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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

generosity blooms
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

kind acts on leaves
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.

Elfster, Toys for Tots, and You: Conjuring up Christmas Magic on Giving Tuesday

Elfster, Toys for Tots, and You: Conjuring up Christmas Magic on Giving Tuesday

There’s a special magic that wells up in children everywhere this time of year—their hearts are filled with hope at just the thought of twinkling lights, happy carols, and the possibility of snow flurries to turn the world into a dreamy greeting card. Every kid delights in Christmas morning surprises wrapped in colorful paper and tied with a bow, under the fragrant bough of an evergreen tree delicately laced with sparkling garlands.

Elfster and Toys for Tots make those childish dreams come true each holiday season by collecting gifts of toys, books, and games for kids in need. The spirit and the magic of the Christmas can spread like wildfire in the kids blessed by these gifts—and in our hearts when we shop with a purpose this Giving Tuesday!

The Story of Giving Tuesday

Established as an international generosity movement in 2012, Giving Tuesday kicks off the holiday season with the spirit of giving to counterbalance the rampant consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. While many charities take part in the #GivingTuesday movement on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, few bless the hearts of children in quite the way that Toys for Tots does.

handmade doll
Photo credit Etsy seller piggyhatespanda

Back in 1947, Marine Corps Major Bill Hendricks was moved and inspired when his wife Diane tried to gift her handmade dolls to children during the holiday season, but found no easy way to bless a child in need with her gifts. Diane proposed that her husband, along with a group of local Marine reservists, find a solution—and they collected 5,000 toys from bins left out in front of movie theaters that year.

Their idea brought such a wave of support that the very next year, in 1948, Toys for Tots was born as a national campaign. Today, it continues in the spirit of the Hendrick’s original efforts, and has grown to reach hundreds of millions of underprivileged kids with toys, and love, each Christmas. And that’s why a partnership between Toys for Tots and Elfster on Giving Tuesday is a match made in heaven—granting gift wishes is our ultimate aim!

The Impact of Your Generosity

Years ago as a young, single mom, I found myself struggling to make ends meet, get through community college, and still show my little boy the beauty and wonder in the world despite our humble circumstances. The holidays became a particularly stressful time to maintain a happy balance—when there’s no room in the budget for emergencies, there’s really no room for holiday shopping. Were it not for the generosity of strangers giving through Toys for Tots that year, my son’s Christmas would not have been the merry and bright day that we both still remember and hold dear.

Candy Apple Candle

Photo credit Pottery Barn Kids

I had managed to prepare a handful of dollar store treats in a small stocking, and together we accented the windows with carefully snipped coffee filter snowflakes and made a paper chain garland countdown to Christmas Day. My son eagerly wrote his wish list to Santa, and looked at our handmade Christmas trimmings with nothing but delight. Yet I couldn’t help wishing there was more I could do to make my boy’s Christmas morning special, and ensure that Santa paid him a visit. I knew he would hear of the fantastic presents his peers at school received, and I wanted nothing more than for him to bubble up with excitement at the chance to share about his gifts as well.

At a friend’s suggestion, I signed up for Toys for Tots, but didn’t think much would come of it, if anything. I had resolved to apologize to my boy later in life for letting him down, with no exciting gift to give him that Christmas morning.

But, with great thanks to Toys for Tots, partners like Elfster, and those that donate to the cause, I don’t have to look back on that Christmas with a heavy heart. I look back with gratitude, remembering the dazzling wonder in my son’s eyes when he woke up to find that Santa had used some kind of Christmas magic to answer his letter, despite our apartment not having a chimney. And I felt there must have been angels listening in as my own wish had been met with unexpected generosity.

Today, I am still so inspired by the love that reached out to us that year that I can’t wait to make another child’s Christmas wishes come true in the same way the generosity of others did for my son years ago. And Elfster is making it easier than ever to be a part of this wonderful cause with their online Giving Tuesday virtual donation bins that send your gifts directly to your local branch of Toys for Tots!

Shopping for a Cause in Your Community

This year, as you hit the stores for Black Friday deals or shop your favorite sites on Cyber Monday, remember your holiday shopping is not complete without spreading the cheer on Giving Tuesday. Elfster, partnering with Toys for Tots, brings you the convenience of online shopping, while still supporting your local community by sending your purchases straight to the donation center nearest to you with just a couple of clicks.

remote-controlled car
Photo credit Amazon seller Maisto

1. Visit our site to watch a quick video on just how easy it is to make an impact.

2. Click the “Get Started” button to be sent to Elfster’s Toys for Tots charity drive wish lists of gifts.

3. Follow the checkout instructions for your purchases.

4. Smile, knowing you have just helped Elfster and Toys for Tots spread the magic of the holidays to some very deserving children in your local community.

5. Share the Elfster Toys for Tots donation link with your family and friends via social media so they can also experience the joy of giving!

It’s really just that simple to bless a child over the holidays with Elfster’s Toys for Tots online gift giving—they bring your local donation bin straight to your personal computer, tablet, or smartphone!

Paw Patrol stuffed animal
Photo credit Amazon seller Paw Patrol

And Elfster’s Toys for Tots gift guides have a wide array of toys and games, from a cuddly Paw Patrol talking puppy to a rough-and-tumble RC off-road vehicle. But, just in case you need a bit more inspiration, you can browse our Just for Kids gift guides, then use the address provided on the Elfster Toys for Tots info page to make sure your generous donations go directly to your neighborhood donation center.

Quick and Easy Gifting

Maybe you’re like me and want to grant a specific wish for a child, or want to help support the costs for spreading the cheer, i.e. distribution. Elfster has you covered. All you have to do is follow the link to donate on the Toys for Tots drive page, enter an amount to donate, and your support will assist Toys for Tots in their mission of spreading toys and joy. They’ve also included a shareable button for monetary donations that can be added to any Elfster wishlist, or shared on all your favorite social media sites.

Just imagine the excitement you—and Elfster’s over 4 million users’—can spread throughout your own communities by shopping online for Toys for Tots this Giving Tuesday. The joy of giving always inspires me to light the spark of charitable holiday gifting in my family and friends—make your generosity go even further by sharing your experience on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. I’m positive that, together with Elfster, Toys for Tots, and you, we can ignite the spirit of giving to make more wonder-filled Christmas dreams come true than ever before.

Add Giving Tuesday to your holiday shopping calendar this year, and let the elves help you find inspiration with our Toys for Tots Wish Lists and Christmas Gifting Guides. Find more magic worth dreaming about on our Facebook page, Instagram @Elfstergram, and Twitter @Elfster this Holiday season!

Rainy Day Rescue

Rainy Day Rescue

Rainy Day Rescue

What’s worse than getting caught in the rain? Having to endure the awkward moment when you, bone dry and under your umbrella, must walk past an unfortunate soul who has forgotten his or her own!

There’s a terrific opportunity for April altruism here.

Play the part of the silent hero (bonus points if you have a trench coat) and use the opportunity to hand-out a poncho. Stock your purse with some inexpensive “emergency” solutions and pass them out when you happen to catch someone up the creek without a poncho. (You can find them at many drugstores for under a dollar!)

If you want to go the extra mile, you can customize the labels with fun and inspiring messages. We included a few “Poncho Printable” templates and instructions here to help get you started. But feel free to customize with your own unique words of encouragement!

Here are a few ideas:

Today, You're the Head Poncho!

· Real men wear ponchos.

· Congratulations! You’ve had a “stroke” of luck!

· Throw ponchos, not punches!

· Went to work without an umbrella and all you got was this lousy poncho…

· Today, you’re the head poncho!

· Umbrellas are overrated.

· Free recyclable shower curtain.

You've Been Struck... With Good Luck!

· Well, the rain dance worked.

· Don’t worry. This doesn’t legally obligate you to join my cult.

· Hey Rain Man, don’t be a hero.


Have any more ideas to help brighten someone’s day? Comment below to tell us what your “Rainy Day Rescue” might say!

Make the Most Out of Your Gifts!

Make the Most Out of Your Gifts!

fruitcake Photo courtesy of Glenn List

More than half of people receive what they consider bad holiday gifts and almost one-third know someone who consistently gives poor or even insulting ones!

Now that it’s 2010 and you’ve had a few weeks to take inventory of all your gifts, it’s time to consider what to do with them! Did you get exactly what was on your wish list, and then some? Did you get some from people who apparently don’t know you at all? The same ol’ fruitcake or flannel shirt? No problem! Here are some eco-friendly, helpful and affordable ways to use your gifts:

Return it. If you have a receipt or know the store, return it for cash or store credit. The only drawback to this classic solution is that about 17% of retailers have tightened their holiday policies this year, largely because of return fraud, according to the National Retail Federation.

Sell it. If you can’t return the gift but want cash, try selling it on eBay, Craigslist or even a yard sale.

Donate it. Cart your gift along with other items that are just cluttering to your home to the nearest charity shop and take the tax credit. You can also donate them to a silent auction or a senior center as Bingo prizes.

Swap it. Throw a post-holiday soiree and swap the bad gifts to people who will appreciate them. To keep duds out of landfills, BBMG, an eco-minded marketing company, has launched The Save the White Elephant campaign.

Regifting. As long as you’re careful not to give the gift back to the giver, or someone he or she knows well, regifting has become more and more socially acceptable.  The safest candidates are generic items like wine, unopened chocolates, candles and, even better, unused gift cards. We don’t suggest sending a weird or tacky gift to someone unless you think they might actually like it.

Recycling. allows people to post and receive free stuff. No takers? Check with your local recycler to see if they’ll accept the gift.

Purple Heart Projects

Purple Heart Projects

Purple Heart Projects

Year in and year out a US soldiers work is never done. We see their faces on the news, and read about their movements in the paper, but rarely do we have an opportunity to thank them. Purple Heart Projects makes that thank you easier than one could ever imagine. From simple donations, Purple Heart Projects puts together and mails care packages.

Purple Heart Projects is dedicated to helping military service members and their families, deployed and at home. They do that through organized projects that are designed to help ease the stress that soldiers and their families are placed under during periods of deployment, combat, recovering from wounds, and family issues. They are also committed to increasing awareness in our communities of the sacrifices that or soldiers and their families are making.

They are constantly identifying areas that Purple Heart Projects can make life more normal and happy for service members who are fighting the war on terror, and their families

There are thousands of US soldiers giving their holidays with their family and they would love to have

Care Packages
Their care packages are chosen using suggestions from returning service members, to ensure that they are getting what they want and need, and also to make sure that we aren’t purchasing items already issued by the military, like sunscreen.

Family Fellowship Retreats
Family fellowship retreats are organized with the help of individual vacation property owners. These properties are located at beaches, mountains, Lakes, and resort areas in different parts of the United States. All military members are welcome but priority is placed on wounded soldiers and those returning from deployments in combat areas.

Wounded Soldier Support
Purple Heart Projects works with hospitals and communities to help our soldiers who have been wounded through combat related actions. They do this by supplying these soldiers with needed items while in the hospitals and helping as needed after leaving the hospital. Also, they help by supporting other organizations that add these brave men and women.

Community Awareness
Purple Heart Projects is committed to enhancing community awareness as to the sacrifice and dedication of service members and their families. They do this by working with schools, civic clubs, and other organizations in local communities.

A couple dollars donated to Purple Heart Projects this holiday could help tell a soldier and his family thank you.

Save money. Save the planet. Change lives

Save money. Save the planet. Change lives

This is a guest blog post from Devin Hermanson, Senior Director for the World Vision Gift Catalog. 

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

We’ve all heard the grumbling about Christmas – it’s too commercial, too
expensive, and contributes an unthinkable amount of pollution through the
production, procurement, wrapping, and subsequent unwrapping of future
white elephant gifts. Well, thankfully, I have personal experience with
tens of thousands of people who have discovered a way to make Christmas
meaningful again.

The company I work for, World Vision, has been fighting the root causes of
child poverty around the world for over 50 years, and the World Vision Gift
Catalog is a collection of over 100 different ways people can donate to
help the poor in the name of a loved one.

I used it last year to give a donation in my father’s name. He is a
nightmare to shop for because he really does have everything he needs, but
there are two things around which his world revolves, 1) Golf and 2)

So I donated a fishing kit in his name through the catalog and he loved it!
Dad isn’t someone who expresses his feelings a lot, but this gift started a
great conversation. He was really pleased to know that people would be
truly impacted because of this gift. It’s probably the only thing I’ve
given him in recent years that he’ll actually remember.

The fishing kit cost $40 and came with a card that pictured the kit and
explained to Dad how the kit would help a family in need but there are
things in the catalog for much less – like two ducks for $12. It doesn’t
cost much to make a big difference to a family accustomed to living on $2
or less a day, like 87% of the people who live in Zambia, for example.

Last year, $21 million was raised to help the poor through the World Vision
Gift Catalog. I’ve been privileged to meet families in Zambia who could
provide for their families – food, school uniforms, and medicine – because
of money they earned raising goats or chickens donated by World Vision
donors. And I’ve seen whole villages transformed because they finally had
healthy, clean water to drink, food to eat because of donated seeds and
tools, and schools where their children could begin to realize their
dreams. From speaking to those who benefited, I can say that these gifts
brought more joy than any gift ever purchased from Target, Macys or all the

Personally, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Christmas,
particularly in a time when our planet is overburdened and our wallets are
feeling lighter. Whether it’s through World Vision or any of the other
excellent humanitarian organizations doing similar work, I encourage you to
consider making an alternative Christmas gift this year.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working
with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their
full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.



How to Help Others When You Have Limited Means

How to Help Others When You Have Limited Means


Being on a budget doesn’t mean that you can’t experience life’s joy of giving. Here are some practical tips about how you can help others when you have limited means.

Make a meal for a family who could really use it. This is a fun idea that can have the whole family involved. Chances are that you already know of someone in your community who would benefit from a home cooked meal. If not, check with a local church, synagogue, mosque or community center. Cooking from scratch doesn’t break the budget, and you can create a nutritious dinner from inexpensive ingredients, such as pasta and chicken. If your time is limited, simply double up the recipes you make for you own family dinner and deliver the extra to someone in need.

Add some extra items to your cart when you are shopping. When you are shopping for you family at the grocery store, pick one or two extra things to put aside for someone else. Focus on sale items and use coupons. The full spectrum of products will often have discounts and coupons.  You can turn it into a game to see how much you can actually get for your money. Keep a box in the kitchen or a shelf in your pantry for these items. When your space is full, donate it all to someone in need. You’ll never notice any impact to your grocery bill.

Give your time, Volunteer. If you have the time available, volunteering is always a low cost way of helping that can make a big impact. There are so many opportunities to help. You can help with a large organization such as serving meals at a soup kitchen, picking up donations, making phone calls for housing, and more. Check with local organizations such as churches, food banks, the Salvation Army, Good Will Industries, Meals on Wheels or the United Way.

What are your favorite ideas for how to help others when you have limited means? Would you like to see more ideas on this topic?




Guide To Local Non-Profits

Guide To Local Non-Profits

With the mantra that

You Can Make A Difference with Only $50 or 2 hours of your time

Is a place to find, review, and talk about great — and perhaps not so great — nonprofits.

If you have direct experience with a nonprofit, share your knowledge and help other people discover trustworthy nonprofits that are making a difference.

With the time you’re saving this year by doing a Secret Santa exchange with your family rather than buying for everyone, maybe you can give back a little of that time to a great local charity.

I’m partial to Rebuilding Together Oakland – The mission of Rebuilding Together Oakland is to rehabilitate homes for low-income elderly or disabled individuals as well as community facilities in the City of Oakland.

Via CNewmark


Heifer International: Charitable Giving that Makes a Difference

Heifer International: Charitable Giving that Makes a Difference

Wondering what to give to those people who have everything… What about a Gift of Hope? Heifer International bases its philosophy on the proverb “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” Its mission is to help people obtain a sustainable source of food and income and ultimately achieve self-reliance through the gift of livestock and training.

So choose a meaningful holiday gift from their catalogue for the perfect responsible and generous gift alternative. For example, the gift of a goat will provide a family with a ton of nutritious milk a year, whose surplus can be sold. Goats are fast-reproducing and high-yield livestock that will allow families to start off small dairies and become self-sufficiant. The gifts are then passed on to other families and ultimately help transform entire communities.

Happy charitable giving!

trees for the future

trees for the future


Since 1989, Trees for the Future has been helping communities around the world plant trees. Through seed distribution, agroforestry training, and our country programs, they have empowered rural groups to restore tree cover to their lands. Planting trees protects the environment and helps to preserve traditional livelihoods and cultures for generations.

A $40 membership will help grow 400 trees! $100 grows 1,000 trees. That’s impressive, don’t you think?