Most kids love toys, video games, and Hannah Montana--and while they might know every Miley Cyrus song by heart, they wouldn't have a clue what the term "philanthropy" means, much less volunteer to give up their own possessions for the sake of others' welfare. While the culture of giving may be foreign to most children, it's easy to train your own little ones to be compassionate. Here are six shortcuts for raising a charitable child, from birth and beyond.
Start small. Alyssa Harding and her husband, Derek, of Seattle, Wash., didn't delay donations. Shortly after their daughter Bryn was born, the couple began contributing to Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo on her behalf.
"We adopted a zoo animal in her name," Harding says. "Whichever seemed her favorite at the time. One year it was hippos. Another year, elephants."
Once Bryn turned two, they involved her in the decision. "We explained that the money would go to the zoo so that they could take care of the animal if it got sick or to buy it food, more hay, research, and so on." Bryn chose the giraffe, Harding says. "She was delighted at the photos the zoo sent her."
"The earlier the concept is introduced and reinforced, the earlier the kids will engage with charity," says Joline Godfrey, a financial educator and the author of Raising Financially Fit Kids. "It's a process, not an event."
Godfrey observes that just as a child learns to brush his teeth, he should learn to give, so that charity is as seen as an everyday part of life.
If you wait until it's too late, kids procrastinate, says Mary Ryan Karges, a director at Moonjar, which sells Moonjar moneyboxes, a bank with three slots--one each for saving, giving and spending.
Without an early grounding, kids assume, "I'll do that when I'm rich, when I'm older," Karges says.