The children in your class likely come from a variety of cultural backgrounds and even have different family traditions surrounding the winter holidays. You only have about 15 school days each December, thanks to the winter break, so covering every conceivable holiday approach can leave you exhausted – and with no time for regular school preparation and work. Focusing on the spirit of giving that is universal to all of the holidays can help take the focus off of differences and bring the class together to support great causes in your own community.
Sharing a new or gently used toy gives the kids in your class a chance to give over the holiday season. Since the families in your class have varying income levels and abilities to give, this needs to be an optional and anonymous program.
Begin collecting non-perishable food in the late fall and you’ll have a big donation for your local food pantry by the holiday season. If possible, contact the pantry or shelter in advance to determine their needs; some receive ongoing donations of specific food types from local churches and businesses.
Pets Matter Too
Contact your local animal shelter to see what their needs are for the holiday season. In many cases, their donations drop off as the holidays approach and people get busy with other causes. A pet food drive is not only helpful to the shelter, but a good choice for classes in areas where other giving is cost prohibitive. A can of cat of dog food is very inexpensive and allows just about everyone to give to the cause.
Make Cards or Ornaments for a Cause
Every community has a nursing home or two, and adopting one for the holidays can give your kids a more personal connection to the act of giving. Read a book together and then talk about what the nursing home experience is like for older people in care settings, and about their loneliness and isolation. The class can then make cards with notes or a simple ornament craft that can help brighten the day of an older resident.
Popular reads covering the plight of the elderly in care settings and how to help include:
- A Visit to Oma by Marisabina Russo
- My Grandma’s in a Nursing Home by Judy Delton
- Sunshine Home by Eve Bunting
- Loop the Loop by Barbara Dugan;
- Always Gramma by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
- Remember That by Lesléa Newman
- Old People, Frogs and Albert by Nancy Hope Wilson
Start talking about the season of giving before the holidays start, and highlight the fact that all of the major holidays embrace this spirit in an inclusive way. A note home can let parents know about the approach you’re taking and what the kids will be able to participate in over the winter season.