Making sense of COVID-19 and the resulting personal losses and disappointments are topics which have challenged us. Many parents are using the upheaval delivered by COVID-19 as an opportunity to help children learn about charity and the importance of reaching out to others in their time of need.

Noah Beyer, who recently turned 11, decided to put his “birthday energy” into helping others this year.

Instead of a traditional birthday party, Noah and his family sat on their front lawn while people drove by to drop off non-perishable food item donations. Noah also collected money through cash donations and his online virtual fundraising page.

Learning to be a gracious giver starts early and can bring lifelong joy. Do you want to teach your children to be joyful givers? There are many imaginative ways for little ones to get involved.

Helping neighbors: Encourage children to pull up an empty garbage can off the street, deliver to the door a newspaper which was tossed short of the porch, pick up sticks after a storm, or sweep the sidewalk.

Garbage Pickup: Plan a garbage pick-up day with a few other families and their children. You can incorporate a scavenger hunt list into the effort. Provide the bags and make it a contest. Spread out to canvas an area and remember to wear gloves.

Small job donations: Children can become super engaged when they work hard to earn money to put toward their charity of choice. Decorate a Charity Jar for this purpose. Setting a goal can be fun and you can easily turn this into a friendly, competitive game with friends.

Helping another child: $5 provides weekend food to one elementary student for one week or $165 can support one child for an entire school year through our BackPack Program. The child can direct their support toward a specific school or community.

Sharing artistic talents: Children may create motivational artistic notes to be included in food distributions. A few cheery words and a delightful image can go a long way toward brightening a day for our food recipients.

Switch up the old lemonade stand: Help your child host a food drive in your front yard. Make signs, decorate boxes to collect shelf stable items, wear costumes, and stand outside to encourage drivers. Set a goal to create excitement.

Volunteer: Volunteer safely as a family using good hand washing technique, social distancing, masks and gloves at your local food pantry or Food Bank of Iowa in Des Moines or Ottumwa. Take a picture and tag Food Bank of Iowa on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Start a group fundraiser: Help your child set up a fundraising campaign on Food Bank of Iowa’s website. Show your child how to track the donations coming in. When school starts back up, your child can incorporate a classroom food drive.

Recent challenges provide an opportune time to teach children about charity today. But what if parents want lessons about charity to be more than a one-time occurrence? What if they want the spirit of giving to be a way of life for their children? Now is the time to start.