My 5 year-old god-son recently revealed to me that he likes to help others, and in particular, when I gave him some money to buy himself a treat, he wanted to give the leftover money to the store to be nice and help out.

Naturally, I want to encourage charitable notions, but I want to explain to him that the store might not be the right recipient.

Other ideas might be animal shelters, WWF, or the many organizations aiming to feed people in third world countries.


How can I introduce him to more appropriate charitable cases, without potentially exposing him to too many of the harsh realities of the world?

  • 1
    Just a side note, when you decide to give to charities, they'll have public disclosures of their expenses. I personally refuse to donate to causes, even good ones, who pay their CEOs 600k a year. Among the rest of the staff, that suggests nothing gets done until they are given over a million dollars. Ridiculous. You can always find a homeless person to give meals to, or local kids who would appreciate toys
    – Kai Qing
    Nov 29, 2017 at 16:21
  • @KaiQing - Ah, I had almost forgotten this question. But yeah, I decided to go with something very tangible, so that he could see the result of his charity, so we bought some toys and clothes for an orphanage. We've done it a couple times, but now that you've reminded me, I'll ask if he wants to do it again before Christmas :)
    – Alec
    Nov 29, 2017 at 17:49

4 Answers 4


I would suggest that you stick to something that makes sense to him and he can empathize with. Donate toys to a local children's home or women's shelter might be the best example; somewhere he can actually go and see the children he's helping. That would help reinforce the behavior, as he'd have positive feelings associated with giving not just from your encouragement but from seeing other children enjoy the toys he's given them.

Do check with the shelter first, of course, to see what they prefer; they may have a list of things that they would find helpful, for example. They might also find money most helpful, but you could still point out the things that they're buying that his money is going towards in part.


I would suggest something far more charitable, that actually requires some effort on his part. You can help a neighbor plant their garden or mow their lawn, bake some cookies for them, etc. You could even go inside the walls of your own home, and help him do a chore that is normally done by a sibling or parent. I like to define charity much like Emerson:

Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing. This is right and pleasing, for it restores society in so far to the primary basis, when a man’s biography is conveyed in his gift, and every man’s wealth is an index of his merit. 4 But it is a cold lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me something which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith’s.

Teaching him to truly serve others will serve him well the future. Too often in today's culture we associate giving money with charity, when that is only a very small part.


Does he have siblings or friends? One possibility is to suggest that he save the money for gifts for people he knows. This could also help build his social network; it never hurts to be known as a generous person.


Every Christmas since my oldest grandson was born we always go thru his toys and he has to decide what he wants to give to a boy that is less fortunate than us. He has always enjoyed it. I enjoy us listening to Christmas music and watching him get excited about how happy some little boy will be to get his gift.

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