How to get Scouts in the spirit of giving this holiday season

The holidays aren’t just about receiving gifts. You and I know that, but do your Scouts?

Probably, but by taking advantage of some teachable moments during the holidays, you can reinforce this spirit of giving in your Scouts and Venturers.

The tips below come from Denise Daniels, a parenting and child-development expert who has a wealth of helpful advice for parents at her website.

I like that Denise’s tips don’t force-feed the “attitude of gratitude.” Instead, the ideas involve young people in ways that promote compassion and empathy by helping others in need.

Visit a toy store

You shouldn’t have trouble persuading your Scout to join you on a trip to the toy store.

But instead of picking out something for himself, have your child choose a toy to donate for a kid of the same age.

The toy may be the only gift this young person receives, so your Scout’s choice is important.

Prepare a meal together

Have your Scout/Venturer suggest a meal you can make together. Or better yet, get a bunch of Scouts and Venturers together to make a meal.

Then deliver it as a group to a homeless shelter or food bank. Be sure to let them know you’ll be stopping by.

Organize a coat drive

Provide warm clothing for those less fortunate during the winter months by organizing a coat drive.

Or if this is too much, have your Scout or Venturer select a coat to donate. Be sure to explain the value of their donation — not in dollars but in kindness — and have them go with you to the donation center.

Send a card to the Armed Forces

This is one for the whole group. That group can be your family, Cub Scout den or pack, Boy Scout patrol or troop, Venturing crew, Varsity team, Sea Scout ship, Explorer post — you get the idea.

A holiday card has special meaning to men and women in the Armed Forces who are thousands of miles away from their families during the holiday season.

Make handmade cards and mail them together. The Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program has changed this year, so read more here. Or send the card(s) directly to a soldier you or someone in the unit knows.

Bake cookies

Whip up a batch of your famous gingerbread cookies and share them with an elderly neighbor who might be alone for long stretches during the holidays.

Be sure your Scout or Venturer joins you when you deliver them. Your neighbor will appreciate seeing a young, friendly face.

Compliment others

Words matter. Tell the people around you what makes them special and why they mean so much to you.

Your Scout or Venturer will notice the act and emulate it.

Choose a charity to support as a family

Hold a family meeting to choose a charity everyone would like to support. Or do the same thing with your den or pack.

For Boy Scouts, the patrol leaders’ council should make this call.

At whatever level, the key is involving the Scouts/Venturers in the decision-making. If they find a charity that tugs at their heart, they’re more likely to participate.

Remember to be grateful

Teach young children to say “please” and “thank you.” For older children, writing thank-you notes shows them how to demonstrate their gratitude to the gift-giver.

Share positive stories

At the dinner table with your family or during a Cubmaster’s or Scoutmaster’s minute with your Scouts, share positive stories about giving that appear on the news or in magazines during the holiday season.

You’ll find some of these stories in Boys’ Life and Scouting magazines!

Be a good neighbor

Invite a neighbor who is alone to join your family for a meal or for some egg-nog and cookies.

As a Scout unit, invite the “neighbors” (people who live or work near where your Scout unit meets) to a holiday party.

Sing some carols

Take your Scouts to a nursing home or hospital to sing carols for the residents.

Don’t worry if your Scouts are better at carrying backpacks than a tune. It’s the thought that counts.

[Your tip here]

What other ways can you get Scouts in the spirit of giving? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo: Cub Scouts visit the Naval Hospital for Christmas, ca. 1952. Some rights reserved by Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections


  1. Originally from Upstate NY, I would add help with winter chores of a neighbor. Sometimes they need more help clearing out a driveway/sidewalk because of the snow. Especially in the city/suburbs this could be easy.

  2. Good article. One Eagle project I know of was a toy drive for a hospital’s pediatic ward at a local hospital. You should have seen the faces of those kids when they got their toys.

  3. My Troop does a “Yankee Swap” where each boy brings an anonymously wrapped gift. The gifts are randomly selected (pulling numbers from a hat), and everyone goes home with a gift. Done in the middle of the month, it respectfully involves all the faiths represented in our Troop. We make a night of it with music, games, and snacks and really fill the meeting space with a spirit of cheer and giving.

  4. Our Pack has been involved in a local toy collection drive called The Spark of Love for the last 3 years.. It is run by the Fire Dept., hence the “Spark of Love”. Our local ABC news program shows up at 4 different locations on given days and broadcast throughout the day as people drop off toys.

    We have been able to get on live TV all 3 years. This year and last I (our Cubmaster) have actually been interviewed by the Weatherman, Garth “The Elf” Kemp (dressed as a giant elf). The boys see it as a chance to get on TV while the parents see it as a way to get the boys excited about helping those in need. A win/win!

  5. Our Troop, Pack and Crew annually prepare and serve a meal at our local traveling homeless shelter each winter. The shelter moves from church to church each week and the week it is at our Chartering Organization we prepare and serve dinner to the guests and then (for lack of a better term) “hang out” with them for a while. Talk, play games, etc. One of the better attended events of the year – the youth, adults, guests and folks in charge at the church all enjoy it! I still hear the youth talk about that night 11 months later, it is a very moving experience for everyone involved.

    The Troop also has an annual lock-in at our CO the Friday night before Christmas. We usually do some leadership training, play games, watch movies, have fun. The next morning after breakfast we help our church load and deliver Christmas Baskets (gifts and food) to area needy families, a program the church participates in with the Salvation Army. After being up all night they’re moving kind of slow (usually by the end of the load out time half the boys are asleep on their feet, or on benches or the floor even!) but everyone has a great time. Our Crew participates in this program by sponsoring one of the families, buying gifts for the kids and adults and delivering the gifts along with the food baskets that Saturday. The Pack held a fundraiser earlier in the fall and donated 50% of the profit to the program to help cover the expense of the food baskets.

    In addition to the benefits one can expect from participating in service projects like these, it also greatly increases our units’ visibility with the congregation of our chartered organization, which is an excellent added bonus.

  6. Our Troop uses our bus (and multiple adult vehicles) to help with distribution of gifts and food baskets from a local holiday program to families in need. Our scouts and scouters get as much or more out of it as those receiving assistance.

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