This holiday season, many families are taking part in charitable gift giving to countries in need for the holidays. Whether it’s donating an animal to another family so it can provide food or breeding, or materials that might help to fund an education for a child, the act is not only helpful to the one who receives it, but to who gives it as well. The holidays serve as the perfect time to teach children the importance of giving.

“Our kids learn from what we do, so a lot of it is just modelling it and making it part of our family culture,” says Alyson Shafer, a parenting expert, author and host of The Parenting Show.

Shafer suggests that parents might also have this on their radar if they’re worrying about their children’s selfishness. “When kids are saying ‘I want a Wii! I want a Nintendo! I want a bike!’ Parents might like to say, ‘What about others?’”


Shafer donates in her children’s names every year, always looking for something fun and easy to understand. Last year, she donated chickens, and a card under her Christmas tree was enough to make her children happy for the cause. Shafer also asks that she has a gift donated in her name from them.

If you’re looking to engage your family in charitable gift giving this month, there are plenty of outlets.

Free the Children, Canada’s Most Meaningful Gifts, Gifts That Matter, Unicef, Heifer, Oxfam and Plan Canada are some that offer animals, healthcare, education and shelter. More targeted organizations include WaterCan’s Gifts of Water, the David Suzuki Foundation and World Wildlife Fund.

Plan Canada did a survey of 1,000 Canadians in October and November, finding that 89 per cent of those participants believe that it’s important for children to learn to help others and 59 per cent use the holidays to acknowledge such.

“When you think about the ethical giving side, giving a gift that has a story behind it has a narrative that connects us with somebody on the other side of the planet in a meaningful way,” says CEO and President of Plan Canada, Rosemary McCarney.

“I think that those are great opportunities for parents and children to have a very different conversation about this time of year... It allows for much richer conversation about poverty and inequalities and social justice than you can have if you’re talking about another pair of slippers or a hockey stick.”

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