Generosity is something we need more of in this world. What better way to achieve this than to foster this trait in our growing little ones? But depending on where kids are developmentally, generosity might not always come so naturally. Early on, children don’t even realize there is a difference between themselves and others, so how can we help foster a generous spirit? Here are some ways children can learn to be generous and how you can help them:
- Don’t tell them how; show them how. Children follow the behaviors we model. Demonstrate sharing in all sorts of activities to encourage young children to share, too. If you’re drinking a milkshake, grab two straws and model sharing in a fun way for your child. You can also share while doing an activity. Turn on the sprinklers and run through them together. Use language like, “Let’s share this sprinkler together,” to leave a tangible impression of the concept with your child.
- Reward good behavior. When you find your child sharing on his or her own, shower down the praise. Paint a picture of how your child’s generosity impacted other people. For example, if your daughter shares a toy with her friend, say something like, “Thank you so much for sharing your doll. Look how happy you made Suzie! She’s smiling and laughing now!” Positive attention will reinforce the behavior and soon, generosity will become second nature to your child.
- Step back and let children figure it out. Many times, children will learn generosity from their peers. Don’t get involved in every battle over a toy. Allow your child to figure it out. Eventually when selfishness causes other children to not wish to play, your child will begin to understand that generosity is important.
- Put favorite toys away during playdates. Even as an adult, you wouldn’t want to give away or share all of your belongings. You probably wouldn’t want your teenager cruising around in your brand new sports car, for example. Children are the same way. They can still be generous without giving up all of their belongings. If there is a special toy your child cherishes, put it off to the side when other kids come over to play. Explain to your child that toy is a special toy, but the rest of the toys are to be shared.
- Give back to the community together. Let your children participate in community service, raising money for a cause, shopping for food for the needy or donating toys to a charitable organization. Explain that not everyone is so fortunate to have a hot meal, roof over their head and all the things they have. You could go grocery shopping (or shop your pantry) for a local food bank together. Also, weed out toys your child doesn’t play with and set some aside for charity, with your child’s permission. Explain how happy this toy will make another child.
- Practice random acts of kindness. Make a game out of performing random acts of kindness. You could hide dollar bills in the card section of your local store or send a care package to a service member overseas. Leave a pile of pennies at a wishing well with a sticky note that says “for wishes.” Donate gently used stuffed toys to the pediatric wing of a local hospital. Children will learn that it’s fun to make people’s day a bit brighter, and this can be another activity to keep your little ones busy during their daily routine (which also equals no more “Mommy and Daddy, I’m bored.”)
At Sparkles! we teach generosity as a natural part of our curriculum. For more information, contact a staff member or your child’s teacher.