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Sharing the Spirit of the Holidays: Create Holiday Hope Chests

By Beth Newingham on December 13, 2012
  • Grades: 3–5

In years past, my students have created holiday hope chests for children who will be spending the holidays in a local children's hospital. It is easy for children to take for granted the gifts that they receive during the holidays, so this project encourages children to embrace the holiday season as one of giving rather than receiving.

I first found out about holiday hope chests on the Kids Care website. The chests are simply decorated shoeboxes designed by my students. Each chest (shoebox) is filled with small toys, games, and art supplies chosen especially for a girl or boy of a specific age. My students also make holiday cards to enclose in each chest. The decorative shoebox gives the receiving child a "treasure chest" in which to keep the items together. Students can print out a variety of great holiday images to decorate their hope chests using Scholastic’s holiday clip art!

I introduce the idea to my students and then send a note home explaining the project to the parents. I ask parents to donate shoeboxes, and each student is asked to bring three to five small (new) toys to put in his or her hope chest. I suggest shopping at local dollar stores and emphasize the fact that the items must be small enough to fit inside a shoebox.

I also ask students not to bring candy, toys with many small parts, or toys that promote violence, such as toy guns or action figure with guns or battle gear. Suggested items include crayons, pencils, markers, notebooks, notepads, glue, Play Doh, flash cards, stickers, small toys, small books, magazines, LEGOs, hair bands, card games, small stuffed animals, magnets, etc.

This project has been very successful and rewarding in years past. My students love being able to spread joy to their peers who are less fortunate, and it helps them to embrace the real meaning of the holiday season.

For more photos and information about creating holiday hope chests, you can visit my classroom website.

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