5 Tips for Spreading Joy to Children This Holiday Season

Each child should be able to experience the happiness that the holiday season can bring. Here’s how you can help bring joy to children whose families may be struggling this year.

Each year, NVFS serves 35,000+ individuals, approximately one-third of whom are children. Nearly all of these individuals live in poverty, which can have a significant impact on children mentally and physically, with potentially long-lasting effects. The holidays can be particularly stressful, as the differences between their situations and those of the children around them can become more readily apparent:

  • Home and Family: Many children look forward to time off at home and at family gatherings; low-income children may not have either a home or family.
  • Holiday Presents: Children get excited about the presents they receive and are eager to talk about them when they return to school after holidays. Because children in low-income households don’t have the same experiences, they may feel embarrassed, angry, sad, or socially isolated since they can’t participate in the conversation in the same way. Similarly, low-income parents often feel humiliated for not being able to afford holiday gifts for their children, as well as for their children’s subsequent embarrassment, anger or sadness.
  • Adequate Meals: When school is not in session, children in low-income households may not get enough to eat because they don’t have access to free or reduced-meals through school.

One of the ways in which NVFS helps to alleviate the stress of these situations is through our Gifting for Families program, through which 2,200+ local children receive gifts each holiday season. The drive supports children of all ages, from infants to teens, to ensure every child can experience the joy of unwrapping a present during the holidays.

5 Tips for Holiday Giving

Looking to spread some holiday cheer? Here are some helpful tips from Gifting for Families volunteer and supporter Brenda Foster:

1. Donate only new, unwrapped toys.

Every child deserves a new toy for the holidays to help him or her feel special. “I always keep an eye on the lists of ‘most wished for’ toys of the year,” Foster adds. “I keep an eye on sales and coupons, and try to grab them whenever I can.”

2. Look for multicultural and gender-neutral options.

Whether it’s Lego or K’Nex building sets or the latest Baby Alive dolls, there are plenty of options to provide toys that can be enjoyed by children. “It’s also important to remember that any toy can be exciting to any child,” Foster notes. “My daughter is obsessed with sharks and dinosaurs, which often are considered ‘boy’ toys. And more and more companies are making boy dolls.”

3. Consider whether the child can play with a toy alone.

Sports equipment, for example, is a great option for preteens and teens, but some equipment requires others in order to play. “Think about the child will play with a toy, and whether help or supervision will be necessary,” Foster suggests.

4. Certain toys may be great gifts, but not great donation options.

Nonprofits usually note toys they would prefer not to receive for a variety of reasons. “Stuffed animals and fighting toys, including Nerf guns, tend to be on that list,” Foster observes. “Many social workers also avoid choosing Barbie or other ‘mature’ looking dolls and toys because of cultural and religious sensitivities.”

5. Purchase toys that will last.

“I always imagine that each child will only get one gift for the holidays,” Foster shares. “How will he or she feel when it’s opened? Excited? Disappointed? And is it something that will last for more than a couple of days, both in terms of play value and durability?” This also will likely dictate how much is spent on each gift. Foster recommends $15 to $30 per gift, but often shops throughout the year to find great deals as toys cycle onto clearance shelves to make way for new releases. “I’ve found playhouses, ride-ons, dolls and other great gifts at less than half price this way,” she notes. “I also follow a couple of deal alert sites on social media that report when high-value toys are on sale online or in stores.”

Holiday Giving through NVFS

NVFS has created an Amazon wish list, which is a great starting point for helpful ideas for children of all ages. Donations can be dropped off Dec. 10 and 11 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Dropoff location TBD in Chantilly.)

In addition to toys, we are also collecting gift cards and monetary donations to help purchase gifts as needed. You can also sign up to volunteer to help us collect and sort donations throughout the week.

If you have additional questions, please contact Faith Boettger regarding donations and Julie Martinez regarding volunteering.

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