Rice Night


I’ve contemplated posting this for a while. My hesitation was that I think for those of you that don’t know me outside of the internet there is a misconception that I have it all together as a mom. I don’t. I goof up quite often. I don’t always show grace or patience. I’m not always fully engaged with my kids. I’m normal. I do try to be very intentional with my kids though. Chris and I have certain things that are very important to us to pass along to our children. One of those things is a concern for all people…selflessness…to know what it is to give sacrifically. I soak in stories from other parents on how they instill life lessons to their kids, so for that reason I’ll share one we’ve been doing. I fully support giving financially to various non-profits that help with hunger, but I know my kids don’t always understand the impact of a check written. To their eyes I am just writing something on paper. So to instill in them the reality that they can help provide food for others we’ve started having “Rice Night”. We do it a couple of times a month.

When I holler “Dinner’s ready”…everyone scrambles to their seats to find this:12.09rice-02

Then we pass around a jar and everyone (including the toddler) puts their money in the jar. Then everyone gets a plate of rice for dinner. We use rice as an example of what many families eat for every meal.12.09rice-03

We explain to the boys that the money we would have spent on our dinner we are now putting in the jar instead. Once we have the jar full I divide the money up among the boys and take them to the grocery store. There they get to buy healthy food, pay for it and deliver it to our church’s food pantry (where they know people who are hungry come to get food). For dinner the only option is rice. However, later in the night if they are hungry I let them snack – I want it to be a positive experience. It has been cool to see how the older two boys now frequently ask “Is it Rice Night yet?”…and they don’t really like rice.

What are some things your family did growing up or that you do now that have impacted your character?

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  • Christina - The first thing that came to mind is that my father used to make us take our shoes off before entering whenever we visited friends or relatives. It may sound silly, but every time I went to a friends house the parents couldn’t believe that this little kid wouldn’t come in the house without taking her shoes off. Now I keep handknitted slippers at the door of our home for our guests.

  • ashlee - that is an awesome idea!! i think i will be adopting that one. quite often we go through our toys, clothes, and home items to donate. We are given so much, and we certainly dont need it all, so we pass it on. I love it because my kids are constantly adding to the donation bags by the door.

  • the inadvertent farmer - We keep gift certificates for fast food restaurants in our car so when we see a homeless person with a sign “Homeless, please help” we can give them a certificate. This makes my kids feel good for helping (“No honey they cannot come home for dinner with us”) and I am assured that it will be used for food as opposed to giving cash that can be used for liquor or other things. Kim

  • Jill Tracy - Wow–this is amazing. You are doing something great for your children. I always try to explain these things to my girls, but a visual is obviously a more realistic approach for them. I want my girls to grow up to be giving and understand people from all different walks of life. I think my oldest is finally understanding that some children do not get food and do not get toys. I have noticed her praying for them at bedtime lately. I think the rice thing may just be the icing on the cake for her to understand.

  • patti - my oldest daughter (she’s now 5) was born in december. so it’s like a month flooded with gifts for her with christmas and her birthday only 2 weeks apart. so, along with other times throughout the year, december is the month we purge toys. we’ve been doing this with her since she was 2. she actively participates in selecting toys to donate to churches and goodwill. we explain to her that it’s important to share and give to others. she totally gets it and it warms my heart to hear her say “i think i would like to give this toy to another kid that doesn’t have toys on christmas.” and i look up and know it’s one of her favorite toys that she’s letting go.

  • Julia Leinen - Thank you for giving to the food pantry. I assure you it is getting into needy and grateful hands, and they are learning about the TRUE Bread of Life.

  • Jeannette Swan - What an awesome idea! I love it!

  • AmberLee - i love this. what a great reminder. it can be so hard to really give kids perspective and I love that they have something so solid to latch onto.

    by the way, I’ve been enjoying your banner and the beautiful pics as they fade in. they totally put me in the holiday mood!

  • Sarah M - I *LOVE* this idea. Thank you. Our kids are very small yet (2 1/2 & 10 months) but this is a great thing to incorporate when they are a bit older to understand poverty & selfless giving. Thanks!

    Sarah M

  • Lisa - I’m going to borrow this idea. I love it! This year we’ve decided the kids get to open the gifts from our extended family and decide which two they’d each like to give away to a child in need. I contacted a local social worker to see if we might be matched with a family so that our kids will have an opportunity to see the excitement on another child’s face as they open a gift that was meant for them to have, but the selflessly gave away. A hands-on lesson of what a blessing it is to give, for kids under the age of 5. BTW, we don’t give our kids gifts at christmas anymore. We decided to have them pick “gifts for Jesus on his birthday)from catalogs from organizations like Samaritan’s Purse. The idea came from here: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2008/11/celebrate-jesus-this-christmas.html

  • Candace - Great idea! Two activities from childhood…..

    I remember traveling with my dad to carry groceries to two families living in a two bedroom house. They only had a couple of bananas to eat. I remember looking through a hole in the floor and seeing the muddy ground of the crawl space.

    My mom also worked in a nursing home and we would go often and interact with the elderly people there. They were strangers to us but we didn’t care. They loved it!

    My parents were just loving and giving and we got to see them in action.

  • Trinity - Ashley, I like the idea of putting the money on their plate for them to really grasp the idea of giving. Alot of times we tell the girls we are giving something, but if it was never theirs to begin with, then they never know they are giving it. I love hearing everyone’s ideas of how to teach kids life lessons. My mother was always real good at keeping us involved in giving. She let us help cook the meal, shop for the items, or whatever to give away. She also did a great job at communicating what we were doing. Also, she just incorporated it into our everyday life, so it wasn’t just at a holiday that we gave, but just in everyday circumstances. It is hard sometimes to take a little time to involve the kids. I sometimes get stuck in the “get it done” mode. Thanks for this post.

  • Heather - I think this is an outstanding idea. I have been taking my son grocery shopping and then I ask him to pick something out for the food cart at our church. His selections usually lead to us talking about where the food goes, etc. I think this would be a great thing for our family to do, too. thanks!!

  • sue - My dad would be driving the family car and if there was a snake or turtle in the road, he would stop to help it get across. I now do this myself. Since he did it, I assumed that I was supposed to stop and help an animal.
    Thanks Dad, for teaching me to help all creatures!

  • Rachel C - Never second-guess sharing amazing ideas like this one….be who you are…it’s who we all love.

  • Jaimie - Honestly, we didn’t do anything like this when I was a kid. I think this is really awesome and amazing and doing this makes you more of a super mom than “always having it together.”

  • Dayka - This is such a great idea! I always hope I’m consistent and thoughtful enough to do this when I have kids. Thanks for sharing!

  • abbie - this is a really great idea. thank you for sharing!

  • A Glimmer of Hope… « Finding the Balance - […] that note, I read this a few weeks ago and thought it was a great idea, especially right now with Haiti’s disaster […]

  • Jasie - I’m going to try this tonight. Wish me luck. Hopefully the reason behind it will encourage Harper to be more enthusiastic about rice for dinner.

  • Erica Buchanan - Hello There! I run a home childcare and visit your blog for ideas and tips on shooting photos of children in hopes their parents will enjoy them for years to come. Thanks for taking your time out to do this because I know how busy your REALYY are 🙂

  • Liz R. - hi ashley! i recently stumbled across your blog and am SO impressed by the way you are intentionally raising your kids to be conscious of the needs of others. We started doing “rice night” just after I read this post. I felt like we could do more though… My husband is a youth pastor at our church and we thought about doing “rice night” with all of the kids, but the idea grew. In 2011 our church is having “Rice Night {a different kind of dinner party}”. The money raised will be donated to Children’s Hunger Fund. Thank you SO so much for your creativity in teaching your kids to have Christ centered lives… and by blogging about it you touch more lives than you probably realize. – liz

  • Sam - I am getting ready to teach a college Religious Studies class next week. I can’t wait to share this awesome idea with my students! Thanks for sharing!!!

  • Fancy Finds: Powerful Posts | Fancy Nonsense - […] Rice Night- The author shares an impacting family “tradition” that teaches her kids the importance […]

  • Helen - Wow… what a way to make a lasting impact… both for the families who visit the food pantry and for your boys.