Raising Giving Children Series: Ages 9 - 11 years:

Venturing into the Local Community: Ages 9-11

Growing Philanthropically

Children in the upper elementary grades are capable of understanding fairly sophisticated ideas about serving others. They're old enough to begin to volunteer more actively, and to handle basic concepts related to giving and sharing.

"If today I had a young mind to direct, to start on the journey of life, and I was faced with the duty of choosing between the natural way of my forefathers and that of the. . . present way of civilization, I would, for its welfare, unhesitatingly set that child's feet in the path of my forefathers. I would raise him to be an Indian!"

—Tom Brown, Jr., The Tracker

Acts of helping and sharing increase at this age, though the practices will decrease before rising again in high school. Older children are better able to help than young elementary children because of their greater skills and abilities. Adults will ask for their help more often for this same reason. This age will bring, in some, the vision to see solutions to problems or the realization that they can, at least, be a part of a solution.

Philanthropy Concepts for the Upper Elementary Age Child

By fifth grade, your children should be familiar with the following philanthropic concepts:

  • Philanthropy as sharing time, talent, and treasure.
  • The term “common good” and its importance.
  • Nonprofit organizations and how they are different from government and for-profit organizations.
  • A community or historical figure who has acted philanthropically and her philanthropic act.
  • The differences between private property and public, or common property.
  • An historical or contemporary example of how a person acting through the nonprofit sector has made a positive change in society.


Ideas for You and Your Children

Build on School History Lessons

Most children in this age group will be learning about early American History starting with the Pilgrims through the Civil War. When they learn about these events in school, you can discuss the philanthropic themes as your children talk to you about their school subjects.

The Civil War era, for instance, offers many lessons in democracy and philanthropy. Visit a local African-American museum, the Urban League , the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), or other local civil rights organization. Discuss slavery. Talk about volunteerism in the context of discussions about abolitionists, the Underground Railroad, and the citizens who sheltered runaway slaves. Talk about slave “conductors” on the Underground Railroad who risked their lives to bring people north to freedom, and about the soldiers on both sides of the war who were volunteers. Make connections to other historical events, such as the sheltering of Jewish citizens during World War II and the creation of the Red Cross.

Build a Good Citizen Habit

"Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself... You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams."

—Kahlil Gibran

Let your children know that elections are not popularity contests—there are important reasons why people vote for one candidate over another. Objectively present all candidates' sides. Give your children the opportunity to voice their choices and explain them. Take your children to the polls, campaign headquarters and on door-to-door pamphlet drops for “your” candidate.

Encourage Involvement in a Youth Group

Friends are becoming increasingly important to your children. They may or may not be members of a youth organization. Whether part of a local grass roots group or a large national organization's affiliate, their involvement in an effective program provides leisure time with peers, builds skills, provides adult role models, and, sometimes, encourages positive social behaviors. These groups range from unstructured to very structured, from “gym and swim” to educational programs, from promoting the good of the group to making the community a better place to live.

Numerous choices exist, particularly among the well-known larger groups. For example, some 4-H clubs use citizenship materials to help young members recognize their place in and responsibility to society. Boy Scouts make a commitment to do a daily Good Turn—something that is helpful and nice for others. In Girl Scouting , members have opportunities to earn different badges—several related to community service and helping others. Camp Fire Boys and Girls provide a complete service-learning curriculum from age 5 through 13.

By eleven years of age, your children will need new challenges and responsibilities. Be aware that the need for peer approval and company grows very strong. This age is generally seen as the crucial point when many youth drop out of youth organization involvement. If they have been members for years and have many friends in the youth group, involvement is more likely to continue.

Keep a Journal

Buy journals or scrapbooks for your children. Suggest that they keep a “Good Deeds Journal” or “Philanthropy Scrapbook” with pictures of activities they have done for either the “unknown other” or for the “common good.”

Encourage Volunteering

"The greatest Glory of a free-born People, Is to transmit that Freedom to their Children."

—William Havard

Children at this age can begin to volunteer and will usually find it is a most rewarding experience! Call a local nonprofit organization that is involved in areas that interest them. Help your children become involved in age-appropriate service. Look for exciting tasks.

Encourage Giving

Your children are now old enough to set aside a part of their allowance for charitable giving to a nonprofit organization or cause they care about. Help them write to an organization to request a copy of its annual report or other literature, or suggest they visit the Web site of an organization. The wealth of giving opportunities and the diversity of nonprofit missions is well represented on http://guidestar.org .

Continue to encourage your child's contribution to a religious institution (if this is a part of your family background). Explain that your church, synagogue, mosque, or place of worship relies on regular financial contributions from individuals.

Involve your children in decisions about causes that your family supports financially. With your help, your child can begin to do research, using the Web or a number of printed resources for youth (refer to “Related Organizations and Web Sites - Children's Projects in the Learning to Give Resources page to find organizations linked to causes he cares about. Make this activity a family event.

Be a Steward

Stewardship has roots in the major religions, and the belief that God has provided the gift of resources to humanity as “loans in trust.” The good steward is the person who uses the gifts wisely, accepts responsibility to protect God's gift for future generations, and has a desire to “give back” through sharing what he has been given.

"Pretty much all the honest truth telling there is in the world is done by children."

—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

The concept of stewardship is also commonly used in non-religious contexts to refer to taking care of the environment (“environmental stewardship”). Whether from a religious or secular view, you can discuss “common” resources with your child. From this starting point, you can begin to introduce the topic of family (private) resources for which the children will one day have stewardship responsibilities.

Questions to Stimulate Reflection

Ages 9-11

  • What did you like about the service experience (helping, giving or sharing)? What did you dislike about it? How did it make you feel?
  • How does it make you feel to be a citizen of the United States? Our democracy gives us many rights, do we also have responsibilities? Are politics easy or difficult to understand? What can you do to become involved in the election process?
  • Think about the heroes that you like from today or from history. Why were they heroes? How is the world a better place because of these people? What would you do in their situation?
  • How did it feel to give away your money (or possession)? How do you think it made the recipient feel? Will you give again? Can you help in other ways or do more?

Activities for Upper Elementary Children

  • Read books with philanthropic content about giving and sharing.
    View Learning to Give's Annotated Bibliography of Children's Literature
  • Involve your child in a nonprofit group.
  • Hold family discussions on issues related to giving.
  • Discuss actions of public figures who demonstrate giving and sharing.
  • Encourage high-quality Academic Service-Learning in schools both for your child and other children.
  • Visit museums and focus on heroic, philanthropic figures.
  • Talk with your child about why your family cares.
  • Discuss lessons from history and the relationship to philanthropy.
  • Discuss current events related to caring about and giving to others.
  • Build a bluebird or a bat house and relate it to homelessness.
  • Model active citizenship—voting, campaigning, discussing public issues.
  • Enjoy family volunteer activities together.
  • Keep a philanthropy journal or scrapbook.
  • Become involved in a service project with a nonprofit organization.
  • Give allowance money to a favorite charity.