Christmas is a time when all of our hearts are warmed with thoughts of presents, decorations, great food and happy times.
But, although they are all wonderful things, it’s important to teach our kids that Christmas isn’t just about ripping that wrapping paper open on Christmas morning but about being kind to others.
This is a great time of the year to introduce some sweet Christmas traditions that involve giving to those less fortunate than yourselves, or helping charities and making it a fun part of the build up to Christmas.
We’ve come up with some lovely ideas that will not only be fun for all the family, but will also help others and teach your children the real spirit of Christmas.
Spare change Christmas jar
Throughout the year encourage everyone in the household to chuck their spare change in the ‘Christmas Jar’ and let it build up. There’s no pressure to be contributing notes, but when you get some extra change from buying your Sunday paper or have some coin rattling in your pockets – pop them in the jar. At the end of the year, take a vote on which charity or cause you would like to donate to and go as a family to make your contribution. This is a a lovely tradition as it reminds you all to think about giving all year round and is super easy to do.
Operation Christmas Child
Every year charity Samaritans Purse runs it’s campaign ‘Operation Christmas Child‘ which sees schools and families all over the country fill a shoebox with gifts and toys, wrap it in Christmas paper and have it sent to a child that needs it. Your childs school may well take part in this, but why not do it at home as well?
Samaritans Purse have fantastic guidelines that set out what to buy for the right age, location and gender of a child so each member of the family could imagine who their box would be for and pick their gifts for them on a family shopping trip. Follow that by taking an afternoon to sit together, pack and wrap the shoeboxes. The charity also encourage you to put in a picture of yourselves and a hand written note to the child so that they can relate to where the gifts have come from and learn about your culture, which would be a lovely thing for the whole family to do together.
Make lunches for homeless people
In the week leading up to Christmas, pick a morning to give back to the community and make some lunches for the homeless people in your area. Plan the lunch as a family, picking what sandwiches to make and snacks to include and take a trip to the supermarket to get your supplies. Make the lunches together, giving everyone their own job in the assembly line and once you’re done go together to hand them out.
If you would prefer to help the homeless through a charity, Crisis have volunteering options in most big cities in the UK.
Letters of appreciation
Giving back at Christmas doesn’t have to mean to a charity, it’s just as important to do something nice for the people already in your life. A sweet way to help your children think about others in the festive season, is to ask them to each pick someone that they are grateful to and write them a letter of appreciation. It could be Granny for always picking them up from school, or their teacher for spending time helping them when they’re struggling – whoever it is that they feel they want to say a special thank you to they can send or deliver them a letter just in time for the 25th.
Visiting a nursing home
Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for elderly people living in a nursing home, they may not have any relatives or friends able to visit them and won’t be able to get out to some of the usual Christmas activities you and your family will be enjoying.
A really nice idea is to arrange a visit to a nursing home with your family, possibly suggesting your children’s friends come along too and spend some quality time with the people there. There are some things you can do to give your visit more of a focus such as baking cookies to hand out or arranging with the staff to sing some carols at a certain time. The residents will no doubt love meeting some friendly new faces and it’s a chance for your little ones to learn about how elderly people need support.
Community Christmas is a charity that encourages members of the community supporting the elderly with visits or hosting lunches, contact them if you’re looking for ideas or support.
Helping at an animal shelter
If your children are animal lovers they will absolutely jump at the chance to lend a hand helping at a local animal shelter. You will need to arrange this relatively far in advance, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to do some good and show your children what volunteering is whilst playing with some adorable animals that need some attention. The RSPCA offer lots of opportunities to volunteer and have an easy to use tool so you can find the nearest branch to you.
An easy tradition to start with your family is to pop a certain amount of money in their Santa’s stocking or as a separate gift and every year ask them which charity they want to donate it to. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money, even a few pounds will do, but giving them the choice and responsibility to relate to a charity and decide they want to help is a fantastic message.
Charity Christmas campaigns to get involved with this year
Barts Charity focuses on improving healthcare and medical research for hospitals in the UK and all over the world. This year you can get involved in several ways as part of their ‘Send a Smile with Santa’ campaign. As many patients will be spending Christmas in hospital alone this year, you can choose from Barts Charity’s Amazon present wish list and send someone a Christmas gift. If you’d rather get out and do something, why not take part in Tops’n’Toes day on Friday 9th December by asking everyone in your work to don a festive hat or socks and donate £3.
Great Ormond Street Hospital
Great Ormond Street Hospital is one of the worlds leading children’s hospitals and needs to raise roughly £100 million every year for medical research, equipment and facilities to help all the families that need it. This Winter you can help by taking part in the London Santa Dash and do a 5k or 10k festive run. The fundraising run will take place on the 4th December and Santa outfits are mandatory!
FareShare take food destined to be waste and deliver it to charities and communities that need it most. This December they are asking as any people as possible to spare just three hours to help them on their mission of eliminating hunger at Christmas time. Volunteer to fight hunger on either the 1st, 2nd or 3rd of December for just a few hours in the morning or afternoon at your local Tesco store collecting tins of food, store cupboard favourites and donations.
Refuge supports vulnerable women and their children suffering from a number of difficult situations seeking refuge including domestic abuse and culturally specific issues. One of the ways you can help this Christmas is to purchase a festive parcel for a woman in need, picking between a Christmas dinner or a range of Christmas decorations.
Save The Children
Save The Children is one of the biggest children’s charities, offering support in health, education, war and much more. This year they are running a Christmas jumper day which is as easy as it sounds! Simply ask everyone at your work to don something festive for the day and each donate £2 for this incredible cause. You can sign up for a fundraising package and get help to organise it.