Creative Ways to Be Generous This Year

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Creative ways to be generous
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‘Tis the season to think about charitable donations (at least if you plan to deduct them on taxes), but giving monetary gifts is definitely not the only way to be generous. We try to focus on giving our children experiences as gifts as much as possible (though they still do get physical gifts too).

We’ve just enjoyed receiving gifts at Christmas, but I also wanted to help my children continue the experience the joy of giving to others in another way. From this came a tradition of sitting down the week between Christmas and New Years to think of tangible ways to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and generosity in our family.

Since children don’t have a lot of money to donate, this takes a little creativity and thinking about tangible things we can do as a family.

Why Experiencing Generosity Matters

This article really drove home for me how we are much more likely to help an individual than we are to respond to a large group or more general need:

The paper angel in my daughter’s hand read, “Girl, age 6. Wants: Undershirts.” The angel in my son’s hand read, “Boy, age 7. Likes: Dinosaurs.” My lectures about faraway starving children had previously fallen on deaf ears, but on that December day, my kids, then age 5 and 8, eagerly dashed around the store to find just the right gifts. “I think she’ll like these! They have princesses on them!” “Can I get him a sweatshirt, too? I don’t want him to be cold!”

Of course, it wasn’t my fabulous parenting that finally got them thinking. It was what behavioral scientists call the “identifiable victim effect” — the human tendency to respond more empathetically to the plight of a single individual, rather than a large group.

The rest of that article goes on to give other tips on how to raise less entitled kids, but a key takeaway is that it is important to model generosity in a personal and relatable way so that our children see it at a young age.

Sadly, only about half of Americans donate to any charity or non-profit in a given year. Less than a quarter give over $500. Of course, giving money is not the only way to be generous (and I’d argue that it isn’t the most important), but the statistic is a little sobering.

This is part of the reason our family is making a commitment (now and going forward) to finding regular ways to let our children be generous and to hopefully create this as a life-long habit.

Focus on the Joy of Giving

It is one thing to write a check at the end of the year to be able to deduct on taxes, and quite another to actually foster an internal attitude of joy at being able to help others. Certainly, giving money is very important too, but for many of us, there are people in our own community for whom a small act of kindness would make just as big of a difference.

Consider the person alone in a hospital or nursing home this time of year. Or think about the family struggling to get by whose kids won’t get any gifts this year. Or the thousands of victims of wildfires who have lost everything.

The great thing about kindness is that it has a snowball effect. The feeling we get from being kind or generous to someone else encourages us to want to do these things more often.

At the same time, receiving kindness or generosity often makes the recipient more likely to pass it on as well.

Small Ways to Be Generous

I’m trying to simplify this year, and in so doing have thought of some small ways to pass on kindness to others. Please share your ideas in the comments!

Leave a Note or Small Gift for Delivery People


This was entirely my children’s idea. We order a decent amount of our food online since a lot of ingredients (like cassava flour and grass-fed, pre-made bone broth) aren’t available in our area. I also order most of our gifts online so the mailman, FedEx, and UPS driver work extra hard, long hours during the holidays!

The kids decided to pick out some (mostly) healthy snacks and drinks to give them out as deliveries came to the door. I let them shop the pantry and wrap up a special box for the occasion.

Even if the holidays have passed, I’m sure they’d still appreciate it as they recover from the season!

Send a Handwritten Note

In today’s email and text message world, a hand-written note of encouragement or appreciation can mean a lot! Spend a few minutes letting those you love and appreciate know just how much! Dust off the stationery and use those leftover Christmas stamps to send some heartfelt written thank-yous or just-because letters.

If you’re a little rusty, here’s some inspiration to get started.

Anonymously Adopt a Family in Need

Christmas isn’t the only time local churches and other organizations help families in need. Ask your church or local shelter how you can help during the year. You can even ask if there are members with a specific need so it feels more personal. It may be something as simple as paying an electric bill or purchasing some new coats.

Take a Digital Detox

Give the gift of uninterrupted time to your family. I’ve tried hard this year to take a weekly digital day off and just focus on my family, and the results have been wonderful. Especially over the holidays when the whole family is home more often, I’m trying to make it a priority to really savor the time together (and not view it through the lens of my phone camera).

Encourage the whole family to take a digital day off and do activities together instead.

Visit or Make Cards for a Nursing Home

Do your kids love to draw or paint? Have them make artwork to take to local nursing homes. Christmas and the New Year can be hard for many residents who don’t get to go home for Christmas or don’t have anyone to come visit them. A small gift or piece of artwork can brighten their day!

I save up the weekly artwork my kids make in school and craft time and we take a big box to local nursing homes. This is a great thing to do any time of year!

Give a Small Gift to the Waste Disposal People

Leave a small gift on top of the trashcan or recycling bin for those who do a dirty job… what they do makes all of our lives so much easier!

Babysit for Friends

Many couples with small children would love an evening out alone to go to dinner. Offer to babysit a friend’s kids so they get the chance. In a world where people increasingly live apart from extended family, this can be a huge gift to a weary parent.

Take a Meal to Friends

As a mom who cooks three times a day (every single day), a home-cooked meal that I don’t have to make is one of the best gifts ever! I’m always so grateful for friends who bring a meal by when I have a new baby and I’ve realized that most moms love this gift any time of year. Make 5 or 6 of the same meal and take to several families.

Another idea: make a bunch of slow cooker freezer meals so they can make the meal when they need it!

If this sounds exhausting after the holiday (I get it!), there are many great, healthy food services you can gift. One of my favorites to give is a smoothie box from Daily Harvest (they have soup and other healthy goodies too) or some meals from Good Kitchen.

Review a Book, Blog or Podcast

Leave a rave review for the author of a favorite book, a blogger you like, or a podcast you listen to. Those who publish online often hear a lot of negatives, as those who disagree are more likely to leave a comment. A heartfelt review from a reader or listener is one of the greatest gifts for those who put their words out into the world. (Ask me how I know!)

Give Clothes You Don’t Use to a Local Dress for Success

Do you have business or dress clothes you don’t use anymore? Many of us feel the urge to declutter and organize during the start of the New Year. If you’re tackling your closet, consider donating to an organization like Dress for Success, which provides work clothes and business development help to women in the community.

Think Bigger Too

Helping locally is a great way to teach kids to look for ways to help those around them, but there are people in need all over the world too. I like to find ways that we can more personally connect and directly help those in need around the world. The favorites for our kids this year have been:

  • Getting a Lucky Iron Fish – Each one purchased sends one to another family somewhere in the world. That family can put this iron fish in any food they cook and it helps protect against iron deficiency. In fact, one fish can protect a whole family from iron deficiency for a whole year!
  • Sending Micro-Enterprise Gifts to Families – You know the old saying about giving a man a fish vs. teaching a man to fish? Each year, we pick gifts to send to families in need around the world that will allow them to start a micro-enterprise to support their family. The kids love looking through the Food for the Poor gift catalog and sending water pumps, beehives, and baby chicks to other families around the world.

The Generosity Challenge

It’s easier to remember those in need around the holidays, but generosity is a habit to nurture all year long. Brainstorm ways to be generous and kind and keep doing them all year! Those who are lonely are still lonely in January. Those who are hungry are still hungry in the summer. Let’s spread the love all year long next year!

What ways does your family give to those around you? Share your ideas below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


12 responses to “Creative Ways to Be Generous This Year”

  1. Karina Avatar

    Thank you so much for this beautiful post!
    I particularly love the idea your children came up with, leaving something for the delivery people. We are experiencing a heatwave here in Adelaide, Australia at the moment that has continued right through the Christmas season. I have spared many a thought for these guys and will now take some inspired action to leave something (any ideas for non melting treats anyone?). It is so easy to get caught up in our busyness at this time of year, I found your words very grounding. Have an incredible year!!

  2. Elaine Avatar

    Wellness Mama,
    Your email newsletters, blog posts, and podcasts have meant so much to me. You have provided me with many things to think about, and I have actually acted upon some — infrared sauna, homemade elderberry syrup, bone broth, CBD lotion, to name a few. I have appreciated your advice. Today it hit me reading this article about generosity throughout the year. We do nice things for people at Christmas. Why am I not doing this all year long? Thank you for the idea about leaving a gift for our waste disposal people. They work hard every week taking away our garbage and recycling, and their works often goes unnoticed, and definitely unappreciated. I know now why we bought those extra gift cards.
    Thank you for all of the work and research you do to keep your readers informed.

  3. Jan Arteaga Avatar
    Jan Arteaga

    Say something nice to someone and mean it, every chance you get. This costs nothing but, the reward is huge.

  4. Bree Avatar

    This is great! You have some really great ideas in this post! As usual ;). I’ve also thought of another couple of ideas; like becoming a ‘penpal’ to some people in a nursing home or children’s hospital. There’s many other places, too. 🙂 Or also, (since I’m a big fan of sewing) sewing some teddy bears (or other stuffed animals) from recycled materials and stuff (shirts, blankets, or even boughten materials; I bought a super soft blanket from Wal-Mart.) and box them up before dropping them off at a local children’s hospital. You can even add your own little touches, such as; a vest, a note, and ribbon as a collar, or anything, really. It’s also a great activity for kids to get into. Polyester is a good option for it, because it’s such a durable material. And you don’t have to get too elaborate when crafting them, either, just simply cut out a pattern and sew. It could mean a lot to a little kid. 🙂

  5. Suzanne Avatar

    Wow, just wow. What a wonderful reminder to put me in perspective. Generosity really takes the cake, thank you for sharing!

  6. Kaliko Avatar

    Aloha! Mele kalikimaka a hauoli makahiki hou!(Merry CHRISTmas and happy New year in Hawaiian)
    Thank you for your advice on giving a micro enterprise when focusing on under privileged countries. That is a great charitable gift because it allows those who receive it to be able to continually make money for their family as well as providing a service to their community.
    There’s a real problem in third world countries, where there’s thousands of charities dumping “free” goods into the economy which then takes away from local businesses ability to sell goods to make money for there family.
    When my hubby went to Haiti, almost everyone there wore old donated clothes from the U.S. that gets shipped there through charities. You can tell by all the 90’s themed tupac shirts etc. once all these free clothes and shoes and food gets flooded into these countries no one buys a shirt or shoes from the local grama who sells handmade goods to feed her family. No one buys fish from the local fisherman (then he can’t take care of his ohana- family) they can get free food from donations. Why would they buy local when the U.S and other countries are giving stuff away for free. Too much of the wrong kind of charity can also have crippling effects on an already unstable economy. I’m all about charities that don’t just give free stuff..but help the community as a whole by creating jobs and a way to feed their family long term.. while also providing a needed service to the community
    Also there’s people who are equally in need right in your own community. Making a life style if being others- focused is a blessing which brings true happiness. As Jesus said, love your neighbor. Much love

      1. Rachelle Avatar

        There’s a great book about how damaging charity can be. It’s very dense with concepts and stories, but a great thoughtful read. The title is, “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself”

  7. Marina Avatar

    Speaking of nice comments… I wanted to tell you for ages, how much I admire your bravery to tackle controversial topics. Or the topics you believe in, but know many will have a different opinion and express it. Merry CHRISTmas to you and your family!

  8. Jacqui Avatar

    I really enjoyed reading this post because I was looking for ways to show my son how to be more generous, appreciative, and thankful for the things that he has. After reading this it gave me some ideas that we can start on tomorrow

  9. Janna Williams Avatar
    Janna Williams

    We do foster care at are our house so are very aware of their needs. We make bags and fill them with personal items or make tied fleece blankets. Every child should have there own blanket. Then we donate them to the county for kids that come in with nothing but what they are wearing. My kids like to do it and I like when they can help not just ask me for money to donate. I think it helps them for ways to help others.

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