Helping Older Kids Rekindle the Magic of the Holidays

There's nothing like experiencing the magic of the holidays through the eyes of a child - making lists, checking them twice and waiting for Santa. Some of that magic may be lost, though, as kids grow up and don't feel quite the same way about the man in red. What's a jolly parent to do to rekindle the same holiday spirit?

Teaching older kids to play Santa themselves may be the best way to bring back some of that holiday joy. Just ask Julie Aagard of Hilliard. Along with her husband Erik, Aagard has begun using the holidays as a time to teach their three kids - Marilyn, 9, Kelly, 7, and Jordan, 3 - about service by encouraging kind deeds for others.

As the kids grow, so do the opportunities to spread good cheer, such as participating in an "Adopt a Grandparent Program" through their church.

"The kids were a little uneasy at first, but as soon as they realized that the grandparents think everything they do is just fabulous, they really warmed up," said Aagard.

They've been visiting their "Grandma" Edna ever since.

Kat Ellery, volunteer coordinator for Goodwill Columbus, agrees that teaching kids to look beyond their own worlds helps them see a world of opportunity: "Finding out that there's people in your community that you can take steps to help can be really empowering for anyone - especially young kids."

Creating family holiday traditions of service can be just as exciting as other traditions, especially when kids get a chance to be involved in all stages.

"People think that volunteering is cleaning up trash or scrubbing floors, which it could be, but there are so many other simple and fun activities that improve the quality of life for others," said Ellery.

"When we do something nice for someone, we always talk to the kids about how they feel, what the reactions of others were and if they are proud of themselves to create self motivation," explained Aagard. "Our goal is to just have service become a natural part of their lives, for the rest of their lives."

And that's a gift that keeps on giving.