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Little girl stacking her coins.
Little girl stacking her coins.

Home Cents

Start a family "give list" this holiday Add to ...

A few months ago, I started my five-year-old on an allowance and taught her how to set aside some coins to spend, some to save and some to share with others. Last week, I had the perfect opportunity to show my daughter how to actually give the money to a charity. Her class was raising funds for a seeing eye dog and she wanted to contribute. Instead of opening my wallet, I encouraged her to donate to the cause. She beamed as she carefully counted $10 from her piggy bank, amazed at her own ability to help those in need.

I've addressed charitable giving in this blog on several occasions, but this time of year is ideal to introduce children to the concept.

. Weigh in on whether you would stash some extra money into an RRSP, RESP or a TFSA.

TD personal finance expert Patricia Lovett-Reid, a financial planner and mother of four, believes kids as young as five are ready for the lesson. "Children start to have an appreciation for money as soon as they say they want something," she says.

While kids quickly pick up on how to spend money, it takes longer to learn about saving and giving.

Ms. Lovett-Reid suggests that if your kids are writing a holiday wish list this year, ask them to also write a "give list."

To create a give list, talk to your children about what they hope to get, and then have them consider who and what organizations they want to give to.

"You will be surprised at what children care about," says Ms. Lovett-Reid. "It allows the give list to be very specific and allows you to participate in your community."

To make the concept of giving more tangible, you can have your child present the money directly to a charity or go see one of the organization's facilities.

It's often easier for children to grasp the idea of giving if it involves other children. "This is what would get them to break the piggy bank," she says.

For Ms. Lovett-Reid, the Children's Miracle Network, which supports children's health in local areas, is a charity that kids can relate to. It's also a cause close to her own family's heart after her son, a chronic asthmatic who is now 23, spent many long hours in the hospital for treatment.

TD recently kicked off its annual campaign for the Children's Miracle Network and will match every dollar donated up to $1-million.

Whichever charity your child chooses, the lesson of giving to those less fortunate is a valuable one. "As a financial planner and as a mom, the real power is getting children involved early on and making them lifelong givers," Ms. Lovett-Reid says.

If your kids are already proficient philanthropists, let them share their experiences. Four Quarters Literacy is holding a writing contest this month to help teach children about the power of giving. Until December 31, kids between the ages of six and 18 can submit entries under the title, "There are many ways to give. This is my story ...". There will be three winners chosen and each will receive a cheque for $400 made payable to a registered charity of their choice.

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