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Post 5: The Giving Jar: A Lesson from Shel Silverstein


Empathy. Generosity. Kindness. Compassion. These are not feelings that usually come naturally or easily to my 3.5 year old boy.  We’re doing our best to compliment his spontaneous acts of generosity, point out those of others and – most importantly – demonstrate generosity and kindness through our daily actions.  And now the giving jar.

Eli loves The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. We go through spurts of reading it numerous times a day.  Books have always been a fantastic springboard for Eli so it was perfect. I got to thinking how it may work best with a preschooler and a toddler.

We talked about the book.  We talked about how generous the tree was to the boy and what people feel and we feel when we are kind.  We talked about making a giving jar where we could choose a new way to be kind each day.  We also discussed how we would do it for the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and that when we chose the last item from the jar that it would be the day that Grandma, Grandpa and Great Grandma would arrive for Thanksgiving.  And we would eat pie.  The boy has clear priorities.

Yesterday we made a giving jar. Then Eli, Fin and I brainstormed ideas for the jar using the book as inspiration.  Fin wanted to call Papa Dude. Eli wanted to write a note to a friend. Since the boys are struggling with kindness towards one another I did a bit of steering in that direction. And into the jar they went.

Since we started talking about this idea a couple of weeks ago I’ve already seen changes in Eli.  He thinks about it more.  I see a few extra gestures of kindness and generosity. I’ll take that.

EPILOGUE (12.02.12): The Giving Jar has been a huge hit with Eli. He would wake up each morning and run to the table and beg to pick out his next piece of paper. I also saw him thinking about putting it into action throughout the day as well as coming up with new things he wanted to add to the jar.  “I shared a red crayon with Fin.  Hey mom, we should put that in the Giving Jar.  Share a red crayon with Fin!” He liked it so much when we ran out of items he asked to put them all back and do it again so we’ve started all over again. I’d recommend making up new things if you do it twice in a row as it’s mostly just a picking a piece of paper game now.

I’ve also had a number of questions about what things we put in the Giving Jar.  Anything goes but I wanted to focus (mostly) on things that weren’t material things. Yes, we can give money or toys to people who don’t have enough but the most important lesson I wanted to instill was that we have many gifts inside of us that don’t cost anything and that are just as important – or more important – than material goods.  Being a good person, showing kindness and generosity and trying to make the world a better place through good choices and actions were some values I wanted to have on the brain. That said, there are lots of people who need food or money so we put a couple of those in there as well. Here’s the list of what went in our Giving Jar (although I think a few were lost or eaten along the way):

– Say something nice to someone

– Send something special in the mail to someone I love.

– Leave a surprise for a neighbor.

– Help Daddy with a chore.

– Be kind to a stranger.

– Give my brother a hug.

– Call someone on the phone and tell them I love them.

– Donate food to someone who doesn’t have enough.

– Help an animal.

– Clean up something without being asked.

– Compliment someone.

– Give a friend a hug.

– Share a toy with my brother.

– Donate a toy or book to someone who doesn’t have enough.

– Help mommy clean up.

– Help someone who needs help.

And then we had to get the wiggles out.

We went on a leaf walk and the boys helped gather the most interesting looking leaves we could find.  Fin was done with the project once we got home but Eli wanted to make the leaf garlands.  He loved picking out which leaf went next and putting it on the scotch tape.And there it is!  The most simple leaf craft you could possibly make with kids. And kind of pretty too!The boys admiring their work. (Pay no attention to the cracked window that recently happened when a piano crashed into it during our major remodel.  By recent I mean six years ago.  Yes, six years ago is recent.)And then Eli asked me to take his picture. That rarely happens.  A request this mama will never pass up.Now if the weather here would just get a little more Thanksgiving-y we would be all ready to go.


  1. Hi Sarah,
    Joy sent this to me. All I can say is WOW. I definitely will get my students to do the leaf tree. And the crack in the window doesn’t seem to show up! And when you’re ready to work with kids not your own, let us know! But by that time you may feel a bit differently in how you want to spend your time! Thanks so much. Say hi to the boys for me.

  2. Sarah, I love this! You have inspired me!

  3. Pingback: Discipling Our Children at HOME Sweet HOME | Jesus' Precious Little Lambs

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