Holiday Giving From the Classroom
The holidays are a time for giving, but for many young children it may be all about receiving. It is never too early to learn about giving of yourself and your time and the value of volunteerism to helping others. Even very young children can participate in activities that will benefit others, improve their sense of self-worth, and provide them with an understanding of their responsibility to the community—all excellent protective factors.
To help students experience the responsibility of giving to others through participating in a class senior home or senior center project.
- Camera and photo printouts (optional)
- Poster board, construction paper, drawing supplies, and craft items
- Scissors and glue
- Books and stories to introduce winter holiday traditions from many cultures (especially recommended for 5- and 6-year-olds)
Find a senior living facility or senior center in your community and set up a time for your class to visit during the holidays. Most centers have communal rooms where your children can put on simple performances. Note: This is an excellent year-round project that benefits both the children and the people they visit. Look into different adopt-a-grandparent programs at the facility you visit and gather several books, stories, and songs to introduce winter holiday traditions from many cultures.
- Talk with the class about the upcoming winter holidays and what makes them special. (Answers will vary, but will most likely include gift giving and receiving.) Have the students discuss what giving a gift means. Ask if all gifts must be bought at a store. Introduce the idea of giving time as a gift (such as helping an elderly neighbor with yard work). Can the students think of people to whom they would like to give the gift of time? Whose time would they like to receive as a gift and how would they like to “spend” it?
- Tell the students they will be giving the gift of time to the older people who live in the senior citizen center in their neighborhood. Talk about ways this time can be special. Note: You may want to share traditions from other cultures through books and songs to find multicultural ideas.
- Help the children prepare special songs and use construction paper, markers, and craft supplies to create decorative holiday cards. If possible, take along a camera to photograph candid shots of the children with the residents at the center.
- After the visit to the senior center, have the children discuss how special their gift of time was. Did they receive a gift of time as well? If you were able to take pictures at the center, print these out and have the children use them to make posters for the senior center.