If they’re going to be receiving new toys or books over this time, it makes sense to clear out some space in your home. Picture: Supplied

The holiday season can be a jumble of excessive consumption. And even more so for little people, who view this as an extremely exciting and special time of year.

But what does this teach our children, if they view the festive season purely as a time to receive? That’s why using Christmas (or the holiday season) as an opportunity to teach them about giving, is a much more useful attitude to take.

Here are some ideas on how to do this:

1. Sign up to Santa’s Shoebox

This charitable gifting initiative is so popular for many reasons: one being that’s it’s a simple, effective way to teach your children about giving to others who are less fortunate than they are. You sign up on their website and pledge your boxes, knowing the name, gender and age of the children you are gifting to. 

You then wrap a box and fill it with quite specific items including toiletries, stationery, sweets and a gift. You drop it off at a drop-off point and the boxes are then distributed to the children before the end of the year. From a modest 180 boxes in 2006, this incredible initiative now distributes over 600 000 boxes in both South Africa and Namibia.

2. Get them to sort through their own books and toys

If they’re going to be receiving new toys or books over this time, it makes sense to clear out some space in your home. After all, there are so many children who are in desperate need of good quality items which can encourage their development and creativity, and also provide happiness. 

Ask your children to choose three high quality toys that still work perfectly, and donate them to a nearby children’s home. Get them to sort through their bookshelves and find good books that they can spare, and donate them to organisations like Little Libraries who stock up creches and daycare centres around Cape Town, which are all in desperate need of books.

3. Food parcels

In many homes, there is excess food around during the holidays. If your home is one of these, don’t waste this food by throwing it out. Slice extra meat and put it on sandwiches, wrap up extra cake and fill tupperwares with salads and then distribute these to people on the street, or even neighbours or friends who you know are struggling. 

Many shelters or churches could also distribute this food if you’re not sure how to do it yourself, plus you could also volunteer (along with your kids) to help out at these places over the holidays.

4. Give at home

Closer to home, teaching your children to give can be as simple as encouraging them to make gifts for other family members. This may only work when they’re slightly older, i.e from the age of 5, but you could encourage them to bake biscuits for their grandmother, make a beaded necklace for their sister or even spend their pocket money on small items. 

Help them wrap up the gifts with ribbons and paper, and draw pictures or write cards. This will teach them how much joy there is in giving, not only in receiving.