It’s never too early to teach your children the value of empathy, volunteering, and charitable giving of one’s resources. You are your child’s best example and as Mary Gordon, the founder of Roots of Empathy, reminds us, “Empathy is caught, not taught.” She goes on further to explain:1

“Teaching children emotional literacy and developing their capacity to take the perspective of others are key steps towards collaboration and civility; they are indispensable steps towards preventing aggressive and bullying behaviours. As children develop empathy it seems to come ready-made with courage and imagination. Children understand marginalization and issues of social justice in a clear and uncluttered way.”

Teaching kids about charitable giving and empathy is rewarding for the whole family. Below are four tips to get you started in your lessons.

Introduce Empathy at a Young Age

When talking about interaction with other people, parents should dicsuss the concept of empathy with their children as soon as possible. Very young children often don’t realize that other people have feelings, ideas, and emotions of their own. You can help children along in the following ways:

  • Talk about how others feel: (Sarah is feeling sad because she lost her toy, should we go and get her another one?)
  • Suggest how to help others: (Let’s go get Billy a bandaid for his scraped knee, he would feel better if we help.)
  • Read stories about feelings: (The Little Book of Big Feelings by Marzi Wilson or My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss.)
  • Teach self-awareness by using “I” statements: (I don’t like it when you kick me. It hurts and makes me feel sad.)

By the time they turn three, children begin to understand and respect the fact that each and every person has feelings. Knowing that other people have a life and feelings of their own, children can begin to develop and hone a sense of empathy. This capacity for empathy is the very basis for charity.

Set a Good Example

It’s important for parents to create a family environment where giving is natural and encouraged. It’s good for children to see their parents donating charitably and, just as important, to see what a privilege it is for their parents to be able to give.

Include your children in your own volunteer or charity activities.

  • Let them see you dropping money into charity boxes.
  • Encourage them to help you pick out canned foods during a food drive.
  • Let them tag along when you participate in a walk for a cause you care about.
  • Encourage them to help you write cards to the elderly.

Each time your child sees you giving to charity, it reinforces good behavior and gives you an opportunity to explain why it’s important to give and how rewarding charity can be.

Explore All the Different Ways to Give

There are over 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the U.S. alone. provides a user-friendly way to sort and browse charities that may interest you.

Some of their top charity categories include:

  • African American
  • American Indian
  • Animal & Animal Protection
  • Blind & Visually Impaired
  • Cancer
  • International Relief & Development
  • Hunger
  • Peace & International Relations
  • Women’s Rights
  • Youth Development

There are many ways a child can learn the value of giving and plenty of volunteer ideas for kids. Setting up a charity box in the home can show how even a little bit of money can make a difference when given with a good heart. Encourage the donation of old toys, school supplies, and clothing to other needy children.

It’s also a good idea to teach your little ones that donating time is often just as powerful as donating money and things. Take the whole family for an outing serving dinner at a local soup kitchen or make a habit of keeping a basket of fruit or snacks in the car to give to hungry people in need.

Involve Children in Volunteer and Charitable Activities

It’s easier for younger children to understand more direct and concrete examples of charitable giving. They know they love their favorite toys, so you can explain to them that not everyone is fortunate to have toys to play with.

Likewise, you can help them set up a charity box to which they can contribute part of their allowance or loose change. Making philanthropic donations a regular activity around the house will reinforce charitable values in your children’s lives.

Key Takeaway:

It’s especially important to teach youth that they are part of a larger community and that everyone is responsible for those around them. By giving the value of charity a central role in the family dynamic, you encourage your child to grow up with a healthy sense of compassion and a strong charitable spirit.