Teaching How to Give (by Making Thanksgiving Meal Kits)

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When I was a kid, one of my favorite holiday memories was an annual volunteering activity that my family did. We volunteered one night a year to pack holiday boxes full of food to be donated to those who needed it. There was just something about it I loved! We were volunteering with others in our community and for that night, it felt like we were a part of something really important.

We were assigned a family and had to move around the room and choose food to add to their boxes. As a kid, it felt so fun to be able to pick what kind of cake a family might get to eat or the flavor of stuffing that would be on their table during their holiday meal! I knew that we were doing a good thing for people who needed it and I loved seeing how much we could accomplish in one night after we all worked together filling hundred of boxes.

Teaching my kids to give back

Now that I am a mom, I am always trying to look for opportunities for my kids to understand what it means to be part of a community and to help our neighbors. When I saw that the Lowcountry Blessing Box Project was asking for people to donate Thanksgiving Meal Kits, I knew this could be a way for me to create the fun that I had growing up (all while teaching my kids an important lesson). With Thanksgiving still a week away, I wanted to share how I did it with hopes that you might be inspired to do it with your kids too!

Because my kids (ages four and five) are with me at home all day, I’m always looking for ways to streeeeetttccchhh out activities. I started hyping them up for this activity a couple of days ago while we were driving in the car (where I do most of my talking about life lessons, haha!). I asked them questions like, “Do you know what Thanksgiving is?” “What do you think we eat on Thanksgiving?” “Did you know that some families in our town might not have enough money to buy food for Thanksgiving?”. I said, “Let’s help our neighbors by buying food for them for Thanksgiving” and we decided that they would each be in charge of two families.

Over the past few days, I have reiterated how if they each help two families, then we’ll be helping four families total (hello math lesson!). After they were sufficiently hyped and understood the why of what we were doing, we set out to make our Thanksgiving Meal Kits today.

Making Thanksgiving Meal Kits

To kick off the day (and because sometimes I don’t know if they really understand what Thanksgiving is), they watched “Arthur’s Thanksgiving” – streaming on PBS – which they loved. When the show was over, we talked about what foods you eat on Thanksgiving, and we made our shopping list. Lowcountry Blessing Box Project had a suggested list of items which was really helpful too. Remember, these will be outside and you have no idea when they will be picked up by someone, so they MUST be non-perishable items.

Here’s their list:

Canned ham
Instant potatoes
Gravy mixes
Boxes of stuffing
Cans of corn
Cans of green beans
Cranberry sauce
Canned yams
Spices (salt, pepper, etc.)
Cream of mushroom soup
French Fried onions
Boxed/packaged or prepared dessert/cake/pie or fillings

I made sure to pick a grocery store where I knew that they had the kid grocery carts. I wanted each of my boys to feel truly responsible for doing the shopping and helping their two families. Every time we found a new item on our list, I made sure to give them the choice of what to pick. For example, when we got to the stuffing, they could pick turkey, chicken, or cornbread stuffing. I think giving them the responsibility to make their own decisions and really think about what someone else might like is so important to this activity! While they unloaded their carts with the cashier, you could tell they were feeling super proud of themselves.

When we got home, I had them unload all of the groceries and make “stations” by grouping each like item. For example, there was a station of cranberry sauce, a station of cornbread, a station of gravy – you get it. They then were responsible for filling two grocery bags full of one of every item from the circle of food. I wanted to make sure to include this part because this is what I loved so much as a kid! Filling up the bags with a whole dinner for someone else felt so exciting. It was equally as fun to see my kids do it now.

We stapled the bags shut and attached a note. I had them each write their own names under the sentence “Packed with love by…”.

Then it was time for delivery! As we dropped our bags off, I reiterated one last time why we made these and what a good thing it is to help our neighbors. We even talked about doing this again at Christmas time.

Giving back is not just for the holidays

When everything feels like such a mess in 2020, the one thing we CAN do (and teach our kids), is to care for those in our community. I hope you’ll use the holiday season as the perfect time to give back – and to include your kids!

PS: Not sure where a Blessing Box is near you? If you are in the Charleston area, they are all over! Check their Facebook page for locations.

PPS: Donating to a Blessing Box isn’t just for the holidays! You’d be surprised how many times I’ve been to our Blessing Box and it was practically empty. Now more than ever, our neighbors need our help! Donate year-round! (It doesn’t have to be a big production like this!)

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