Good deeds for little doers

Here are a few easy ideas for getting your kids in the spirit of giving, sharing and caring:

Write a letter. Start a tradition where family members think of a service member, a distant relative, or a friend in the hospital, and write a letter as a family to make the person feel loved and included during the holidays. Bonus: Homemade cards are sure-fire day brighteners.

Grocery grab.As you're grocery shopping, request that your children pick out one item each to contribute to the local food pantry.

Have a 'trash walk.' Grab a couple of bags for each walker (one for trash, one for recycling) and hit your neighborhood streets. You'll be surprised at how quickly you will fill the bags and how much better the streets look when you are done. This really does teach kids of all ages to respect their environment and to not litter.

Bake some treats. Let your children help you bake treats to give to a lonely neighbor, or a group that serves the homeless or elderly. For ideas and inspiration, check out Spread the Bread, a great organization that encourages everyone to "bake a difference." Make a loaf of bread, wrap it like a gift, and add a note, artwork or poem. Then, offer the bread back into your community to help the sick, the needy or to honor our heros: the police, firefighters, veterans and soldiers.

Load a shoebox. Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan's Purse, invites folks to pack a shoebox full of goodies (toys, school supplies, hygiene items) for children in developing countries. Have your children add a note and a photo of your family.

Out of the closet.Have a "closet day" in which your children spend some time going through their closet and bagging up clothes that are too small or unused. Also, allow them to select which toys, games and books they wish to donate. Take your children with you when you drop the items off at the charitable destination so they can feel a sense of satisfaction in seeing where their items end up and how they are helping others.

Make birthdays charitable. At your child's birthday party, ask guests to bring a gift of a book (new or used) to be donated to a local charity. Consider delivering the books with your child, record it on camera, and revisiting that movie (or those pictures) on future birthdays.

Give blood. Take your children with you so they see you as a model for giving. Talk to them about why you choose to donate blood and what you hope it will accomplish to do so.

Charitable allowance. Direct your children to set aside a certain percentage of their allowance, job money or money that came through gifts for the purpose of giving to charity. Motivate them to write a letter telling the charity how much, and why, they want to donate to them.

'I just called to say…' Encourage your children to call elderly family members – even extended family members – just to say hello, tell them what's new, and ask them what they're up to these days. A simple call can make someone's day.

Birthday wishes.Find out from a local foster care facility about a child who is celebrating a birthday soon. What does he/she want for his/her birthday? Go to the store with your children and allow them to get the present with you, help you wrap it, and make a special card.

Talented tots. Do your children have dramatic or musical talents? Perhaps they can sing, perform a skit or play an instrument at a local nursing home or senior center. Or, if they're artistic, they could take paintings to children at a hospital.

Talk about it.Each day ask what the family is grateful for and how they showed generosity. This can become part of your routine at dinner time or before bed.

We'd love to hear your ideas and activities for teaching kids to give, share and care. Find us on Facebook and … share!