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Christmas with kids.  A constant battle between wanting to give our children some nice presents, and wanting them to get that one awesome gift from Santa, but also wanting to teach them that Christmas isn’t all about getting – the joy and beauty is in giving.  Wanting to make nice memories for our kids, but trying our best to not get caught up in the consumerism and over-consumption that the holiday has turned into.

A friend of mine told me a story about a mom whose boys wrote their Christmas list in November.  They asked for very specific Lego sets.  She searched for these online, found them, and ordered them.  Then the boys completely rewrote their list, and then rewrote it again.  This mom didn’t know what to do.  She wanted to get her boys the special gift that they really wanted, but they seemed overwhelmed and couldn’t even decide what that special gift was themselves.

I thought a lot about that story, and how common that is – kids watching commercials, and seeing ads, and thinking that they want – no, need – every new toy that catches their attention.  How do we get them to focus, slow down, and really think about what Christmas should be about?  How do we teach them that it is OK to want a nice gift, but to not get caught up in the “me, me, me” mindset that Christmas can turn into?  How do we teach them that giving is better than receiving and that Christmas should really be about coming together with family and friends and sharing love and kindness?

In effort to help teach our children all that … I came up with this: A World-Changing Kids Christmas Wish List for Santa  (the link will take you to a printable PDF).

This asks kids to think about what they want, but balances that by asking them to think outside themselves to come up with three Acts of Kindness they can do, which will allow them to strengthen their kindness muscles.  It also asks them to think of another child their age who does not have as much as they have, and asks them to come up with something that this child would like, which will allow them to strengthen their empathy muscles.  It is my hope that this template will help us steer our children away from thinking that Christmas is only about presents and teach them the joy of giving to others.  I know Santa will approve!

As promised in the “Extra Bonus Act of Kindness” section, we did some research to list as many organizations that we could find that take new toys and distribute them to kids who need them.  If you have any other organizations to add to this list, we would love to hear about them and add them in!

1. Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Ottawa

From their website:

Make a difference in the lives of low-income families in your own neighborhood by sponsoring a family in need this holiday season. For years Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ottawa (BBBSO) has been fortunate to work with dedicated volunteers to run a Holiday Hamper program. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ottawa serves 1000 children annual – many single parent low-income families that can use some extra help over the holidays.

Each year, BBBSO looks for Sponsors to match with a family in need. Sponsors are asked to shop for the items on the list below as well as deliver the hamper to the family’s home. Each Sponsor is matched with a Holiday Hamper Volunteer that will provide support and assistance throughout the process.

2. Toy Mountain, Ottawa

From their website:

Taking part is easy! Simply donate a new, unwrapped toy and you will help make this Christmas a special one for girls and boys in need.

3. The Shoebox Project, Ottawa

From their website:

The Shoebox Project for Shelters, supported by Dream, collects and distributes gifts in the form of Shoeboxes to women who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness in communities across Canada and the US.  Each thoughtfully created and decorated Shoebox is filled with items valued at $50 that can enhance self-esteem and reduce feelings of isolation for women in crisis.

4. Odawa Native Friendship Centre

From their website:

Our annual Food For Friends Christmas food hamper & gifts program, from Monday December 18th to Friday December 22, 2017.

5. Sick Kids Hospital, Toronto

From their website:

Throughout December, we offer families the opportunity to pack a gift bag for their children from our Holiday Room. We place donated gifts into the Holiday Room where parents and caregivers can pick exactly what their child wants this holiday time. We have the Holiday Room open for the entire month of December so that we are capturing every holiday, not just Christmas. In order to sort and distribute the gifts in a timely manner, the deadline for donations is Wednesday December 13, 2017.

6. Toy Mountain, Toronto

From their website:

It’s so easy to make a difference! Simply donate a new, unwrapped toy, to a Toy Mountain bin at your local mall, Toronto Area Ford Dealer or other participating location listed on CTV News Toronto Toy Mountain website toronto.ctvnews.ca/toy-mountain.