This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

How great is that feeling you get when you give someone the perfect gift?  Whether that’s doing something for them so that they felt important or special or getting them the exact thing they’ve been wanting for what seems like forever, you remember the feeling you get when you see the surprise and joy on their face.  Even though it’s a gift for them, it often feels like you are the one getting the most enjoyment out of the moment. Perhaps you remember this feeling best with your little ones. We often think about trying to make their little eyes light up and that wonderful smile appear with the thing they’ve been wanting for so long.  I can’t lie; this is one of my favorite things to do for my children, but I’ve also discovered that encouraging them to want to give is really important as well.

Empathy is a really important skill for children to learn as they grow and encouraging them to be givers and to give generously is a great way to build that skill.  When a child gives a gift to someone, they have to think beyond themselves and what they want. Often with young children if you ask them what someone else wants the first thing that pops into their mind is a toy they themselves really like or candy or treats that they enjoy.  This is a natural first thought for little ones so we as caregivers can step in and encourage them to really think about the other person: what is it that they enjoy doing or what things have you seen them say they want?

Since little ones depend on us financially and budgets can be tight around the holidays I thought I would share some gift ideas that we have come up with over the years that our kids have felt very proud of:

Drawings and Pictures – Who doesn’t love a carefully crafted toddler drawing?  We may not always be able to tell exactly what it is they drew or what’s happening in the picture, but then that gives them the chance to explain it!  You can also add school or recent family portraits to the artwork to make it even more special.

Stories of Us – One thing I’ve talked about frequently is how much I love encouraging my kids to create their own story books complete with dialogue and illustrations.  These also make terrific gifts…especially if the person receiving the gift is part of the story! This is especially great for grandparents with the story themed “on the way to Grandma’s house”.

Building Something – Depending on what you have around and the age of your little one this may be a little tougher, but can be really special.  My family, and especially my wife, is very into essential oils. My son’s idea for her this year was to make a special oil just for her with some of her favorite oils (shh…don’t tell her!).  If someone is really into wood products and you have leftover wood scraps around, you could carefully work with your little one to craft something out of the pieces.

Whatever you come up with, I hope that you enjoy the process of making something with your little one that encourages their giving spirit and gives them that same special feeling of seeing someone enjoy the perfect gift.

This is fatherhood…