Teaching giving to a toddler

If ever there was proof of the change in modern parenting techniques, it has to be my daughter, sitting on the toilet, swiping through photos on my iPad. She’s moved past the “passively watching” stage and now turns it on, swaps between apps and changes the volume. She’s not quite 2.5.

There’s a part of me that’s quite proud. Being a bit technology obsessed (we have iEverything in the illiterate household) I can’t help getting a kick out of seeing my little girl effortlessly pick up gadgets that can confound her grand parents. There’s another part of me that’s excited at the prospect of being able to justify further technology purchases to ensure her intellectual and cognitive development continues to develop (I’ve seriously tried using that sentence) at its current, cracking pace – the last thing she wants to do is turn up to playgroup with an outdated iPhone.

What surprised me on the weekend was finding another part of me. The part that realised that although my daughter seems to enjoy her training as highly skilled computer wizard (obviously a well socialised, creative and athletic one), that she is probably happiest when she’s just hanging out with Mum and Dad in the back garden.

It got me thinking about how much “stuff” we (my household – you may be different) use in raising our little girl that probably isn’t as essential as we say it is. Stuff like the toys she keeps getting. She has boxes of stuffed toys of which about three get used. There’s a whole pretend kitchen but most of the time she is happy to play with a little plastic plate that works as a frying pan, steering wheel or Frisbee. There’s a doll’s house, farm house, plastic animals, wooden animals and jigsaws.

I found myself asking do we really need all this stuff or could someone else use it instead…

Now I’m not one for enormous gestures. The closest I’ve been to charity is dropping some shrapnel into a Salvos tin or pretending to care about a charity to impress a girl but there’s something about this whole proud Dad gig that has brought out a softer side in me. This softer side has decided that I need to get acquainted with how lucky I am to have what I have and then teach my little girl (and what ever else is appearing early next year) the same thing. So this year we’re going to learn about giving to others, which is where you lot (this most knowledgeable and wise blogging community) come in.

I’d love to know how you would go about this lesson. How would you explain the concept to a 2.5 year old girl and what would you do. Mrs Illiterate Infant has already come up with the idea of a [insert department store name] wishing tree which is good as little miss 2.5 can be involved in finding a gift and “giving” it away. I’ve also heard a great tip about giving away the toys you no longer use before Christmas and taking them to Vinnies or similar.

So, your help would be really appreciated. What do you recommend? What would you do? What have you done?

NB: The conclusions of this post were partially arrived at via an apple device – sponsorship proposals will be considered, preferably a ipad.

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23 Responses to Teaching giving to a toddler

  1. Rita Azar says:

    Hi Kevin. My sister-in-law always makes a bag before Christmas of toys in good condition which her kids have chosen to donate. She goes with them to give the bag to the Salvation Army. She teach them that it is important to give back to others who won’t have the chance to receive as much as them for Christmas.

  2. iSophie says:

    It’s a great idea to have the children help sort through their toys and clothes to see which ones they would like to donate. Taking them along to the drop off is a great idea too.
    We always buy presents for the giving tree that is placed at our school too.

    I am usually a bit more brutal with ‘sorting’ then they are, but I let them get involved for some of it. Then I finish it later. In the past I have left a big box of really good toys at the salvos bin, hopefully they got it, and not the next person that came along.. (it was a remote location in an older community)

  3. We always go through the stuff and donate a bag of toys and books to charity. Well, the ones that Boyo doesn’t want to put into storage for his kids, that is. My grandkids are going to love all that stuff!

    We also go and choose a present for another kid from Wishing Trees. We always try and get one for an older kid because they’re so much harder to buy for, but usually wind up getting another one to give to a kid of the same age as Boyo at the time – because it’s easier for him to relate to.

    I think it’s a great idea and we do have too much stuff in our lives.

  4. Lydia c lee says:

    We try but often fail. When the tsunami happened I boxed up clothes and medical supplies and sent them to Sri Lanka. My then 2 year old eager packed unworn clothes from his cupboard – basically family gifts he didn’t like. Lesson not learnt.
    Make them do charity donations and discuss in depth there are kids who get no presents at Xmas “except from Santa, they’d get some from him”. Lesson abruptly ended for fear of ruining Santa for tots.
    No solutions for you, but will watch other suggestions with eagerness.

  5. I love these ideas 🙂 We’re making a donation in Squirm’s name this year, and we’ll try to do that for each birthday and christmas. I think our church is having a giving tree, as well – I’d like that to be part of his life as he grows up

  6. Kelly HTandT says:

    Several times a year we do a big sort, clothes, toys, blankets… especially before birthdays and Christmas. I explain to the kids that not everyone is as lucky as them to have a big family who give them so many things, and that we need to make some room, so we should give some clothes and toys to other people. Then we drop them at the Salvo’s.
    Several times a year we also tell the kids how expensive they are, so we gather some of their things and sell them on ebay. This must happen more than the donating, because often they’ll ask me, “Mum, are you going to sell that?”

  7. Zanni Arnot says:

    Brilliant Kevin. I totally relate to this post. As advanced as our iKids are a simple jaunt in the garden with twigs is always preferred. I think just being generous yourselves and feeling and acting charitable will be the most effective lesson for your daughter. Maybe hey a box and ask your daughter to choose the toys she would like to give to the children who need them this Christmas and go down to the Salvos together. Also get your daughter to make wrapping paper by painting butchers paper and she can help wrap other presents.

  8. Eleise Hale says:

    When I was a nanny and the kids had EVERYTHING, before Christmas they had to give away any toys they no longer use. Also if they got duplicates of toys, we would pass these on new to the Salvos ect. I think the giving tree is a great option too.

  9. We’re getting a box of old toys ready to give to the needy. It’s a tradition that goes right back to when I was a child. It will be my son’s third year doing it, he’s struggling with the idea this year but it’s bringing up some great conversation starters.
    Prue x

  10. Every time I try and do a toy cul Grace gets into the box and insists that she still plays with everything. I think I need to do it behind her back! When I was at sholl we used to make up Christmas hampers for a local charity – I’m going to see what’s going on in our local area and try and get G involved.

  11. I’m keen to give this a try. Think I’ll follow iSophie’s lead – let the Big Sister start, but finish it off myself (alone!)

  12. Me says:

    There is something to be said for decluttering and getting rid of stuff that we don’t use – whether it be children’s toys, kitchen utensils, linen, towels or clothes. We go through reasonably regularly and drop off at Salvos or Lifeline – it feels good to know that we are helping someone else with things that we not longer need / use.
    Have the best day !

  13. My oldest boy turned two in August so probably similar age to your little one and although I think donating to the salvos is a great idea and I may even try and do that with some of our toys. I am not quite sure if he would get it. I think stories like the christmas story and the Giving Tree would best illustrate the act of giving at this stage and also role playing it with dollies.

  14. EssentiallyJess says:

    I’ve done the wishing tree with little ones, which is a really concrete thing for them to be able to understand. You could also send a goat or something with world vision and talk about that?
    For what it’s worth, I think its fantastic you have discovered this now, whilst you only have one. Otherwise you get to my stage with four kids and you wonder when you got all this crap! 😉

  15. kirstyrussell75 says:

    I think the giving tree is a great idea – my kids like selecting for others and it is a great way to ease them in if they can’t bear to donate their own things (like mine!)

  16. BossyMummy says:

    I think all the above are excellent ideas and do a big cull myself just prior to Christmas. Haven’t previously involved my 2.5 year old, but like you mention, I think this is the perfect time to get started 🙂

  17. Kylez @ A Study in Contradictions says:

    I think the wishing tree is definitely a good idea, as is having her choose one or two things to donate and taking her to drop them off. I have been thinking about the same thing lately, as with her birthday only a few days away, and then Christmas a month later, we are gonna have an explosion of toys pretty soon, of which she will of course only want to play with their boxes. I’ve considered asking people to give her food and tupperware containers for the two occasion as her favourite place to play is in the bottom of the pantry, with food and tupperware containers. Would save me a bit on a grocery shop too!

  18. Caitlin says:

    It’s fantastic that you are helping your children have a healthy perspective that there is more important aspects to living than just having stuff. Our church had a Christmas tree where we were giving away gifts and food for needy families. I took my son shopping with his pocket money and he chose some grocery items to put below the tree. He was also surprised to find out just how little his money bought, so it was also good that it made him more grateful for the food that we had in our home.

  19. mamagrace71 says:

    We’re actually about to send a big bag of clothes (both ours and the twinlets) to the orphanage that we visited in Bali. We’ll get them involved in putting their clothes in the bag as well as posting it. And as they understand now that Bali is a place that is somewhere far away and is different to home, we’ll try and explain it to them why we’re sending the clothes there.
    It’s great what you’re doing. We can get carried away with the consumerism of Christmas we forget about the impression it leaves on our children.

  20. OMG that is very funny re: iPhone on the toilet, My 4 year old has been doing that for a year, also copied from her daddy!!
    Loving your blog – and following it – love reading from man’s prospective.
    Check out mine if you want to laugh at my expense, be warned, it’s not very fluffy or sweet, just honest and a bit crude!

  21. SarahMac says:

    I have been so slack about this stuff. I need to do something with my 3yo ASAP, perhaps at the very least bundle up a few toys for the salvos or do the wishing tree thing. It’s so easy to.become complacent.

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