365give started as a parenting project in 2010. It was important for me as a mom to teach my three year old important life skills – empathy, understanding, community. It was through giving that I decided to teach my little one these life skills with the intention to make his actions a habit, like brushing his teeth. I found teaching my 3 year-old to give was easier than I thought. I also found that my life was enriched by this experience. Who would have thunk? I was also taught as a child to give back as a way to develop empathy, understanding and the importance of community and know it has been a big part of my life. I wanted to create that experience again for my first son and have continued this with his younger brothers. What I did not take into account when I started our 365 days of giving was the increased happiness I experienced.
Giving does not have to be a BIG task for the day. What I have found to be successful and have now built an entire program around, is small gives, 1 day, 1 give at a time. For little ones (and big ones too!) giving is an adventure. It is not an all day task, nor is it a long task. It is doing one simple thing, every day.
We started out by picking up garbage in the playground. Then we started picking up garbage when walking our dog in the park. Our creative playtime turned into an arts hour where we would create a present for someone. We used our kitchen time to bake cookies for the fire department. We recycled at home, went shopping for clothes at second hand stores. We donated used items to local charities and would drop a dollar in a homeless person’s cup. Each of these gives became part of our regular routine, nothing out of the ordinary, just a focus on finding and completing a give for the day.
Nic and I would sit down each week and make a small list of gives we could do for the upcoming week. This went on for 365 days. This routine is what made our 365 days of giving so successful. He loved trying to think up new gives that would fit into our regular daily schedule. When we completed our give, we made sure we acknowledged it, and talked about how benefited from our give of the day. It was fun, he loved it, and we still do our daily give, seven years later. His brothers have joined in the fun, and also have a daily giving habit.
The adventure of giving makes it fun. When we picked up garbage on our walks, it was more like a scavenger hunt than a task. We would explore places on our walks in search of garbage which made each walk an adventure. We laughed, we explored, we would try new parks so we could find new garbage to pick up. It was more of a game than anything else, and Nic loved it.
When we started our donation jar, money that we received when we recycled our bottles and cans, the game became even more fun. Nic and I would count the money we had accumulated after each recycle run, and talk about the places we could donate the money. He loved counting it, he loved setting goals for his donation money, and he loved the final donation he made to the local SPCA. He would seek out ways to add to our recycling so he could add to his donation jar.
It was fun, and fun is what it is all about!
Little ones have a small attention span, so the smaller the give the better. A good rule of thumb to follow for your daily give is to match the time frame of your give with their age. For example. A 3 year-old can focus on something for 3 minutes, a 4 year-old for 4 minutes, a 5 year-old for 5 minutes. You know your child and can determine their attention span best but this is a great guideline. Holding open the door for someone, making a card for grandma, filling just a small bag with garbage, smiling at everyone we saw one day, cleaning out just one drawer in our room and donating unused clothes to charity, that was an easy task for a three year old. We did not do a full day of volunteering, or spend hours on a give. We found 5 minute tasks that we could easily complete.
Many of us think that a give needs to be big. A donation of a large sum of money, or an ongoing volunteer job, or a full day task. Big gives like the ones mentioned can be part of your overall giving strategy, but building a habit of giving starts with the small stuff, every day. And it works. It also makes you feel happy every day, not just a few times a year. We do a few big gives every year, but we focus on the small gives every day to instill the importance of giving and make it manageable. If something is easy, we are all happy to do it, no matter what the age. If something becomes difficult, overwhelming or just unmanageable, it is less likely that we will complete what we set out to do. Breaking down giving into bite size pieces compounds the positive effect of giving over time. All of a sudden you have a large impact without feeling that you made a huge effort. That is the magic of small daily gives. And it is magical, really magical, once you start giving every day.
Routines establish a sense of certainty and security for little ones (and big ones too!) Kids respond well to routines, and learn far more from routine activities than off the cuff schedules. The stability of a routine is the foundation for building habits. Routines also help us understand and establish time management skills while fine tuning the ability to shift our focus between tasks. Routine builds an environment where kids can thrive and learn. Establishing a giving routine is no different than establishing a bedtime routine, play day routines, and self care routines. Adults also do better with routine, but that is for another day! 🙂
You know your child and what type of routine suits them best. Some children love to complete their give at the same time every day. Some kids do well just knowing they have to conduct a give daily without having to set an actual time. Nic was flexible and embraced a routine where he needed to give once every day, at any time during the day. He became the giving leader in our household making sure one give was completed every day before he went to bed. He started to find giving opportunities during the day that I did not even see. His routine worked for him, and your child will also find the best routine for them.
This is a short video that Nic and I made when we first started our 365 days of giving. It was our craft play time that turned into a give.
Starting a routine of fun and easy gives is one of the greatest gift you can give your child. The rewards of happiness, a sense of community, self esteem and empathy will carry them through their lives. Enriching their daily experiences with one small daily give will compound into greater achievements that will empower them, their friends, their communities and their feeling of selfworth. It is all in the small things, set as a daily routine that will make them happier kids.
Curious about the 365give Challenge? Sign up for your family membership and give it a try for seven days. See how your kids embrace the routine, fun and easy of daily giving. As a parent you may just benefit as well. I know as a parent I found my life and family relationships to be happier, more fun and really brought us together as we planned and completed our daily gives.