Here are some tips for fostering a giving spirit in your child, both now and throughout the year.

During this holiday season when kids are so focused on the presents they hope to receive, many parents wonder how they can teach lessons about the joys of giving. Generosity, like most feelings, can't be forced. However, it can be demonstrated, encouraged and rewarded. Here are some tips for fostering a giving spirit in your child, both now and throughout the year.

Help your children make gifts by hand. Grandparents and other relatives will treasure handmade gifts from kids, and the process of making a gift will make the act of giving more personal for your child. If your child is buying gifts, encourage them to consider the age, interests and abilities of the receiver when making a selection. Young children may need guidance to understand that the tastes of others could be different from their own. Engage your child in efforts to give to those who have less, either by donating to a toy drive or by volunteering for a service project such as serving food in a soup kitchen. Consider establishing a tradition where the gift giver talks about why he selected the gift for the recipient as the presents are unwrapped. This ritual helps emphasize the importance of the thought behind the gift, rather than the item itself. It may also slow down the gift-opening time, creating more opportunity for your child to appreciate each present. Model generosity for your children. Involve them in your efforts to bake cookies for the neighbor or pick out the perfect scarf for Granny. Praise acts of giving and kindness. Sharing can be difficult, particularly for young children, so be sure to let your child know how pleased you are when she shares a toy with a sibling or shows empathy for a friend.

Remember that the capacity for giving develops over a lifetime, and it needs to be gently cultivated. If kids feel they are being coerced into giving, your attempts to instill generosity may backfire. However, with thoughtful encouragement and examples, your child will discover what many have learned before: Giving is its own reward.

-Kathleen Hayes is Editor of Highlights High FiveTM and Highlights HelloTM magazines. To learn more about Highlights products, please visit www.highlights.com.