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Save, Spend, Share: The importance of teaching children about Charity

It’s that time of year again when Imaginosity is deciding which charity partner we will support over the Christmas period. As a charity ourselves, we recognise how important support is from other organisations. In recent years we have supported Barnardos and Focus Ireland by hosting a “Giving Tree” in reception where staff and visitors can drop of age appropriate presents.  This year we have decided to help Crosscare in their urgent appeal for food. This is a stark reminder how even in the 21st century there are families in Ireland who struggle to put food on the table.

The discussion between the Imaginosity staff about which charity we would support this Christmas got me thinking about when is the right time to introduce the idea of charity and giving to young children. Christmas seems to be the perfect time to teach children about giving, but how easy is it to introduce the idea of charity to a child? And do you give them the choice of which charity to donate to?

A friend of mine from Boston told me that every year on Christmas morning his mother would make them pick out a toy they received and they would all head down to the local orphanage and donate the toys to the children there. Two years ago in Imaginosity at Christmas time, a parent of a little boy who was having his birthday party in the museum asked him would he like to give a present to another little boy or girl. The little boy duly picked out the biggest wrapped present and handed it to his mom who placed it under the ‘Giving Tree’. These memories have stuck with me and show how simple acts of kindness from young children do happen and can be encouraged.

A great idea I have seen for encouraging slightly older children who receive pocket money to think about charity is to use three jars labelled Save, Spend, Share. The child gets to decide how much of their pocket money they would like to spend, how much they would like to save and how much they would like to share. This way they get much more control over their pocket money. This idea also begins to introduce the concept of value to children.

So this Christmas if you are thinking about giving a little something to charity get the children involved. Think about a charity that might be local, maybe choose a charity outside the most well-known, and choose a charity that matches your beliefs and values. Remember though that children may be a need a little guidance on what is the best way to help. A friend’s daughter on watching an advertisement about the lack of clean drinking water in Africa suggested sending a can of coke. When told maybe it would be better to send some water answered; Why? Coke tastes much better than water!