The holidays can make it easy for kids to focus on themselves — gifts, parties and the all-around spirit of getting new stuff. However, with the right attitude, fresh perspective and affirmation that they truly can make a difference, your kids can become giving-focused. Here are five ways to help your kids have a philanthropic and service-grounded mentality — around the holidays and all year long.

1. Use Daily Tasks as an Avenue to Give Back

Kids don’t always have the means to give back financially. While chores can provide an allowance and the ability to give back, there are other ways as well. If kids can hit two birds with one stone, they may be more motivated to raise funds for a special project or charity.

Through Heifer International’s Read to Feed program, kids raise support from family members and friends who pledge a certain amount for each book they read. Whether that amount is $0.25 or $10, kids will slowly accumulate dollars and cents they can donate to Heifer — or another charity of their choice — and pack in lots of reading time. Learn more about the Heifer program at

2. Show Kids the Results of Giving

While adults can easily understand the meaningfulness and impact of giving back, it may not always hit home for young kids. They’ll be more compelled to give back if they see exactly what their donation provides for someone in need. Many organizations produce short videos that show the direct impact of donors’ gifts.

“Sometimes it’s like their money is going into a black hole, but this way they actually see this person has been helped, this is how this goat has made a difference for this mom,” says Jennifer Smith, campus engagement facilitator at Heifer International. “Sometimes showing kids is a lot better than just speaking to them because of how visual we are.”

3. Replace Gifts with Giving

Replacing tangible gifts with giving in a child’s honor is a sweet gesture and great way to teach generosity. Allow them to help choose the charity or specific need they’d like to fill for a more memorable experience.

An animal lover may want to donate supplies to a shelter while a child who has spent time in the hospital may want to bring toys to Arkansas Children’s. Dollar amounts don’t always resonate with kids, so by selecting a particular item, like a goat or beehive through Heifer, they’re more likely to remember the gift and be proud to have been a part of it.

4. Show that Actions are Important

Demonstrate a spirit of service and you’ll instill a spirit of service in your little ones.

“We try to encourage kids with, ‘What one little thing can you do?’” Smith said. “Can you help your parents with something? Can you be a friend to someone at school? If you see trash on the ground, because we’re all about caring for the earth, can you pick up that trash? Little things can turn into big things.”

Serving can help kids grow in their own strengths and they can see the impact of hard work in ways such as working in a community garden, walking dogs at a shelter or handing out food at a pantry.

“We hope students discover the benefits of service and how their interests and talents can benefit others,” Smith said.

5. Attend Events to Inspire Giving

Heifer International hosts Heifer Hour on the second Saturday of every month and each session provides a hands-on learning opportunity aimed at kids in grades two through five.

Here’s what you can expect at this month’s free event on Dec. 8 at 10 a.m.

Storytime: “Faith the Cow,” the true story of how Heifer International began.

Game: A game of charades that shows what a cow provides and how the gift is passed on.

Craft: Make a moo-lah bank.

Activity: Visit the farm to see Sunshine, the miniature Jersey cow.

Visit for more information on programs at Little Rock’s Heifer Village & Urban Farm.

A Family Affair

Laura Hilliard and daughter Addie enjoy volunteering together at the annual Sugar Plum Ball.

Kindness and generosity are among the top traits most parents want to instill in their children. By demonstrating volunteer work and facilitating opportunities for her kids, Laura Hilliard of North Little Rock is doing just that.

For the last six years, she has served as chair of Sugar Plum Ball, part of CARTI’s annual Festival of Trees. As such, she serves as the face of the event and helps with all the details – including selecting the T-shirt design, selling tickets, coordinating volunteers to set up and break down the event, and overseeing decorations.

“I love chairing Sugar Plum Ball because it is so sweet seeing the dads and their little girls on the dance floor supporting CARTI’s mission,” she says.

Laura’s 10-year-old daughter Addie has attended Sugar Plum Ball since she was 4, and this year she helped do the same things as all the other volunteers – taking tickets, helping with photos, and organizing the line as the girls were announced.

Her 18-year-old son Jackson has helped with preparations for the event since seventh grade. As a member of “Sugar Security,” he helps keep the little girls off the stage so they remain safe.

“I enjoy sharing volunteering with both of my children because I think it is very important for them to understand the entire world is much broader and different than their world,” Laura says. “I think kids need to start early understanding that helping others is extremely important.”