8 ways to give back this Christmas

Christmas is a magical time and one of plenty for so many families, who enjoy opening the piles of presents under the tree and sitting down to a table groaning with festive food. It’s a time when we may eat and spend a little too much, and then enjoy a lovely time celebrating with our families. But it’s not like that for every family.

For some families, Christmas is a time when it can be a struggle to put presents under the tree and food on the table. A time where there can be little cause for celebration. But every child deserves to feel a little bit of magic as they wake up on Christmas day. That’s why it’s worth taking a little time to give back what you can this Christmas to help others share a little bit of the magic too. After all – Christmas is the season of giving.

1. Make a reverse advent calendar 

This is such a lovely way to help the whole family think of others in the run up to Christmas. Instead of opening doors each day of December on a calendar, you pop a small item in a box, which you take to a charity (such as a food bank) when it is full. To make your own reverse advent calendar, first pick a charity or food bank that you would like to donate to and find out what items they are most in need of. Then find a large cardboard box and decorate it. If you are crafty you can use cardboard to divide the box into 24 sections. An easy way to make your box is to stick four cardboard wine bottle carriers together. Then each day put an item into the box. Involve your children in helping you think of and then find items that you could add. Once your reverse advent calendar is full, donate it to help the cause you have chosen.

2. The Acts of Kindness Calendar 

This is such a lovely way to encourage children to carry out small acts of kindness on each day of advent and make a big difference to someone’s day. Action for Kindness produces a lovely Advent Calendar each year. You can download and print one. Each day of advent of advent has a small act of kindness for children and families to carry out. Last year’s calendar included things like: ‘Count how many people you smile at today’ and ‘Leave a happy note for someone else to find’. This year’s festive calendar will be added to their website soon. Of course, you could always make your own kindness advent calendar and make sure all the acts of kindness are easy, and suitable for your children to do. What a lovely way to spread festive cheer throughout December.

3. Buy an extra present for a child in need 

When you are doing your Christmas shopping, buy an extra toy to give to a child, who might otherwise not have anything to open on Christmas day. There are lots of charities that organise Christmas present schemes to collect donations of toys and gifts, wrap them and deliver them to those in need. Cash for Kids organises Mission Christmas each year and urges the public to buy one extra gift to help thousands of disadvantaged children across the UK in danger of waking up to no presents on Christmas morning.

4. Help to give Christmas dinner to others 

You can give your time to help provide the homeless with warmth, companionship and a Christmas dinner over the festive period. Crisis runs a UK Crisis at Christmas scheme each year. There are many other local charities who need volunteers too. Please note that volunteers must be 16 or over for Crisis. Many larger supermarkets will have collections for local food banks in store over the festive period. When you are doing the food shopping with your children ask them to pick out one or two items, which you could donate to help families in need.

5. Remember children who will spend Christmas in hospital 

Christmas time spent with your loved ones is special. For seriously ill children who are too poorly to go home for Christmas that is truer still. Talk to your child about what it must be like to be in hospital at Christmas and find out how you can make a difference to their day. Children’s hospitals do lots of different things to raise money to make Christmas a special day for the patients. Great Ormond Street has a Stocking Appeal, where you can write messages of hope for sick children and their families and a Santa Dash fundraiser. Check out the website of your local children’s hospital to find out how you can do your bit to support them.

6. Have a clear out and donate to charity 

Many lucky children will wake up on Christmas day and unwrap a pile of new toys, books and clothes. The run up to Christmas is the perfect time to encourage your children to have a good clear out and give any things they have grown out of to charity. It’s a really easy way to give back and it doesn’t cost you a penny. But the donations you make to a charity shop (such as your local Barnardo’s store) all help make a big difference to those in need.

7. Be a secret Santa 

Think of someone who has had a bit of a tough year and who could do with a little extra this Christmas to make them smile. It could be a family member, a friend, a mum or dad at the school gate, who you know has had a tough time lately or a recently widowed elderly neighbour. Choose and wrap a gift for them. It doesn’t have to be lavish, but make it as thoughtful as you can. Maybe your children could help you bake some gingerbread cookies or help you decorate a plant pot, which you could pop a pretty plant in. Add a nice message on a gift tag and then leave your secret present on the doorstep on Christmas Eve.

8. Lend a helping paw to animals at Christmas time 

Would your child love to give cuddles to cats and make their Christmas happy? Animal rescue centres and shelters still run at Christmas time, and because of the holidays many look for extra volunteers to look after and feed the animals waiting for their forever homes. Last year, Holly Hedge Animal Sanctuary in Bristol was looking for ‘cuddle volunteers’ to help give lots of love (and care) to the animals at the centre as well as looking for foster carers. Find out if your local animal shelter has any opportunities for families to volunteer and help out. Do note that often children under 16 need to be accompanied by an adult volunteer.

In today’s world where Christmas has become very commercialised, it’s great to find ways to teach children to think of others less fortunate than themselves and teach them about the joy of giving. Giving or taking time to do small things can make a big difference to those in need. Teaching your chid about the importance of giving and the joy it can bring to both the giver, and the receiver might just be the best gift you can give them this Christmas.