The holidays are made up of many things. They provide a time for family and friends to gather, a time to reflect on the good fortune of the year and of course time to eat some really good food. But for some folks, especially kids, it’s a time for gifts, both giving and receiving them. This time of year provides the perfect opportunity to teach children about giving and what it really means. A time to teach them it’s not about the cost of a gift, but the meaning behind it. Here are a few ideas to help kids understand the true meaning of giving.

Children’s lives are relatively simple. They consist of family, school, toys, games and protesting bed time. Most kids don’t see the struggles that some people face on a daily basis. The holidays are a good time to show them that life can be difficult, but more importantly, how they can help.

One way for your kids to help other children is to share their good fortune. This could mean cleaning out their clothes and toys. Show your children the things they no longer want or need may benefit others. Help them go through the clothing that no longer fits or the toys they no longer play with and donate them. Of course the clothes should be in good shape and the toys should be intact. Some programs like Toys for Tots ask for new and unwrapped toys, but there are plenty of organizations that would gladly take toys that have been “pre-loved.”

Have your kids be creative and make cards and artwork. There are plenty of people in plenty of places who would love a special card or drawing. These works of art can be given to hospitals, nursing homes, veterans’ homes, shelters and many other places where they would bring a smile. Don’t forget about our brave men and women serving in our military. These folks are far from home defending our freedom and could use a warm greeting.

Teach your kids that their time is also a gift. Volunteer with them to gather food for the needy, make care packages for our troops or visit hospitals and nursing homes. They can also help our four legged friends. Kids love animals and many animal shelters have volunteer opportunities.

Helping others is clearly something we should do all year round, but the holidays are a great time to introduce kids to the concept. While the folks in need benefit from our help, your kids will as well. Volunteering and seeing the positive impact it has will do great things for their self esteem. They will learn that they can make a difference and that their actions are important.

Giving should come from the heart and giving of yourself is its truest form.