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Teaching Generosity to Kids: The Giving Tree Party Ideas for a Fun Lesson on Kindness

Teaching Generosity to Kids: The Giving Tree Party Ideas for a Fun Lesson on Kindness

“Once there was a tree, and she loved a little boy.”

― Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree

the giving tree generosity lesson
A childhood classic | Image courtesy Amazon

Over 50 years ago, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein took root in the world. It’s a small, green library classic that has since been gifted at birthday parties, baby showers, and graduation celebrations countless times. Though the exact meaning has been debated, most of us can agree that the overarching lesson is an important: Teaching generosity and kindness to kids.

When I was a little girl, I’d curl up on my grandmother’s floral print couch and pour over the pages of this book. As an adult, I carry with me some very valuable lessons I learned from it, like reminding myself to go barefoot (as the boy in the story does) or focusing on the things I need rather than the things I want. And, perhaps most importantly, this book taught me to be willing to sit next to those who need support, even in silence.

When teaching kids about generosity, like with most things in life it is better to show them than to try to tell them. Children, it seems, often have a natural spirit of giving that can be seen in the way they offer a friend half of their sandwich at lunch or their younger sibling a taste of their ice cream cone. But sometimes the idea of generosity is one that can use some guidance to really bear fruit. And, that’s what’s behind this Giving Tree Party: An opportunity to teach little ones about kindness, sharing, and selflessness with the help of one of the most well-loved books of all time.

Here’s how to pull off a simple yet meaningful get together inspired by The Giving Tree, a storytime party that lets imaginations, and hearts, take flight.

A Giving Tree Lesson Idea: Donating Books to Charity

In The Giving Tree, one of the main lessons comes from the tree who continues to give and give to the boy according to his needs as he moves from one life stage to another. Books themselves are similar in their abilities to influence and affect us: I can pick up certain books from childhood and get just as much meaning from them as I did years ago—sometimes even more with a little more experience and wisdom under my belt.

kids book lessons
Guess How Much I Love You… | Image courtesy Unsplash user Annie Spratt

Books help shape the backbone of a child’s thoughts, experiences, and creative ideas. They have an amazing ability to challenge and question the way a young mind views and connects with their world. So when you send out invites for your generosity gathering, encourage each little guest to bring a copy of their favorite book. Mine, for example, would be any book dreamed up by the imagination of the wondrously wordy Dr. Seuss.

At the party, ask the children to inscribe something simple inside the cover like a quote or a few lines of their favorite passage from the story. What did this story teach them? Why do they read it again and again? What do they hope someone else can learn from it?

Let the children know that, after the party, you will be gathering all of the books up and donating them to a charity, school, or the local library. Sharing a piece of themselves through their favorite story will resonate with your young guests. It’s a simple, yet thoughtful way to give something personal and timeless, to experience reciprocal altruism and learn it can be better to give than to receive. And that is what this activity is meant to inspire, just how simple it can be to give of ourselves from time to time.

Easy DIY Flower Pot Ideas to Watch Generosity Grow

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Generosity sprouts and grows | Image courtesy Unsplash user Alisa Anton

When I was a young girl, I’d spend hours at a time in my grandma’s rose garden picking flowers to create elaborate bouquets for our neighbors alongside all the other nature obsessed kids on the block. It was clear how touched people can be by something as simple as a picked flower delivered to their doorstep. This party activity is an easy DIY for kids of all ages, from toddlers to middle schoolers, but the adults will enjoy it too!

The Supply List:

  • Small watering cans
  • Soil
  • Wildflower seeds

The Directions:

Have each child fill their watering can up with soil, then plant the seeds. These mini wildflower gardens-to-be can be donated to a local business they visit on a regular basis. It’s a unique way for them to see how their generosity grows—literally. The next time your little one ventures in for a dentist appoint or to pick up a gallon of milk, maybe they’ll see their seeds in bloom. This exercise in watching the continued effects of their generosity is one way to help keep them interested in reaching out and sharing a bit of themselves with those around them.

Giving Tree Activities Teach Generosity to Kids

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May your kind acts be like leaves on a tree | Image courtesy Etsy seller SunnyLuLuDesign

This Giving Tree activity is an interactive, hands-on way for kids to see how small acts can make a big impact (especially, when we all work together).

Before the party, draw the outline of a bare tree on some butcher paper and hang it on the wall. Then, after everyone has settled down from seed planting, give each child three leaves and have them write down something kind or generous they will do for someone else on each leaf. When they’re finished, read the leaves out loud and tape them onto the bare tree one by one. In the end, you’ll get to see the beauty of how big the tree gets when each person does just a few small acts of kindness.

As an added bonus, keep the tree up for a few months and, amongst the parents, casually keep track of the kids as they follow through on what they committed to. You can even surprise each child with a thank you gift once they’ve completed their three acts of giving to show that our kindness often comes back to us in unexpected ways. Maybe they get two tickets to the movies to share with a friend or two passes for an afternoon ice cream outing with a sibling. It’s a wonderful activity to show how one small act of giving often leads to another.

The Giving Tree Read Aloud Storytelling (With a Sweet Snack)

The read aloud storytelling is my favorite part of The Giving Tree gathering, where we all get to immerse ourselves in the imaginative world of Shel Silverstein. But, before we finally dive into the book, let’s first bake up a sweet snack together.

peach means generosity
You’re a real peach… | Image courtesy Etsy seller BeckeysKountryStore

Below is a simple recipe for a peach pie. Peach blossoms symbolize generosity, so this is a wonderfully symbolic snack to treat your guests to, although you can also substitute apple as a filling, ala the fruit offered by the Giving Tree itself.

The Ingredients List:

  • Pastry (enough for a 9-inch double crust pie)
  • 5 cups fresh peaches, sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp butter, diced
  • 2 tbsp sugar

The Baking Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Stir flour, cinnamon, and 1 cup of sugar together.
  3. Peel and slice the peaches and mix them together with the dry ingredients.
  4. Line a 9-inch pie pan with pastry.
  5. Place peach mixture into the pie pan and top with diced butter.
  6. Layer on the top crust and cut three slits. Seal the edges, then sprinkle with sugar.
  7. Before placing the pie in the oven, cover it with foil so it doesn’t brown. During the last 10 minutes of baking, remove the foil.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is perfectly golden and the juices are bubbling.

After the pie has cooled, if the day is nice you can throw open a few blankets under a backyard tree and read the featured story while the kids each enjoy a slice of fruity pie. You could even make it a popcorn reading where one child reads a few sentences and then passes the book along to someone else to read the next paragraph or so.

One of my favorite quotes of all time (aside from those scattered throughout The Giving Tree) is by Simone de Beauvoir who writes, “That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.”

The Giving Tree Party is an uplifting and warm gathering. It’s a way to come together and show kids firsthand how simple and wonderful a little generosity and kindness of spirit can be. May we all go out into the world—whether with the help of peach pie, watering cans, or sweet, simple stories—and give our all to generosity, encouraging our kids to do the same.

For more ideas on encouraging kids to give generously, explore our For Kids Gift Guide. Or, connect with us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram.

Imaginations Take Flight: Ideas for a Children’s International Storytime Party

Imaginations Take Flight: Ideas for a Children’s International Storytime Party

safari book
We All Went on Safari | Image courtesy Amazon Seller and Author Laurie Krebs

“We all went on safari, over grasslands damp with dew…” Little minds will fill with wonder as the story We All Went on Safari unfolds in detailed descriptions and colorful pictures, transporting wee ones to the foreign land of Tanzania on the wings of their imaginations—and with the help of author Laurie Krebs.

Reading stories about traveling and people living colorful lives in foreign countries allows us to explore the world in ways not always open to us in real life, sending us into grand adventures with each turn of a page. These literary encounters provide the perfect platform to teach our kids about places and cultures beyond their home country, expanding their vocabularies and geographical knowledge over an afternoon bonding with a community of friends. So get ready to board a flight for a grand adventure, right from the comfort of your living room.

An Invitation to Experience the World

Deciding to get fully immersed into storybook travels with our kids, another book-loving mom friend and I hosted an “Around the World” luncheon, with a book gift exchange, to give our children a taste of the wide world beyond their doorsteps. We invited a handful of other families to join us, along with their little travelers, for an adventurous storytime and some international eats by sending out “A Passport to Read the World” invitations.

passport invitation
A passport to adventure | Image courtesy Etsy seller SproullieDesigns

These fun mock passports can be made with some blue cardstock, just a few sheets of paper, staples, and stickers:

  1. Using blue cardstock for authenticity, we sliced each page down the middle to make two covers from each sheet.
  2. Repeating the process with plain printing paper, we cut five pages in half to fit between the cover sheet.
  3. Lining up the blank white pages with the blue cover, we stapled them down the centerline to make a binding.
  4. Once stapled, we folded each booklet in half and decorated the cover with foil markers and passport stamp stickers to craft them into the perfect tickets to guide the way for our reading travels.

Inside the front cover of each passport-inspired invitation, families were asked to go online and sign into our book gift exchange to find out which family they’ll be gifting with their favorite cultural tale. Then, they’ll bring a new book, gift wrapped for the exchange, as well as their own beloved copy to read to the group. We even included an option to donate a second new book to our local library so our entire community can expand their horizons.

Finally, we made sure to remind the guests to bring their invitation, nay passport, along with them to the party—their mini world travelers will be filling up the blank pages with all the fun things learned about exotic locales as we read about them.

A Space to Seek Adventure—and Treats—Together

For our trip around the world, we pack the living room with comfy places to sit, centered around one large armchair that acts as the pilot’s seat for the featured storyteller as they take us on the escapades of their chosen book. To add an element of traveling whimsy to the decor, we enhanced the armchair to look like the front end of an airplane:

vintage airplane poster
Vintage Airplane Whimsy | Image courtesy Etsy seller Mirabilitas
  1. Using a couple cardboard boxes, we fashion two sides of a plane and a pair of wings by tracing the general shapes and cutting them out.
  2. Grabbing the markers and stickers we had leftover from making passports, we adorn the wings and label the sides of the plane “Storytime Air.”
  3. Once our plane parts are decorated to our liking, we fasten the wings to the sides of the plane using clear packing tape.
  4. Now that each side of our plane is assembled, we prop them up against either side of the armchair, and we’re ready for takeoff!

When it’s storytime, we’ll explain to the kids that each of their books is a special “flight map” able to take us on a unique adventure all over the world with the turn of a page. We also lined up a couple tables along the wall in the back to display the international cuisine we would sample for our storytime luncheon. We spread out book pages and maps to act as a table runner, hung extra books over a clothesline as a banner, and propped books up in stacks topped with a globe, a telescope, and a compass to inspire us in our explorations ahead.

Navigation Through Narration

Now that the room is staged for a grand adventure, the little ones are ready to dive into the pages of their favorite tales from afar with their friends. As we read aloud, parents are encouraged to help their kiddos make journal entries about our travels in their passports. The little ones can draw pictures while parents write in fun facts their adventuring babes loved from each story so they can revisit them again and again, taking note of the titles for future book purchases.

international flags
The (Mini) Flags of All Nations | Image courtesy Amazon seller Fun Express

Lily and her mom Rachel read Ruby’s Wish, a Chinese-inspired tale, taking turns on a few pages so 6-year-old Lily could practice her out-loud reading. Ryan could hardly wait to pass out the “passport stamp” stickers he brought along to match his favorite book, and jumped up to start the moment his dad turned to the last page of The Cat Who Walked Across France. Other amazing international reads the group brought were:

The Post-Flight Meal

There’s no easier way to introduce other cultures to kids in a tangible manner than through food. After our flights of story fancies, we enjoyed a luncheon Sarah and I prepared of finger foods inspired by worldwide cuisines. Options included a few familiar looking choices in the form of a French cheese tray, English tea and biscuits, Italian pasta salad, Australian fish and chips, and a Caribbean fruit salad—and a couple not-so-common dishes like Indian Chicken Marsala, and Moroccan lentil soup cups.

All dishes were clearly labeled with the names of the food and marked with small flags from the country of origin to help kids match the dish to its culture. And the variety of flavors and textures gave the kiddos a chance to taste what their favorite characters from the day’s stories might be enjoying.

Exchanging the Tales of Our Travels

A Walk in London
A Walk in London | Image courtesy Amazon seller Salvatore Rubbino

Once every family had an opportunity to read their book, and all had their fill of the tasty lunch assortment, the kids got to share in the joy of giving a copy of their favorite story to the friend they were assigned in the exchange online. Having learned which child they would be gifting a book to before the event, but not who would be giving a book to them, left all of the kids super excited to find out which story they would end up with.

Sarah’s son Kale was thrilled when he found out Michelle had picked him in the book swap since he fell in love with her tale Are We There Yet? during our storytime. Isabell couldn’t have been happier to discover that she would be going home with A Walk in London, having thoroughly delighted in the tea and biscuits at lunch.

New tales of travel in hand, and young minds full of wonder at the world, we part ways with a renewed love of the written word. Wanting to make every effort to spread that love, many of us brought along a second new copy of our favorite book to donate so even more kids can fly to far off places and explore interesting cultures thanks to their nearby library.

Everyone left our storytime with a renewed sense of adventure to discover more of the fascinating worlds to be found in books. I know I was more than happy to oblige when my son asked to revisit our new storybook again before bed—and I’m sure we’ll all dream of spectacular world travels as we drift off to sleep tonight.

Looking for new adventures to share with the little ones in your world? Let the elves at Elfster help you create a globe-trotting reading gift guide and find lots of colorful ideas for an Around the World party of your own on Facebook, Twitter @Elfster, and Instagram @Elfstergram.

Have a Ball with Charitable Giving by Joining ZogSports, the Largest Social Sports League

Have a Ball with Charitable Giving by Joining ZogSports, the Largest Social Sports League

zogsports team It was arguably the worst day America had ever seen—a few moments in time that no American will ever forget. But, many stories of strength, fortitude, and positive energy have emerged in the 15 years since the events of September 11th, 2001.

One such story is that of Robert Herzog, founder of ZogSports, which has grown to become the most popular adult co-ed social sports league in the country. Each year, ZogSports has seen its membership grow. Over 100,000 fun-loving, sports-minded “Zoggers” now come together on courts and fields all over the nation to play for fun, for community—and for a cause.

Robert Herzog, and the Inspiring Story Behind ZogSports

 

“After his close call on September 11, 2001, Robert Herzog was inspired to create an organization which brought like-minded people together to have fun, give back, and create community. He identified a need amongst New York’s young professionals for better organized sports leagues and more natural social interactions outside of the workplace. Plus, he wanted to tap into the charitable spirit which pervaded the city following 9/11.”

– ZogSports.com

 

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How This Unique Sports League Works

If you’re interested in taking part in this one-of-a-kind movement, it’s easy to join in!

sports balls

  1. Go to www.zogsports.com and find a team in your area. ZogSports operates sports leagues around the U.S., specifically in Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
  2. Select your sport, from basketball to whiffle ball, and many in between.
  3. Select a charity, as a team, to play for that season. This is where the social part comes in—the league hosts happy hour events all season long where it accepts charitable contributions over the course of the entire season. Donations from corporate sponsors are also added to the charity pool.
  4. Try to win! At the end of the season, the winning teams won’t get trophies, Instead, a donation will be made to the team’s charity of choice.

The True Mission of ZogSports

With generosity as its core mission, the organization has now turned Robert’s original dream into reality with over $3 million donated to various charities all over the country since its inception in 2002. And players are having plenty of fun and laughs along the way!

This year, the league leaders from each city are taking a time out and getting generous with one another. These busy “Zoggers,” who take their fun seriously, are hosting a ZogSports global Secret Santa online gift exchange using Elfster.com to connect their team, managed by HQ team member and “Director of Basically Everything,” Amy Cooperstock.

ZogSports team members

According to Jody Zellman, ZogSports’ National Expansion Manager, “All full-time staff members nationwide will be participating in this year’s Secret Santa. Amy heard about Elfster after an angel came to her in a dream and said, ‘Check out Elfster and go back to sleep.’” Ha!

“Every person will purchase a gift worth up to $20 for another person in the company,” he explains. “If years past are any indicator, it’ll be an afternoon of hilarity—and painful inside jokes. This is the first year we’re expanding our Secret Santa beyond our physical office to incorporate all seven of our markets’ employees nationwide,” he adds.

Team Elfster is proud to help connect these caring and sharing elves!

And here are a few fun facts about the team according to Jody:

“Chris, our general manager of New Jersey, was the first baby born in Michigan in 1977. We have four Matts, a Chris, another Chris, a Christine, a Danny, a Danielle, a Joe, and a Joey. Let’s see if Elfster can keep up with that name scramble.”

We’ll give it our best shot, Jody! ;)

Want to connect with your favorite co-workers this holiday season? The elves at Elfster can help! An online gift exchange is a quick, easy, fun (and free) way to bring your team together, no matter where they are. Don’t forget to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter @Elfster, and Instagram @Elfstergram for office party ideas that are virtually endless!

 

Photo Credits: ZogSports, Kaplan

Elfster Brings Its North Pole Style to Hollywood to Celebrate the AMAs

Elfster Brings Its North Pole Style to Hollywood to Celebrate the AMAs

 

 

The Elfster elves have been busy spreading a little holiday cheer this season and made the big trek to Los Angeles to share Elfster’s mission of making gift giving easy and fun. And just in time for Ugly Sweater Season.

On November 21, the company partnered with the Product Hollywood Celebrity Gift Suite event celebrating the 2015 American Music Awards, as our Head Elf Peter (and a few Helper Elves) rocked some North Pole Style at the event honoring the latest and greatest in contemporary music. Celebrities flocked to the Elfster booth to show their love of Elfster’s Ugly Christmas Sweater tee shirt giveaway, get their picture taken with an “actual elf” and hear about how they could use Elfster for their holiday giving with friends and fans.

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“The Internet is an amazing place for communities of people to connect with and get to know each other,” explained Peter Imburg, CEO of Elfster.com. “We have many groups using the site that represent fans of musical acts, or television shows. The fans use these gift exchanges as a way to celebrate their shared interests, and often exchange gifts related to their favorite band, actor, or show.”  As a way to further promote the use of the site for these types of groups, Elfster was able to share the details of the site directly with musicians, actors and television personalities that inspire these groups.

 

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In addition to the shirts, each attendee was encouraged to help Elfster support their charitable toy drive for Toys for Tots and share the drive with their social media followers. Elfster is proud of its partnership with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation facilitating online toy donations and this nationwide campaign will allow for donors anywhere to purchase toys online, and have them mailed directly to a Toys for Tots location near them. To learn more about Elfster’s Toys for Tots drive, please visit  www.elfster.com/toys-for-tots/ .

An opportunity for you to help

An opportunity for you to help

May is National Foster Care Month, a time to recognize the role each of us plays in the lives of children and youth in foster care. Elfster is proud to partner with First Place For Youth to offer a Charitable Gift Exchange for kids in the foster care system throughout California.

First Place serves foster kids who have the greatest needs in the community, helping them find their way as adults and build a foundation for a bright future. We are looking for generous people willing to send a gift to a young adult facing the challenges of growing up without a family who can be there for them.  Elfster will make it easy for you to view the wish lists and send gifts directly to the First Place For Youth office for distribution.

 

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First Place believes that all foster kids in the United States can achieve self-sufficiency and make a successful transition to adulthood so that the disparities between them and their non-foster care peers are eliminated. First Place is a national leader in building the evidence to support this drive and in increasing awareness, changing perceptions and building a movement to make it happen. For more information about First Place For Youth, check out their website, or you can watch these inspiring stories:

A Foundation for Life After Foster Care
First Place for Youth

 

Pamela-2014-960x638If you choose to help support the cause, you will be matched with a foster child that has a wish list of items to choose from. We request that each person spend a minimum of $25, but the maximum you want to give is up to you. Names will be drawn on May 15th with the expectation that gifts will be sent by May 31.

You can sign up for the exchange individually, or get a group of your friends, family, or coworkers to go in together to give these kids a well-deserved gift.

Sign Up Here

First Place is an outcome-driven organization. They believe in setting high expectations for the young people they serve, and hold themselves accountable to those same high expectations.

Together we can make a difference for these special kids. If you have any questions, please contact us at help@elfster.com