Getting young kids to give or volunteer is a great idea, of course. We all want our kids to develop compassion and the habit of helping others.

Plus, starting early instills two powerful lessons. First, even though kids are small and lack influence or money, they learn they can make a big difference. That’s an enduring lesson. Second, when the joy of giving and its personal gratification starts early, it becomes a lifelong habit.

The best way to successfully develop a kid’s interest in giving is to move slowly. Most importantly, let your kid be your guide.

Start by talking, not by doing. Then, use these five tips to engage young children in giving.

1. Look for teachable moments.
These crop up any time and anywhere, and often when least expected. For instance, when kids talk about what they want to be when they grow up, ask them how people with that job can help others.

2. Be the role model you want to see.
Young kids learn by experimenting and watching others, particularly their parents. They often try on the values they hear about. To encourage that behavior, talk about why you give and the rewards you get back.

Show your interest in philanthropic activities and compliment charitable ideas and behavior when you talk to kids.

Include giving as year-round interests and activities in the family, not only a holiday event.

3. Let the child find the cause that speaks to him or her.

A good way to engage a child’s interest is to ask what makes him or her get mad. When kids feel they can turn their indignation into action by righting an injustice, or making a difference in something they feel strongly about, it offers immediate reinforcement. It’s empowering.

Don’t commit to anything too quickly. Audition activities/causes to find what’s right for your family and child. Don’t be afraid to drop what doesn’t feel comfortable or rewarding.

4. Explain the world of giving.

Kids don’t necessarily understand philanthropy and its options.

With older kids, talk about what’s entailed in volunteering, fundraising, charitable events, choosing a cause, evaluating an organization or managing a family foundation and, perhaps most important, how to measure success or impact.

Little ones also need clear explanations about the differences between giving and buying and between the nonprofit world and the for profit marketplace.

5. Set the bar.
Parents expect kids to share, to complete homework, to exhibit manners and so on. Add giving to the list. Expect kids to give and serve rather than making it a special event or a big deal. Giving then becomes part of everyday thinking and not an extracurricular event.

When you instill ownership for giving in kids and an appreciation for how much they have to contribute, they will give out of compassion, not obligation.