Invite your kids' friends over for a pie or cookie baking party. Deliver your goodies to the local soup kitchen, home for the elderly, or to the Firehouse, where the firefighters have to work on the holiday.
Go to the roots of your tradition to talk about why we give during the holidays. Kwanzaa, for instance, is about the principles and practice of bringing good into the world. Celebrating the birth of Christ gives ample opportunity to talk about good deeds. Tzedakah, the Jewish equivalent of charity that means restoring Justice, is a foundation of all Jewish life.
Have a Charity or Tzedakah night. You could call it something with more resonance for your kids, like Gift for the World. Let your kids make a "Wish List" of all the ways they'd like to make the world a better place. Then let each person in the family choose one thing to do to address one of those issues. For instance, you might make a donation to rebuilding libraries in New Orleans, plan to volunteer at a soup kitchen together, and make a commitment to reduce your carbon emissions by buying more efficient light bulbs.
Go through each child's room with them and create a "give-away" box of gently used items to pass on to kids who need them. Don't force kids to share before they're ready. And don't force your kids to give things up "because others are needy." Giving shouldn't be painful.
Volunteer as a family. My kids and I volunteer at a local soup kitchen, and my kids love feeling that they're making a difference in these folks' lives. It also helps them feel better when they see a homeless person to know that person can go get a hot meal at "our" soup kitchen.
Model generosity. Give to the panhandler, donate gently used books and toys to the local family shelter, contribute to a worthy cause in honor of the holiday. Make giving a part of your daily life.
Have a Santa's Elves evening. Go through the house together looking for anything you no longer use that could be cleaned or repaired, and donated.
Every child deserves the pleasure of giving her own money to a worthy cause. Try giving a little extra weekly allowance that goes in a special "charity" jar, and letting her give it away every year at the holidays.
Have a holiday card or letter writing night. Everyone in the family writes a letter of appreciation to someone outside the family.
Work with your child to make his gifts. If one must be bought, try to find gifts that support worthy causes, like a donation in the recipient's name (see http://www.alternativegifts.org/ for more ideas.)
Start while your kids are young. As they get into their teen years, they'll find worthy causes of their own.
Share the idea with your kids that giving to others is one of the reasons we're alive. And one of the ways we can all make the world a better place.
Dr. Laura Markham