12 Days of Giving

12 Days of Giving
© Jantanee Rungpranomkorn from Getty Images

This time of year, there seems to be no shortage of fun traditions we can do with our kids. Everything from making sugar-stacked gingerbread houses to baking festive cookies, even Elf on the Shelf, and more.

The challenge with many of the Christmas season’s musts is that they can make our children (okay, it can make all of us!) focus more on what they are getting and less on the significance of the holiday. This became noticeably true for our family a couple of years ago, so I came up with a simple and fun idea that would help to shift their focus from Getting to Giving.

We call it our “12 Days of Giving.”

Like the well-known “12 Days of Christmas” song, it’s a list of festive favorites but instead of gifts to get (or whatever maids-a-milking and swans-a-swimming would be about), it’s a list of 12 days we will intentionally serve (and hopefully bring joy to) others. It shows our children that it doesn’t have to be over-the-top to be memorable, and sometimes the simplest acts of thoughtfulness and generosity can be the most impactful.

Our children enjoy making our list, planning the activities, and showing up for our friends and community in this way. It’s become one of our favorite December traditions.

If this sounds like a new favorite for your family, here’s some tips on how we do it:

Start early. Since December always seems to fly by, it’s best to start planning your “12 Days of Giving” well before the action-packed month starts.

Plan Who, What, When. We brainstorm what projects we want to do, who we want to focus on, and how to fit it all into our calendar. Depending on the activity, we try to squeeze in more than one activity if we can (like delivering cookies to friends, for example).

Keep it simple. Remember, this is more for the kids to take the lead than another to-do to add to your plate. Depending on the ages of your children, they may need more supervision for some activities, but try to find ways they can be in charge. Remember: the goal is for our children to experience the rewarding fulfillment of giving to others.

Try these. Here are some of our favorite ideas to get you started on making your own “12 Days of Giving” list:

  • Making cards, artwork, wildflower arrangements and “anonymously” delivering them to friends’ homes
  • Bringing dinner to families who have experienced a recent loss
  • Mowing the yard of an elderly neighbor
  • Donating new (or used) toys and clothes to a homeless children’s shelter (Jars of Clay Atlanta is our favorite)
  • Baking cookies or other favorite desserts and delivering to families “just because”
  • Paying it forward in drive-thru or grocery store lines
  • Wash a neighbor’s car or rake their leaves

The ideas really are endless! And be prepared for the impromptu ideas that your children will come up with when they’re in the mindset of serving and giving. It’s always so exciting to see our children come up with new ways to show random acts of kindness towards others.

Remember: “12 Days of Giving” is really a trick to get our kids to think more about others during this season when it’s very easy to get hyper-focused on everything WE want to do and get. Over the years of our family adding this fun lineup of service, our kids have noticed the joy they feel when they take time to intentionally bring joy to others.

As moms, it’s a huge parenting win when our children realize it really is better to give than to receive.

If you’re looking for other opportunities to give back? Be sure to check out these posts from Atlanta Mom.

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Ashlee Ilg
Ashlee is a homeschooling, business-owning mom of five (ages 12 to 1), who lives in the golf cart “Bubble,” otherwise known as Peachtree City. After spending a few years in the corporate world as a magazine editor and website manager, Ashlee and her husband took the leap into entrepreneurship and started a golf cart dealership in their garage. Today, they own multiple companies (don’t worry - they’ve moved out of the garage!) and love encouraging others to also pursue adventures on the roads less traveled. She admits that most of her homeschooling is done outside the classroom, as she has three rowdy boys and another on her hip, along with her one-and-only princess. Speaking of her daughter, Hannah was added to their family through adoption, and it’s fair to say she has added a very sparkly splash of pink to their otherwise team-blue family. When she’s not helping her husband with their latest new venture, or raising the next generation of entrepreneurs, Ashlee can be found either in a (somewhat) quiet corner writing for her blog “Fit & Free with Ash,” or getting her endorphin-fix in a sweaty workout session.

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