How to teach your kids about philanthropy

Five ways to foster generosity in your family.

Created for “Canadian

We’d all love it if our kids were innately generous, but like many things, charitable giving is mostly learned—and the holidays are a great time to start teaching. New toys and lots of time spent with family are not everyone’s holiday experience and this can be an important lesson for kids. Showing them how they can help other children, for instance, those spending the season in the hospital, is a great way to introduce them to philanthropy.

By involving kids in donating to charitable organizations, we help encourage them to think about others and be grateful for what they have. But how exactly do we get our kids engaged in giving back? Here are some tips on how to talk to your kids about philanthropy so they will understand and care.

Let your kids choose the cause

If your kids are involved in choosing the cause your family supports, they will be more invested in helping support that group. Research different causes with your kids to see where help is needed—this can be based on their interests or, to make causes more relatable, start with kids’ charities. For instance, SickKids Get Better Gifts from SickKids in Toronto, are gifts you can give to SickKids patients spending their holidays in the hospital. These gifts provide comfort, distraction, and joy when they need it most.

Being able to donate gingerbread decorating or art supplies makes the philanthropic process a bit less abstract for children. Donations go directly to the funds supporting those activities, so they can choose a Get Better Gift that aligns with their interests. It’s not much of a leap for kids to imagine that being in the hospital over the holidays would be hard, and Get Better Gifts are a simple way to show you care and make a real difference for a SickKids family.

Figure out the best way to help

One of the key things about charitable giving is making sure that what you do for any given organization is actually helpful. While your kids might love helping animals at a rescue, showing up with your whole family to volunteer may not be the best approach. Many charities are upfront about what they need and what is most helpful. For some, it’s volunteers; for others, it’s specific goods and services; and for still others, it’s monetary donations. For most, it’s all of the above. So make sure you and your kids find out either by researching or simply asking what a charitable organization needs most before donating.

Involve your kids from start to finish

From choosing the cause to raising money or collecting goods, through delivering the donations to a charity, have your kids participate at every stage of the giving process. If you’re giving money or purchasing items from a charity—that alone may not engage your kids enough to become connected to giving. Help them raise funds through a garage sale, bake sale or simply asking friends and family to donate. Putting in the time and effort of various steps and counting up all that they’ve raised will help them see firsthand the work that’s required, and develop pride in being able to help others.

Give philanthropic gifts for the holidays

Another way for kids to become lifelong givers is to encourage them to choose charitable gifts for others during the holiday season. Whether for teachers, parents or grandparents, donating to a good cause on someone’s behalf shows thoughtfulness and care for both the recipient and the cause. Donations with specific outcomes attached to them help both your children and the gift recipient understand where the money is going and how it’s helping kids in need.

SickKids Get Better Gifts include a free greeting card that can be sent to a loved one to let them know that a donation has been made in their honour. The donations fund experiences like Learning with a Librarian and Kids Science Program that would be a great teacher gift or a Basket of Baby Toys and a Child-Sized Wheelchair that would warm any recipient’s heart.

Model giving behaviour

Our kids learn to value giving by seeing those around them give and how that makes a difference for others. Ingrain giving in your everyday lives, not just during the holiday season. Choose different charities to support throughout the year in different ways—whether it’s signing up for a family charity run, donating gently used toys, books and clothes or routinely gathering bottles and cans for a monthly donation. By regularly supporting causes your kids care about, they will see the impact of what their efforts can do and how they can personally help others. At the end of the day, helping other people helps your kids (and you!) become better humans. 

To learn more about SickKids Foundation and Get Better Gifts for everyone on your holiday list, visit

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