Holiday Gifts that Give Back and Teach Global Citizenship

The holidays are fast approaching. Before we know it, we’ll be decorating our homes, attending holiday parties, and searching for that perfect gift for family and friends. It’s easy to get caught up in the gift buying frenzy…

How can we remind ourselves and our children what the holidays are truly about—kindness, compassion, and gratitude—while also teaching them that they are part of something bigger? Here are a few tips and suggestions on how to foster global citizenship while supporting good causes during the holiday season.

holiday gifts for kids

Donate unwanted toys

Make room for the new. Going through old toys with your child can be a tough, but powerful lesson in kindness and generosity. Organizations like Goodwill, The Salvation Army, local shelters and church charities will all gladly accept toys in good condition. Earn extra points if you bring your child with you when making the donation. They will feel good about giving to others.

Sponsor a child through Save the Children

Save the Children is an incredible organization dedicated to ensuring every child, everywhere, has a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. The top-rated nonprofit organization has 87% of their funds going directly to program services.

When you sponsor a child, your child will get a photo and a description of the child you’re supporting, as well as information on the country, and their current struggles and challenges. The kids can write letters to each other, exchange drawings and learn about the supported child’s local culture in a fun and spontaneous way.

Buy socially responsible gifts

There’s no denying it: every child (and adult) loves a nice gift. There’s something magical about unwrapping that special something. What if that gift can also change somebody’s life? There are a number of social enterprises out there that can do just that.

Here are a few favorites:

Cuddle + Kind dolls

These dolls are absolutely adorable! But most importantly, they’re hand-knit by artisans in Peru, and they help curb childhood hunger around the world. Each Cuddle+Kind doll provides 10 meals to children in nee. This is possible through partnerships with the World Food Program USA and the Children’s Hunger Fund. Win-win.

STATE Backpacks

These backpacks are fun and stylish. Best of all, the company was created to address the immediate needs of American children. Through their #GiveBackPack campaign, for each backpack purchased, a bag filled with essential “tools for success” is hand-delivered to a U.S. child in need.

Gifts For Good

What if every gift you purchased gave back? That’s Gifts for Good’s mission. Their collection caters to adults, but your child can help you pick for the adults in your life. You can browse by cause, such as education, refugees or conservation, category or recipient.

Fund a microloan

Platforms like Kiva enable you to give a loan (as little as $25) to a small business in developing countries. This can be a fun and engaging way to teach kids about the world. It’ll expose them to other countries’ realities. They’ll know they can help those in need even from afar.

Choose to buy machinery and equipment to expand ethical wages in rural Guatemala, help provide clean water and affordable nutritious milk to under-served communities in Haiti, or fund a girl’s education in Jordan. You’ll get progress reports on the project and your money back months after the loan (no interest). Kiva loan statistics indicate that it has a 97% loan repaid rate. So while there is some risk, it is minimal.

philanthropic family vacations

Go on a philanthropic vacation

Experience is one of the best gifts you can give someone. Travel is the perfect opportunity to strengthen family bonds and create memories cherished in the years to come.

How about a travel experience that provides intercultural learning and a positive social impact on a local community? Whether you cruise down the Rio Negro learning about the wildlife and the river communities in the Brazilian Amazon or have an amazing adventure zip lining and giving back in Costa Rica, finding the right vacation for your family and turning it into a give back opportunity might be the most rewarding gift you can give this holiday season.

We hope this list helps to make a difference this holiday season and gets your child excited about learning about the world, its people, and cultures. Check out this post for other educational gift ideas.

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Patty's the founder of Our Whole Village, a travel company that connects families with culturally-immersive experiences that give back.

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