I wanted to have something at my home for my grandchildren that helped them to focus on the real meaning of Christmas and provide opportunities for them to serve others. With all of the commercial aspects of this season, it can become very distracting.
As I thought about it, I decided on creating a "service tree" and filled it with pairs of socks for each of them. The theme being "Footsteps To Service". Each pair has a little treat, a small gift, and a scripture with some suggested ideas for service that they can do to help others like Jesus did. I chose four areas of focus:
Compassion (Matthew 14:14)
Gratitude (Luke 10:21)
Peacemaker (Matthew 5:9)
Feeding The Hungry/Helping the Poor (Matthew 14:19)
I have provided links to printouts below that you may use that will save you some time. You may choose to use the same areas of focus and scriptures I have, or I have also provided a blank template if you want to do something totally different.
There are so many people in need of help, comfort, love and support, and it really "'tis the season to serve". Children are never too young to learn and they love helping. It's innate within them, don't you think? And when we serve and help others we really are walking in the "footsteps" of the Savior. There can be no better way to honor His birth than to serve and love His children in need.
I purchased one or two packages of stockings for each child and hung four pair for each on the tree. I thought it would be fun if we donate the remaining socks together as a family, along with some other clothing and food that we gather. The Christmases my adult children cherish the most are those years where we did sub-for-Santa's. I think this will be a memorable time for our family.
The treats and gifts are small because I wanted the real focus to be on service, rather than on what they are getting. This "Slinky" cost $1.00 at Target and goes with a scripture from Matthew about being a "peacemaker". Some of the ideas behind it are to encourage them to show kindness to their siblings, share their toys, play with or babysit a sibling, as well as other ideas.
I thought "pencils and note cards" (journals for older kids) would go well with "gratitude", with ideas that encourage them to write thank-you notes, start a gratitude journal, as well as several other ideas of expressing gratitude.
"Holiday tissues" go well with "feeding the hungry". There are so many ideas to have children help serve from gathering non-perishable food items to donate, to baking treats or dinner for a family or someone in need. Putting together a boxed Christmas dinner, complete with a ham or turkey, is always a really special meal to give to someone. I have several ideas listed on the printout of service ideas below, but I'm sure you have great ideas. They don't have to be difficult or time consuming, just meaningful.
Each one also received a box of "Rudolph Bandaids" I found at Target for $1 to go along with "compassion". In fact, you can find several items that can be used as stocking stuffers at Target from $1-$3. I thought that using mittens would be a great idea to "lend a helping hand", but I wanted to keep my focus on footsteps so I stayed with the stocking theme.
To attach I simply used thin wired ribbon, cut desired length and tied a bow in the middle, then pinned the ends to the socks. On a few I just looped the ribbon and used one straight pin to attach. You need to be the one to remove the pins when you give the socks to children! Then I'm using the ribbon to tie a bow where the socks were hanging to remind us of the service we're doing this season.
You could also simply make a garland by stringing a ribbon and use clothespins to attach the socks to the ribbon.
Here are a few images to see how my "footsteps to service" tree turned out...
Now for the templates:
If you would like to use this template with these four scriptures, it is print ready. Simply click on the link below and print the number of desired copies. It prints on 8-1/2" x 11" paper.
Then, if you would like to print the ideas for service on the back of the cards like I did, simply use the next link for "Service Ideas", put your printed copies with the scriptures back into your printer so that when you print the ideas they will print on the back side. I have reversed the print so it is print ready, you just need to figure out which way your printer takes your paper to print on the back. (Mine is printed side up, facing the other direction). The scriptures are on both sides so you'll be able to match them up with no problem.
When they're printed just right, cut them apart and place them in your stockings.
Here is the link for the blank template so you can write or type anything you'd like:
I really love how this project turned out. This evening a few of the kids came over for a sleepover, their eyes lit up when they saw the tree. They were even more excited when they chose their first pair of socks and we read and discussed the scripture and service ideas.
You'll find many more wonderful ideas for service ideas for you and your family at mormon.org They have a wonderful project full of 25 days of ideas and ways to let your light shine through service. #LIGHTtheWORLD
I hope this is something you can enjoy with your children or grandchildren, too.