Teaching Children to be Charitable

During the season of gimme, gimme and more, more, more, it’s a good opportunity to start teaching children the importance of giving to others.  Charitable involvement has been shown to help raise self-esteem, develop social skills, and encourage kids to appreciate their own lifestyle.  Many parents prefer to wait to teach their children about being charitable until six or seven when they have better comprehension skills.  However, according to Carol Weisman, the author of Raising Charitable Children, kids are capable of understanding caring and giving as young as three of four.  At three, children are quickly learning to communicate their needs and are capable of comforting those around them.  A perfect time to get started!

Oprah.com offers a helpful article about how to get your child started on the right path.  Provided is a summary of some of the most effective methods outlined.

Start simply

Emptying your child’s piggy bank will only cause resentment and create a negative association with giving.  Therefore keep it simple.  Let them know that little things they are already doing are acts of giving, such a smiling at someone on the street, sending a card to a friend and keeping lonely relatives company.  Helping your child gather a bag of clothes or toys that they’ve outgrown for charity is an easy way to give back.  Keep the lines of communication open and be flexible.  If your child doesn’t want to give away their clothes or toys, offer other alternatives like baking treats and taking them to a homeless shelter. 

Let them choose their own causes

Children are more apt to stick with something they find interesting.  So present them with some charitable or volunteering opportunities that they will enjoy or at the very least understand.

Make giving a family affair

Volunteer as a family.  Not only does this give you a chance to spend time together but it shows that you value the importance of giving back and stand behind it with your own actions.  Children naturally mimic their parent’s actions, so they’ll be much more inclined to get involved if you do.

Show them the payoff

Almost as important as the giving process is talking about it afterward to explain who you’ve benefited and how.  Give them an understanding of how their efforts have had a positive effect on others.  Let them know that you’re proud of them and tell them exactly why, using specific examples.


By encouraging charitable giving at a young age and being an active participate with you child, can go a long way in raising individuals that have genuine concern for others.


Blog Entry By:

MaryAnn Viviano, Business Operations Director, has been with Kidspace Children’s Museum since 2004.  Prior experience includes working for the American Red Cross after receiving a BA in Communications from the University of Texas at Austin.