6 tips for talking to young children about charity

I have done a pretty crappy job teaching my kids to be generous with others. Last Christmas, we gave toys to kids in need but I don’t think Mazzy really understood the spirit of giving.

Instead of just buying toys and sending them to school with Mazzy to put in a dropbox, I thought it would make more of an impact if I took Mazzy with me to pick something out. I told her we were selecting something for a child whose parents didn’t have the means to buy toys themselves.

“Why can’t they buy toys?” she asked me.

“Because some moms and dads don’t make enough money to spend on toys. Their money has to go towards things like food and clothes and shelter first.”

“Okay. Let’s get this My Little Pony toy!” Mazzy pointed to a package on the shelf and seemed like she understood.

“Okay. That’s a great idea!”

“Can I get one too?”

“No, Mazzy. This trip is about getting a toy for somebody else.”

Cue angry face, whines and stomping. Ugh. Clearly, this was something I should be doing more often to drive my point home.

It seems like every post I read about bringing up charitable kids, talks about how the writers’ children have big hearts and innately understand the importance of giving, eagerly gathering their things to help the cause.

My parenting journey hasn’t been quite that smooth. Or Mazzy’s innate sense of altruism isn’t quite as strong as her desire to HAVE ALL THE THINGS. She loves people and her teachers tell me she is always kind and generous to her classmates, but I think it’s a little different when you are speaking about people more in the abstract.

When I told Mazzy we were going to deliver food to feed the hungry to support the “No Kid Hungry” campaign supported by Earth’s Best and Ella’s Kitchen, she was intrigued.

6 tips for talking to young children about charity

6 tips for talking to young children about charity

But not for the right reasons.

“It’s food for kids?”


“Will I get to play with them?”

“No. The kids won’t be at the food drop-off. But the people there will make sure the food gets to the kids that need it.”

“Oh.” Mazzy’s mouth turned down. She was disappointed and suddenly not interested.

This is hard. I’m not sure what I am supposed to say to get her to understand the value and meaning of charity. Little kids are self-centered and hopefully empathy comes with age?

I talked to my sister (a school psychologist, known around my blog as Dr. B) and asked her for tips to help better instill these values in my five-year-old. She was helpful, as always.


7 Tips for teaching Young children about charity

1) Create a culture of giving at home. SHOW your kids how to give back vs. just talking about it. Actions speak louder than words, so practice what you preach!

2) Find opportunities to volunteer or give back to local charities. Young children have a hard time understanding complex issues happening around the world. By participating in local projects, it will be easier for them to grasp their efforts and perhaps see the impact firsthand.

3) Talk to your kids about what they are passionate about. Then you can brainstorm how to turn their interests into opportunities to give back.

4) Give your kids an allowance and have them set aside a portion every week for giving. It does not have to be a lot. The goal is to make charity a natural part of their routine.

5) Create meaningful projects to help loved ones or friends in need. This can include making meals or a basket for a sick friend, organizing a fundraiser, or participating in a walk to support a cause related to something someone you know is going through.

6) Empower your children. Telling them they are making a difference provides them with the confidence they can make a positive change in your local community or even the world! You can even show your kids examples of child-led charity projects so they can see a child of any age has the ability to make an impact.

7) Don’t worry about upsetting kids by telling them about those who are at a disadvantage. The joy they get from giving will ultimately make a bigger impression than any sadness to which they are exposed.

Mazzy and I put together two bags of food to take to The Bowery Mission, which is about fifteen blocks and a couple avenues away from our apartment. We took a cab over together and delivered it ourselves.

6 tips for talking to young children about charity

6 tips for talking to young children about charity

6 tips for talking to young children about charity

A man approached us as soon as we opened the front door, asking if we were there with a donation. I showed him our two bags and said they contained things like formula and baby food. The man took the bags, handed us a receipt and we were done. We were there for under a minute and made the entire transaction while standing in the open doorway.

“That’s it?” Mazzy asked when we walked back onto the sidewalk.

“Yes. It’s very easy to help people.”

Maybe that’s a good first lesson for Mazzy to understand.

Ella’s Kitchen and Earth’s Best have donated funds to the “No Kid Hungry” campaign providing 1.5 million meals to kids in need (you can find specially marked packages at select Walmart stores).

6 tips for talking to young children about charity

To help encourage other families to teach their kids about the importance of charity, you can give food in your community and share photos on Instagram tagging @mommyshorts, #FeedKidsinNeed and #NoKidHungry.

I will be selecting one winner from the hashtag so that Ella’s Kitchen and Earth’s Best can gift that person an $100 Walmart gift card to create their own basket to donate to the charity of their choice!

As for me, I hope to make charity a bigger priority for my family. Seeing how easy it is to give and what a small amount of time it took, is an important lesson for me too.


This post was sponsored by Ella’s Kitchen and Earth’s Best, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Photo credit: Karilyn Sanders Photography