Amid the materialism of the holidays, these four tips will help your children focus on helping others. By Janet Bodnar, Editor November 15, 2006 Earlier this year I wrote an online column about over-the-top children's birthday parties. In response, I received an e-mail from Julie Hansen of Salt Lake City describing her daughter Jennifer's 11th birthday. For her party, Jennifer wanted to read to children in a homeless shelter. Instead of having her guests bring a gift, she asked them to bring two books. Then Mom arranged for the girls to visit the shelter at the local YWCA and read to a group of preschoolers. Each child picked a book to keep, and the rest were left for the shelter. At home afterward, says Julie, "we had pizza, and the girls talked about what had been an amazing experience for all of them." Jennifer's story is worth retelling during the holiday season, when parents struggle to teach kids the value of giving in the midst of so much getting. It should come as no surprise that the key to raising charitable children is for parents to lead by example. Some families tithe or require their kids to set aside part of their allowance for giving. But less formal arrangements also make an impression on youngsters: Designate a container in which your children can deposit loose change. When the jar is full, they can donate the money to a charity. Ask your kids to help choose a gift for a holiday toy drive. Better still, have them buy it with their own money. Have your kids help pack up clothes they've outgrown or toys they no longer play with. And bring the children with you when you give away the old items so they can lend a hand. Remember that charity involves gifts of time as well as money. Encourage your children to offer their services (without pay) to run errands or shovel snow for neighbors who are elderly or ill. And now for the rest of Jennifer's birthday story. Her mother recently wrote to tell me that Jennifer has continued to volunteer at the YWCA on a regular basis. Sometimes she asks friends to join her, but she often goes alone. And she recently received an award for her work at the center. Says her mother, "This has been and continues to be a very rewarding experience." Next week: A new way for kids to contribute to charity.