The recent holiday season gave me insights on how children can be taught to appreciate the idea of giving to others.
Ask any child between ages 2 and 6 what Christmas means to them, and you get answers like “Santa Claus,” “Christmas tree,” “gifts (for me),” “toys (for me).”
You might get an enlightened “Baby Jesus’ birthday” from one of the older kids, but, basically, Christmas to children means giving—“to me.”
As owner-administrator of a preschool, I, along with my partner, bear the duty to instill in our pupils the giving spirit of Christmas, even in the face of their entirely normal sense of egocentricity.
We tried asking for cash donations and throwing a party for children of a public school, complete with a special program for the occasion and Jollibee meals. But the most effective and enjoyable celebration of the Christmas spirit was with the Binhi English Literacy Foundation, whose advocacy is intended to benefit the poorest, and most bound-for-failure students.
To encourage meaningful involvement among our own students, we gave out shopping lists—food, toys—to the families. We suggested that each child’s family be taken along on the shopping trip.
We packed the shopping bags, labeled each with the name of the donor 1st grader, and my partner and I delivered them. Many parents said they enjoyed the project.
One mother said her son saw what they bought and, apparently overcome by the spirit, protested, “Is that all? Let’s get more for them!”
Last Christmas, our school chose students at the Dr. Celedenio Salvador Elementary School in Paco, Manila, as beneficiaries through the Binhi Foundation. Fifty boys and girls in the program, dressed in their Sunday best, their parents, and their teachers were treated to games with prizes. In the end, gifts were distributed.
The idea of raising funds for our outreach program was explained to our children: making things to sell for money to buy things children need but can’t afford.
Our teachers worked tirelessly, helping and supervising our students produce crafts and goodies to sell in our school’s Christmas bazaar. Each grade level picked several products to create, or otherwise produce, and sell—gift tags, tree ornaments, household items, homemade foot scrub, room spray. Canvas bags and rubber slippers were creatively adorned. Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without special home-cooking—cookies and sprinkled frosted cupcakes.
As a progressive school, we value the creative process. We involve our children in the production of things to be sold in our traditional Christmas bazaar. Two- and three-year-olds measured ingredients, rolled and cut cookies in the shape of stars. They sprinkled them with colored sugar, and teachers helped arrange them on a cookie sheet before handing them off to be baked in the oven.
Afterward, each child counted out seven cookies for each jar. The three- and four-year-olds had started earlier in the school year making crafts with an Asian theme—Chinese lanterns and bookmarks with characters for hope and peace.
The four- and five-year-olds whipped up a refreshing peppermint foot scrub, and the kindergarten kids painted flip-flops and adorned them with sequins.
Teachers ensured that the products were functional, delicious and meaningful. And the parents were there to encourage and support their children: They bought the goods and even brought along grandparents, aunts and uncles, and godparents to share in the fun.
On the day of the bazaar, booths were set up and each class displayed their wares. The children had been assigned to man the booths in shifts. They were guided by their teachers.
Customers were encouraged to ask the sellers questions about the products—how they came up with them. The older students had the added task of taking turns manning a central cashier booth. As items were selected, the children wrote out an invoice to be submitted to the cashier. The sale was added up on a cash register, cash counted, and a receipt issued, stamped “paid.”
Over the years, illustrations abound of how preschool children evolve into mature adults. The developmental progression begins with “me” and moves on to “others.”
At the Toddler table, a student sat quietly eating up all the cookie samples. A three-year-old, meanwhile, called out to customers, “Bili na kayo!” and, as customers approached, he picked up items to promote, saying, “Bilin mo ’to.”
A four-year-old looked further: “Let’s sell a lot of things so we have lots of money for the kids,” alluding to the point of raising funds for the needy.
While the kindergartners were working on their crafts, they would urge each other: “Remember, we’re trying to make our new friends happy.”
During the bazaar one of the five-year-olds said, “Buy everything I made, mommy.”
Given developmental barriers and logistical difficulties, is it worth the effort to teach young children about giving to others? Definitely, yes!
Hopefully, as we continue with this project, we can drive home the point that giving to others can be fun and gratifying, and can also help shape a more compassionate generation. —CONTRIBUTED