Share Your Wish: Teaching Kids About Charity
I always marveled at people who started their own businesses – they could take a simple idea and turn it into what seems like an overnight success. I constantly come up with ideas, but they never really turn into anything. That could be because I never followed through… until now.
Last year, I was planning my daughter’s 4th birthday party and as I was writing her guest list I started to panic – the list had 35 children on it! My first thought was, “How the heck does my almost 4 year old have this many friends?!?” However, my biggest concern was the amount of gifts my daughter was going to receive. She had plenty of things, and barely plays with even those. I also am not convinced she truly appreciates all the toys, books, and games that are in her playroom. Much of it is taken for granted, which is not the lesson we want to teach our children.
My husband and I started to brainstorm on how we could perhaps turn the excessive gift giving into something more positive. Almost instantly, our idea was born. We wanted to create birthday parties that teach young children to give back while also scaling back on the amount of gifts children receive. Think: fewer gifts, more meaning!
After several months of planning, our site was born – www.shareyourwish.com. We wanted to create a site that would allow children to get a more meaningful gift from all their guests, while also allowing youngsters to begin learning at an early age about charity and the importance of giving back to others.
As a host of a party, you simply create an event page, choose up to three charities that are important to you, decide what your gift fund will be used for, and send invitations to your guests. You can monitor RSVPs and your gift/charity funds right from our site.
Many parents probably love this idea, but are not quite certain how to convince their children to give up the mountain of presents they typically receive! Well, on our site we have some tips to help parents talk with their children about the benefits of using Share Your Wish in ways they will understand. Most importantly, all it takes is one SYW party to change your child’s expectations. It is imperative that we begin teaching our young children that less is more.
Here are some of the tips we created to help parents talk to their children about Share Your Wish and the value of it:
Ages 1-2 yrs
If you are planning a child’s first or second birthday it would be challenging to sit down with your child and explain how the site works, but it would be really nice to save the memory in some way for them. Perhaps you can create a scrap book that they can look back on as they get older with a copy of the invitation, the certificate, and of course pictures from the party! You can even include a letter or journal entry to your child explaining why you chose to use Share Your Wish. Children can look back on it in years to come and be proud of what you did.
Ages 3-5 years
As the creators of SYW we have had several conversations about our site in our house. The nice thing is that our children have had a great deal of knowledge about charities even before SYW existed. They have had experiences cleaning out their closets for others and donating to important charities. My advice would be to draw from an experience they may already have had. We told our son that the charities we picked were going to help people who needed help. My then 4-year-old chimed in with lots of examples, which was incredible. Talk about charities way before the party, talk about sharing with others and why it is important. We want to be honest, yet appropriate. On the day of the party, give your child his medal for being a sharing star and present them their certificate. Perhaps you even want to present it to her at the party.
Ages 6 and up
Let’s face it – by this age kids are basically planning their own events! They also have a better understanding of giving back, we hope! Allow your child to select the charities that he would want to raise money for. Perhaps he can also make a decision on what percentage of their gift/donation fund he feels comfortable sharing. Sign up for a charity newsletter so that you can learn more about the charity and events they have during the year. Of course, let your child know how special she is for sharing her birthday with a great cause.
Hopefully, as children grow up, they will continue to give back to others and feel good about it. Your child is going to receive fewer gifts, but the presents he gets are going to be even more special because you are selecting gifts that your child will truly appreciate. We don’t need to focus on the fact that there are fewer gifts. Let’s focus on the reality – that they are receiving more meaningful gifts.
If you feel the same way we do – that our children’s birthdays are being consumed by materialism – then use SYW in planning your child’s next party. Visit www.shareyourwish.com and help us “teach, share, and inspire” our young children to give back to others. There is truly no better gift.
by Rebecca Schleifer, President of Share Your Wish LLC
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