5 Stories to Spark Discussions With Kids About the Spirit of Giving

by ParentCo. November 22, 2017

story book image

Raising their children to be generous is a top priority for many parents. Oftentimes, though, it feels like the world has other plans. Kids are constantly bombarded with opportunities for receiving. Attend a birthday party? Bring home a goody bag. Holiday approaching? Make your wish list. Cooperate for the dentist? Choose a prize. On and on it goes. What about giving? Research from the Making Caring Common Project at Harvard points to parent communication of priorities as a key factor in successfully raising caring children. How can parents talk to their kids about generosity? Stories are prime teaching tools, so here are five titles to initiate discussions with children about the importance of giving, with related ideas for encouraging generous habits.


“The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy”

by Beatrice Alemagna

In this story, five-year-old Edie searches her neighborhood for the perfect birthday gift for her mother. She overheard her sister say, “birthday—Mommy—fluffy—little—squishy,” so that’s what seeks. After an exhausting but successful search, her mother’s exuberant response to her present, a hot pink “little fluffy” found in the garbage, is the perfect reward for Edie’s efforts.

After you read:

Involve your child in selecting holiday and birthday gifts for others. Ask, “What does Marco like to do at school? Is there a toy or book you have that you think he would like for his birthday? What does Grandma like to do in her spare time? What could we give her that she’d enjoy using?” Encourage your child to participate in making a card, wrapping the gift, and watching the person open it. Talk about how thoughtful gifts make others happy.


“The Wish Tree”

by Kyo Maclear

Charles heads into the forest with one goal: to find a Wish Tree. Even though he starts out focused on his own pursuits, it’s what he does during his search that is the most poignant. First, he stops to use his sled to help Squirrel get his hazelnuts home. Then, Beaver needs help carrying birch wood to his lodge, and Fox has a meal of berries she needs taken to her kits. Charles gives so much of his day to the woodland animals that, when night falls, he still hasn’t found his Wish Tree. The animals return his kindness in a touching ending.

After you read:

Talk about how time and energy are gifts anyone can give – even children. Think together about ways your child could give a gift of time and energy. Could she collect the neighbors’ mail when they go on vacation? Help pick up litter at the park or clean up a mess left in the library children’s room? Be sure to help your child understand the good feelings that her actions evoke in others.

“Penguin and Pinecone”

by Salina Yoon

Penguin finds a pinecone and is delighted to have a companion, until he comes to the painful realization that if he truly loves his friend, he must return him to the forest. So begins a caring, long-distance friendship. The final line of the book, “When you give love…it grows,” and the illustration of a forest of well-tended pine trees is picture book sweetness at its best.

After you read:

Talk about how the pictures show Penguin “giving his love” to Pinecone. Talk about ways to “give love” to someone else and brainstorm ways your child could give love to family members, friends, and pets. Use this language to elevate and encourage generous behavior when you see it: “Wow, you really gave a lot of love to your sister! It made her so happy when you brought her that toy.”


“A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love”

by Michelle Edwards

Mrs. Goldman knits hats for everyone in the community. One day, it dawns on little Sophia, who helps her make the pom-poms, that Mrs. Goldman doesn’t have any cozy headwear of her own. She sets out to make her a hat – a challenging, but ultimately satisfying task.

After you read:

Talk about how it feels to make something for someone else, and how it feels to receive a homemade gift. Come up with simple ways your child can make things for others, such as baking for a family with a new baby or creating a piece of artwork to brighten someone’s day.


“The Quiltmaker’s Gift”

by Jeff Brumbeau

This is a lengthy picture book, but it’s so captivating that you may be surprised at young children’s attention span for it. The King has an insatiable desire for gifts, but the thing he wants most, a quilt from the most talented quiltmaker in the kingdom, isn’t up for offer. She only gives her quilts to the poor. In the end, the quiltmaker convinces the King to give away his prized possessions, and he experiences the joy of giving to others for the first time.

After you read:

Talk about what it was like for the King to give away his things. Find small ways for your child to perform acts of charity, such as donating toys or clothes he’s outgrown. Involving your children in acts of giving is work – certainly more than standing around while they dip into the prize container after their teeth cleanings. But through modeling, discussion, and chances to practice, the spirit of giving can be taught. Think of it as a gift you give your kids.



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