5 Ways to Teach Your Kids the Art of Giving

I want!  I want!  I want!  I want!!!

Um, no.

While we all love to gift our children with incredible gifts, we can’t underestimate the gift we give them as we teach them the art of giving.  It truly is better to give than to receive.  Teaching our kids to see the needs of others, to reach out in compassion and the blessing of bringing joy to others will serve them far greater throughout their lifetimes than anything we could ever give them in a box.

1. Lead by Example

Even at an age where many kids and teens are trying to develop their own identities, and those often as far from being like mom and dad as possible, they are still ever-learning by the lives we live and the examples we set.

Before suggesting, “why don’t you try doing something for others…” be sure you set the pace by not just giving to them but by letting them see you giving to others outside your home as well.

2. Make It Joyous

Serving others need not be a miserable chore or sacrifice for the giver.  While our giving should be with the intent of bringing great benefit and happiness to those we’re serving, we can and should make it a joyous occasion for all.

Get kids together for packing parties for gifts going out to those in need, children or seniors.  Make it a tradition where the family gets together for (healthy) snacks or (healthy) cocoa for a time of games and crafts alongside gift-prepping or even just brainstorming on ways to get out and serve.

Make the time of giving fun and full of laughter where possible.  The joy will be contagious and just keep multiplying.

3. Do It Often

While the Christmas season tends to prompt us to remember the needs of those around us, our efforts should not be limited to November-December.  Giving is not just something we do to celebrate a holiday.  We live as givers and people willing to serve the needs of others because, well, that’s just what we do – even when others don’t.

Teaching kids to look for ways to bless and touch the lives of others helps them learn to SEE others, to look more deeply into the eyes and hearts of others in a world that otherwise leaves them desensitized to those around them.  We get so distracted with technology and the pursuit of stuff for self that it can be frighteningly easy to forget that this world is full of billions of people living so many differing lives around us – lives that can be impacted in HUGE ways by even the simple acts of kindness and thoughtfulness that help them see they’re not just another face or profile pic amongst the crowd.

People are incredibly valuable yet we often struggle to see the value in ourselves.  Yet, how much are we blessed by those that would come alongside us and even care to brighten our day, not just because it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving but because, to someone, we matter all year long.

4. Be Creative & Timely

Some gifts are always in-season (hot, home-cooked meals, toys for kids…).  However, there’s also something special about coming up with creative and timely gifts to meet other’s needs “in-season” in terms of annual seasons or the seasons of life others are in.

Brighten another’s spring with some flowers for their garden or their winter with a bird-feeder to bring birds right to their window.

Help someone going through a stressful time with chamomile teas or gifts for a massage.  Or, gift them with your time and effort by helping them take care of a task that would lift the weight from their shoulders.

There are many gift ideas for any number of occasions.  Get the whole family involved in brainstorming to think up the coolest, most creative ways they can bless the lives of others.  Not only will this teach them to enjoy giving all the more but will also deeply touch others as they see the thoughtfulness behind the gift.

5. Count Your Blessings

It can be easy to overlook the needs and lives of others as our blessings become such commonplace to us.  Making it a point to count our blessings exercises our gratitude and increases our enjoyment of the many extras we have.  In recognizing that those things are “extras” that many don’t have, we better see where we can bless others and are often spurred on to greater giving.

What are some of our favorite ways to give and encourage giving in your family?

Fats:  Foes or Friends?

If there’s one food category that’s taken on a bad rap, its Fats for sure!

Fats come lastly in our bodies’ line-up of preferred fuel sources because while they are the most calorically dense, they are also the most difficult to utilize.  Because they are so calorically dense, we often crave them when we are really hungry and they are what are body looks to utilize from reserves when food is scarce.

avocado close up colors cut

Our bodies need fats to function properly! Fats provide our bodies with essential fatty acids (EFA’s) which cannot be formed in the body and therefore must be obtained from food sources.  Fats provide cushioning, insulation and storage for extra nutrients to be used when food is lacking.  They are essential for hormonal balance, proper brain function and development, proper eyesight, blood clotting, and controlling inflammation.  Fat is necessary to maintain healthy skin and hair, and helps our bodies absorb and move fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, E & K through the bloodstream.

Yet, again, too much of a good thing is not good at all and not all fats are created equal.  Because of its greater caloric density, fat is often fingered as the villain in our country’s epidemic of obesity, though experts note, dietary fat and body fat are not necessarily or always directly linked, as we can also gain body fat from eating too many carbs or proteins.

Some body types require more or less fat than others.  Gender, overall diet, lifestyle, genetics and activity may all play a role in how much fat you should be consuming. The American Heart Association still recommends that the average person obtains 25-35% of their calories from fat.  Please note, these recommendations are based on calories, NOT volume.  In other words, a 2,000 cal./day diet may healthfully include anywhere from 500-700 calories from fat.  Remember: fat is denser in calories, watch that you don’t use this as a pass to go overboard.

Some recommend taking in as little as 10%, such as Dr. Ornish with The Reversal Diet, which aims to reverse ailments, such as heart disease.   However, others recommend more, especially for children where those fats are essential to proper brain development.  Some consume more (good) fats as an essential aid in efforts to alleviate and/or reverse disorders such as ADHD.

Some find that low-fat diets trigger depression while others swear that diets higher in fat cause disease.  To better understand how much fat your family, personally, should be consuming, be sure talk to your nutritionist, naturopath or other health professional.

Whether you lean more towards higher or lower fat intake, it is essential that the forms you consume are healthy!

Fats are generally broken down into these subcategories:

Unsaturated Fats

table decor

These are said to lower LDL (“bad cholesterol”) though this end may not be accomplished without simultaneously reducing consumption of bad fats.  Unsaturated fats subcategories consist of:

Monounsaturated: Avocado, nuts, and vegetable oils such as olive and peanut.

Polyunsaturated: Vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, sesame, soybean, and corn oils

Omega 3’s:  found in foods such as walnuts and flax

Omega 6’s:  found mostly in vegetable oil such as soybean oil, corn oil, and safflower oil.

Most Western diets have an omega-6:omega-3 ration of 16:1, which is associated with an increase in inflammation and other health woes.  Healthier ratios are said to be in the range of 4:1 – 1:4.  Many even recommend simplifying it and sticking to a 1:1 ratio.

Saturated Fats

yellow pastry on white powder on brown wooden table

These fats are solid at room temperature, hence it also being referred to as “solid fat.”  It is important to understand some distinguishment in this category as it is often overly generalized and consequently misunderstood.  Saturated fats include butter, lard, margarine, shortening and other animal fats but also extends to include coconut, palm and other tropical oils.

The problem with this overgeneralization is that recommendations and health articles lead consumers to conclude that all saturated fats are bad for you, at least to some degree.  A belief that is simply false.  There is seldom any stated differentiation between forms.

Butter, lard and the like are long-chain-fatty acids. This makes them more difficult for the body to break them down.  Coconut oil, however, is comprised of medium-chain fatty acids which the body metabolizes more quickly and readily in the liver.  While coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it liquefies quickly when it gets around 78°F.  Many incorporate coconut oil into their diets to lose weight and improve their overall health.

Diets high in long-chain fatty acids, such as butter, lard and margarine, are said to clog arteries and generate disease  (though these health effects are still seen primarily amongst those consuming a considerable amount of processed foods).  General recommendations for saturated fats is to limit them to 10% of your daily calories.

Trans-Fats

These are your “No-Go’s” when it comes to fats.  DO NOT EAT THESE! These are fats that have been altered to increase stability and shelf life.  They are found in processed/pre-packaged foods, such as chips, crackers, cookies, dressings and other products made with shortening or hydrogenated oils.  A “0g Trans Fat” label does not mean that it truthfully has no trans fats, only that the servings contain a low enough amount that regulations don’t require them to tell you about it.  Avoid Hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated anything!

Quality is Key

As with any other food, quality is key.  Look for cold pressed oils (heat processing damages the oils, potentially making them toxic) and note the grade.  “Extra virgin” is your best quality.  It comes from the first pressing.  It is the most expensive but also maintains the most nutritive properties and flavor.  “Virgin” oils come from your second pressing. They are somewhat more affordable, add less flavor to a dish (which may be good or bad depending on what you’re making with it) and maintain less of the nutritive properties of the source food.  “Pure” oils may be cheaper but are often processed with chemicals to extract what’s left from the source food.  They also be further refined/processed to remove smells or improve end-product marketability with little regard for health efficacy.

My favorites are Extra Virgin Olive Oil and either Virgin or Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. I substitute coconut oil in place of butter or any other solid fat in various recipes (such as in making Momma’s homemade whole wheat biscuits and pie crusts); use it in its liquid state in the kids’ birthday cakes; and use it to make the BEST homemade organic popcorn.

I use extra virgin olive oil in virtually everything else.  It is especially best used as a finishing oil applied after the food has been cooked and removed from the heat source. Others that you may like to keep on hand include grape seed oil and sesame oil for high heat cooking.

The best sources of fats remain whole food sources.  An ounce of nuts or seeds a day is said to be a great benefit to all, providing essential fats and many other nutrients to help your family grow and thrive!