This year we came across a local effort called Operation Eid Child whereby community members could sign up to buy gifts for children of specific ages and genders and wrap them up to be delivered just before Eid. The gifts were distributed at a local masjid to refugee children and other families in need. This drive is inspired by one which operates in Pakistan (http://www.eidchild.com/operation-eid-child.html) which found in roots in similar shoebox-filling drives that happen around Christmas in many parts of the world
When I came across the group on facebook, I knew that it was a process I wanted my family to be a part of. I added it to my daughter’s Ramadan calendar and thought of ways I could stretch out the activity to create excitement and also cover more learning domains.
- Shopping – If you can, take your child shopping with you when you go to buy the gifts. It is wise to talk about the children you will be shopping for and the types of items they might enjoy before finding yourself in the store. Brainstorming these details with your child ahead of time and discussing other necessary elements like budget can make for a smoother shopping trip and also get their wheels turning before they become overwhelmed by rampant consumerism upon entering the store. For younger children, it might be easier for them to appropriately shop for children who match their own demographics so allow them to have some input in what you decide to purchase. My daughter is fairly young and doesn’t quite understand the concept of numbers/budgeting but for an older child, set a budget and allow the child to pick the items that will go in the gift. Allow some time for this activity and use cash to pay. Along with reinforcing numeracy and basic financial skills, this activity can also help children learn to prioritize, refine their decision making process and spark creativity.
- Creating Cards – If you are drawing out this project, let your children spend an afternoon creating thoughtful cards. Some children will spend hours painting, colouring, gluing and pasting. Other children, either due to age or lack of interest may only choose to spend a few minutes. What we decided to do was use pieces of paper that my daughter had previously painted as the base for our cards. She then chose stickers to decorate the cards and I wrote a simple message. Depending on your child’s level of learning, use this as an opportunity to practice not only art and fine motor skills, but also writing skills and socioemotional development: encourage them to reflect on their own blessed lives and empathize with children who may not be as fortunate. Ask your child, how might the recipient of your gift feel opening the gift that you have so carefully put together on Eid day? What else can you do to make sure the people in your community have a good eid? Why might your actions please Allah? Acknowledge any feelings your child might experience during this process including jealousy and envy. Don’t invalidate your child’s feeling or simply tell them not to feel jealous but empathize with your child and explain the implications of their actions. For example, “I know you really like that water gun that we are giving. I’m sure the little boy that receives it will love it too and be really happy that there’s someone in this world that cares about him enough to share such a cool gift with him. Allah promises that when we give something up for His sake, He will give us something better so let’s make duah that all boys and girls will get awesome gifts this Eid and be in a safe and happy place surrounded by people they love.”
- Packing the Gifts – This is a fun time for children. Lots of children have excitedly ripped the wrapping paper off of their own gifts, but how many children have had the opportunity to pack a gift for someone else? I included my daughter who was 2.5 years old at the time of this experience by asking her to pass me the items and help place them in the box. She then added tissue paper to cover the contents. If your child is older, have them source the correct sized box. Allow them to use concepts like estimating volume to find an appropriate box and surface area to determine how much wrapping paper is required.
- The Drop off – This was one of the most exciting aspects for my daughter. Because we had been talking about these Eid gifts and working with them for the week, she was thrilled when after daycare one day, I told her we were going to go to a new auntie’s house to drop off the gifts. When the auntie opened the door, her dining table was full of gifts and I explained to my daughter that there were many nice boys and girls just like her, who cared about others and were doing the same thing. I’m sure it would have been a more powerful experience had she gotten to present the gifts to the children herself, but we were busy during the distribution timeslot.
We did a similar process when my daughter was providing input and shopping for her cousin. Of course, the dynamics were a little different because my daughter knew about the person in question, and had a relationship with her, but the point is that if no such gift drive exists and you cannot start one, the same process and learning can occur any time of of the year when buying a gift for anyone! With Christmas right around the corner, why not look for an opportunity for your family to help brighten up another family’s day?