Yesterday we gathered our family in the play room and started sifting through the piles of toys. We gathered two big boxes of toys and books and games to give to our local Family Homeless shelter. They will make our donation available to parents who don’t have the means to purchase Christmas gifts.
Sister-Bug had a hard time. Having done this tradition annually for 6 years now, I can say that 3 is hard. The 3-year old understands what they are doing but doesn’t have the emotional empathy needed to willingly give toys up. At one and two it’s a game. After 3 it gets easier. But it’s just tough for a 3-year old. Nevertheless, she participated after we promised that no dolls would be given away.
But Brother-Bug!! I am so proud of him. He carefully sorted through his beloved box of trucks. This year he didn’t consider only if he could part with each toy. He though hard about if it would make a good gift. He imagined receiving it, and tried to put himself in another child’s place. He gave with more generosity than ever before.
Additionally, because of freakishly snowy weather here, “Santa” didn’t get the Christmas DVD that usually arrives with the giving away. Instead there was a letter telling the kids he had forgotten their gift because he had been helping out at the local warming center for the homeless. Dasher will drop it off when “he is in the area”. My little guy, who falls apart at the smallest of disappointments took this is calm stride. No worries. Everyone has to help out – even Santa.
It’s not too late to join us in making space and passing our blessings on. We have so much and there is surely somewhere near you who will pass good-condition toys on to families in need. Family shelters, foster closets, children’s hospitals… Teach your children well.
I can now look at Brother-Bug, after years of pushing him through the difficulties of giving up toys, and tell you This Really Works.
Keep reading! This is the article originally published in 2011.
One thing I try to teach, model, and live at this time of year is giving. It is a season of giving, not of getting. So while we do make lists for Santa, we try to focus more on what we are giving to others – talking about who we are gifting as we are making gifts and baking cookies, and how much those recipients will enjoy our gift.
We also have a yearly tradition that we call “The Great Toy Give-Away”. It happens today, the first Saturday of December. We’ve done it every year since Brother-Bug was one (that first Christmas he was 3 months old, so didn’t have much to giveaway).
The idea is simple. We look through our toys and find some nice ones that we no longer use. We pick them out and take them to a local family homeless shelter. While we are doing it, we talk about what it might be like to have Christmas morning without a house, how we are helping other kids have presents, maybe some kids won’t have a present unless we share some of our excess.
Every year it is a little hard. Every year I am warmed to my core when Brother-Bug gets into it and truly gives from his heart. My favorite was when he gave up a Tonka dump truck, so shocked was he (at three) that some kid might not have even one toy truck!
I’ve sweetened the deal a little. As we go through the toys, we find a present from Santa. It comes with a note thanking our family for being so generous. The present is usually a Christmas DVD. It doesn’t add to our toy load and helps us look forward to this exercise in generosity.
Also, we’ve linked this with the getting of the tree. Take the toys, pick out a tree, come home and decorate, watch a new Christmas movie. It ends up being a really nice day.
My hope is that we make some space in our toy storage for some of the new toys arriving in a few weeks. My hope is that the kids learn that giving is an essential part of this season. My hope is that they take the needs of others into consideration when approaching this most festive of seasons.
They might hate it now, or tolerate their Mother’s insistence. But maybe the lesson will stick. I hope.