many occasions! :)
So you might say, “God wants us to show Jesus’ love to other people by giving them things and sharing with them all that we can. There is a Bible verse that says ‘we love because He first loved us.’ There is another Bible verse that says ‘be kind to one another’, and so we can listen to God and do what those Bible verses ask us to do!”
Lastly, you can share specifically what your family will be doing to help, give and share with other people!
Be honest with them and use simple terms to help them understand why people need certain things that your kids already have. For instance, my 3 year old might not know that not everyone has enough food to eat or cozy pajamas to wear. Or they may not know that you are going to sing to residents at a nursing home because they might be lonely. So it’s important to explain these things to them so they know the WHY behind serving others together as a family this Christmas season!
While your young child might not understand the term “serve”, you can certainly use that word in conversation and eventually they’ll begin to comprehend what that means as they connect “acts of service” to things that you as a family are doing for others. You can also memorize the verse “serve one another in love,” from Galatians 5:13.
Hopefully that is helpful to you as you seek to teach your little kids about giving in a way they’ll understand!
Remember too, that as you carry out these principles of serving others in your home, your little ones will absorb the concepts you are teaching them. They’ll be excited about all the fun things you’re doing to help others, too!
Don’t be afraid to start when they’re really young and don’t worry if it doesn’t seem like they understand fully–that will come with time!
Now, here are the ideas!
10 Simple Ways For Children to Serve Other at Christmas
1. Sing Christmas Carols at the Nursing Home
You guys, the ladies and gentlemen in the nursing home absolutely LOVE having carols sung to them! This is something that we did with our kids for many years in our small town and now our youth group goes around and sings to people from church.
Call and see if this is allowed of course. Then, print out some song sheets and take some friends! It works really well to go to the commons area to start and then walk down the halls, passing rooms. If you tell the administration what time you’ll be there, they’ll usually bring the residents out into the hall to listen.
2. Shop from the Samaritan’s Purse Holiday Catalog
We as a family are looking through the Samaritan’s Purse holiday catalog so our two older children can decide what to “purchase”: some baby chicks, enough food for a child for a month, mosquito nets to prevent malaria in developing countries or another gift. There are a lot of options for every budget. You can see the catalog online HERE.
3. Pack Boxes for Operation Christmas Child
During November, we are always packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child with our church. This is also a ministry connected to Samaritan’s Purse.
It’s so much fun, because each of our kids gets to pack a box for a child their age! It’s a very tangible way to teach your children about giving and serving others through our abundance. Even the littlest ones can help!
4. Serve at a Local Mission or Shelter
Every person feels differently about what point their child is ready to participate in local missions or shelters. Here are a couple of ways that you can take part in their different holiday programs:
- Check with your local mission to see if they are collecting any particular items for the Christmas season. Often they will appreciate donations of every day items like socks and shirts as well as new toys that can be given as gifts to any kids who benefit from the mission.
- Some shelters are in need of people to come and distribute items to the residents. When I was in college, we would go to a children’s home in downtown Minneapolis to sort and hand out donated coats, hats and gloves. This is a great job for young kids (if allowed to be there)!
- Ask your local community action agency (start by calling the city office if you aren’t sure who that would be) if they could use donated cleaning items or new bedding and pillows (or anything else!). In our community, we have an organization that helps single moms find apartments to rent and they like to give them a box with cleaning supplies and bedding for their new home.
- In the future, once our kids are older, we’d like to serve a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal at our local rescue mission. If your children are not yet old enough to help with this either, you could go shopping and buy some ingredients that your local mission or church group needs to prepare said Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner!
- Check out some more ideas in this Facebook post from many years ago!
5. Gather Gently Used Toys to Donate
This can be easier said than done! If it’s too hard for your littles to part with their toys, then go ahead and just go shopping for a few new and nice things you can give away! You could give these to someone you know who might be financially struggling this Christmas or find a local organization where you can physically bring the items.
Having the kids actually see where their gifts are going is super helpful for them in understanding what serving really means.
6. Color Christmas pictures or Write a Letter to a Far Away Loved One
Giving and serving at Christmas should involve people close to us and people far away!
Kids love to color, paint, etc. Take advantage of this creativity and make an easy DIY Christmas ornament (try THIS JINGLE BELL ORNAMENT and THIS CUPCAKE LINER ORNAMENT) or color a Christmas printable page and send to far away family members.
You can include grandparents, but how about great aunts and uncles? Older neighbors? Or some people from your church whose grandkids live far away?
If you have older children too, have them write a nice Christmas-y letter!
7. Buy Someone’s Food in the Drive-Through
Next time you go through the drive-through at a restaurant, purchase the meal of the people behind you. This is a fun and unique idea and, if you want, can involve your children using their own money.
8. Take Baked Goods to Your Local Fire or Police Station
Show the men and women who serve your community some love this Christmas! It’s also a great chance to teach your kids how they work hard to keep us safe. Call ahead first, and if they can’t accept baked goods, ask if there’s another way you can be helpful!
9. Assemble Care Packages for a Women and Children’s Shelter
Last year, we put together care packages for an organization in our area that helps women transition to living on their own after being supported by the local shelter. Care packages included cleaning products, towels and washcloths, hand soap and a wall hanging with a Bible verse. Check for opportunities like this in your neighborhood!
10. Write a note to a veteran or those currently serving overseas.
Your children can write a letter, send artwork or send certain care packages to those serving in the military. Check out this post for details on how to properly mail a letting to military overseas. Here are details on sending a care package. If you’d like to send something to a veteran, see if your church has a list of those who have served or check with your local Veteran’s Administration office.
Finding Time to Serve with Your Kids
Prayerfully consider at least two ways you can bless others this Christmas season and then purposefully find an afternoon or evening when you can fit this service opportunity into your schedule.
You will probably have to schedule this–it won’t just happen, because the holidays are crazy!! :)
With the Lord’s help, we can learn to simplify what is otherwise a crazy season, take the focus off of ourselves and enjoy time with our families, as well as find opportunities to serve others in the name of Jesus–even when our kids are really little!